Can you plan for every contingency in event planning?

Can you plan for every contingency in event planning?

Can you plan for every contingency in event planning?  Yes, and no.  Last week, I gave out most if not all of the information to my groups in HT 351 for their scenarios.  They should now have all the information they need to complete the project for the most part.  The only aspect left is for them to visit with me, which is required, to hash out any finer details.  Details.  That is important in event planning.

It is all about project management.  As I have said before, it is about managing time.

Yet, those fresh, young faces before me, cringe when I discuss ‘curve balls’.  They dread having to deal with potential problems.  But they will have to deal with it.  Deal with potential realities.

What do I say to them?  They are looking for me to guide them on how to tackle this part of the project.

Innate in all of us is the ability to plan.   Don’t forget that.  We just have to get it down on paper what we need to do and execute the steps.

Yes, hard.  Focus, drive and discipline will see those action steps to fruition.  Not every one of us has that focus or drive or discipline.

I can raise my hand to that effect.  I have earned that tee-shirt more than once.  I’m stuck in a rut right now, my focus wavering from professional and personal projects.  It’s hard, but life isn’t about easy.  Life is about challenges.

I’m letting life challenge me at the moment.  Whereas I should be challenging life.

So, what do I say to motivate them to address their curve balls.  Where to begin?  Since there are more than one curve ball, tackling more than one at a time, can be frustrating, stressful and tiring.  Especially, if you have never been in this position before.  Now, there are moments in a professional career where you will have to decide off the ‘cuff’ what will need to be done.  You will be put in a position where a decision will have to be made at that precise point in time.  And I will address this after, I guide you through planning for those curve balls.

Yes, planning is coming back into the picture.

To prepare yourself for any event or scenario, you have to think about your job.  You have to think about all the contact points where potential problems can occur.  Map them out, and get into the habit of walking around your property, your place of employment and look at it from the vantage point of problems.  Don’t wait for the signs, envision them.  Use your imagination and ‘see’.  Ask your self of plethora of questions. As a writer who likes to develop stories, I utilize the “What if” exercise.  What if this happens here?  What could happen here?  What if this happened during an event?  What would I do?  Every time I see or read about an incident on TV, like Las Vegas, my mind goes into scenario mode.  I visualize what is happening at that time.  I ask myself a host of questions, and run through the gambit of potential.  I ask myself, “What if I was the event planner at this event?  What would I have done?  What should be in place already to aid me in this event?”

No, you don’t know how you would react.  No, you don’t know what you would do sometimes during panic situations.  But the preparation for the likely event comes with training and training the mind to think this way.  And then running mock drills on you, your employees, and even now, including guest in that equation.  I can remember when we used guests in our scenarios at one hotel I worked at.  We asked if they would be a part of our preparation training.  We sent out a message to the community that we were having training and asked if any person would like to role play victims.  Is this wrong?  Why?  Why not?  Shouldn’t we all be prepared?  Shouldn’t we all help each other in times of need?  The more you know as a manager, as a guest, the better you are all prepared for scenarios.

NBC-Emergency
NBC-Emergency
Visit to Disney World, 1977
From left to right, Mom, sister, me and brother at Walt Disney World, 1977

I know this to be true because I have lived through it.  I have lived through training situations and real life situations.  Growing up we had some great shows on TV.  I can vaguely remember Adam 12.  The one show I do remember from my early teens was Emergency!.  It was about the organization of the first ever EMTs in LA.  It had me consider at one time being one.  Taking up the profession of firefighter and EMT.  At school, both high school and college, I took and read about advanced first aid procedures.  I took advance first aid and life saving at Penn State for my Health Ed course.  I can recall playing the victim in a faux car accident and the other students extracting me from that car on a cold autumn day.  I loved the water module in the pool.  When I was out industry, I volunteered to be on first aid responder teams at the hotels.  I obtained and renewed my CPR certification.  I guess I obtained that information from my Mom.  She taught the Red Cross classes in high school.  She was always willing to help.  Heck, in my family we are known to be teachers, police officers or doctors.  I guess its in the DNA.  But I digress.

Back on point.

So, where to begin.  This year was different after a failure from last fall.  I had to approach teaching this aspect of management development from a different perspective.  Some how connections were not being made.  I forgot that research has shown that this generation may or may not have the imaginative skills my generation has.  They grew up with computers and technology.   Some if not all, might not have been outside playing as we did as kids.  Being pirates for a day out in the woods, creating our own little worlds.  Yes, that play time set up my generation for problem solving.  We saw something we wanted to do and figure out a way to accomplish it. The students in my class may have been immersed in a computer generated world that didn’t stretch the mind enough.  That didn’t place them in hair-raising situation where you had to think.  (Laughing at the image now in my mind.  Cue back to that pirate scenario on a lazy summer’s day.  I would give you more, but I don’t want to put any ideas into young heads.  Mother just patched me up.  I’m still here.)  Let’s just say there is a host of divergence between my generation and today’s young students in terms of critical thinking skills.

So, given what happened, I realized this year, I needed to not only reinforce the visualization technique I have done since I was a young adult, but also guide them on how to make connections.  I had to explain how to accomplish this goal and get in the habit of visualization.  So this year, I told the students to draw from all of their classes on customer service and operations management.  To utilize their own personal experience to aid them in understanding the curve ball.  Write down the curve ball on a 4 x 6 index card and then as a group, brainstorm.  Ask yourself those exact questions.  What is happening here?  What is going on?  How are people reacting?  Why are they reacting?  Where has it happened?  When did it happen?  What should we do?  What could happen if we don’t do something?  What could happen?  A host of questions and then brainstorm answers.  Research.  Google.  This is always about customer service.  No, it isn’t all about the bottom line, not always.  It is how we get to that bottom line and back up that counts.

Curve ball scenario
Curve ball scenario

This was one of my curve balls from one of my scenarios.  An executive board meeting was taking place in St. Louis, MO.  The members were leaders of a Fortune 500 company.  They were the elite of the elite.  One activity that they were participating in outside of their normal duties was a visit to the local Budweiser Clydesdale farm.  On the return, one of the members has left their wallet on the bus.  Needless to say I wasn’t happy with the results of the group planning in terms of this curve ball.  Two possibilities could have occurred.  One, they had only one group member handle curve balls and that group member was tired by the time they got to this incident.  Or two, they waited till the last-minute to address these scenarios.  It very well could have been something different.  But in the end it was poor project planning.

They forgot to utilize their experience as customer.  How would you react as a customer if this happened to you?  What would be your priority if this personally happened to you?  What are you panicking about?  Who is this person?  They forgot who their target market was and is.  What is in that wallet?  What help are they looking for?  Part of event planning is to know your target audience.  If you know them, then you can best address their needs and wants.  Our industry is all about customer service and we need to don that hat  more than once to understand reaction.  We need to walk a mile in their shoes to know how this impacts their lives and the lives of others that this would affect.

They forgot their roles and responsibility as event planners.  What they need to do to aid the customer?  What they need to do to make this a memorable experience?  How do they help and aid their clients?  They didn’t tease out the situation.  They didn’t map out the cause and effect.  The action-reaction-results loop.  If this one incident happened in real life, consequences of not doing something can be detrimental not only to your customer but to your reputation and your business.  Even our industry.

So, why do I give them curve balls. Because this is reality.  This is what happens out there when they are in real life situations.  Accomplishing this exercise, helps develop a proactive mindset.  That they can almost see things happen before they do, and act.  If this little kernel of information is in their minds, then they could plan a to do list for themselves during each event to cover any contingency.

More to attractions than meets the eye…

More to attractions than meets the eye…
Gettysburg Civil War Monument
Mom on her honeymoon at Gettysburg Civil War National Park

Attractions have a lot of complicated parts, both intangible and tangible. They have a wider impact that many realize.  A whole mess of questions in a complicated world.

Attractions evolve from the three environments:  socio-cultural, economic, and physical (natural and man-made).  They take many forms and trying to define them can be a delicate journey.  They are a composite of activities that the tourist can partake in and use. Attractions can ‘attract’ a host of visitors, but more than likely it is not homogeneous.  Something that can’t be generalized across all markets.  More than likely, a niche market will be their primary source of revenues.

Motivation is tricky to decipher and study.  The reasons drawing, pushing and pulling tourist to a site is as particular to one person as another.  Case in point my mother and our annual trips to historic sites.  Deep down I don’t think she liked visiting Williamsburg or Gettysburg or other historical site.  I don’t know.  She’s never been a fan of hot weather, preferring spring and fall for travel.  The beach to the oppressive heat and humidity of the countryside.  Maybe I don’t know what she likes.  And therein lies the conundrum of tourist researchers.  Do we know who our visitors are, and what they like?  Do we really know what attractions to build or create for tourists?

Mom at Atlantic City
Mom at Atlantic City

Attractions have many purposes.  They are a composite of a host of activities and services that cater to a varied population of tourists.  Take away any resource within that matrix of services and the system fragments.  That fragmentation can be induced by tourist as well as the industry itself.  Attractions are part of a greater value chain.

Take away one and suffering occurs.  Take away the primary reason for tourist to visit, and the whole system suffers.  The impacts are far-reaching.  The multiplier effect drops in function and revenues do not circulate through the many layers.

Once an attraction changes, matures, stagnates or declines, tourist motivations will shift and change.  They will choose something else.  And then the area in which it is embedded spirals downward and declines.  And unless this erosion is stopped, halted, the host community will continue to suffer.  There will be no reason to go to the area.  Thus, schools can’t be built or remodeled, hospitals will close, services will pull out of the area leaving a shell of a community.

I’ve seen it first hand.  My hometown in Pennsylvania suffers from the decline and closure of industry.  Relying on tourism for most of its dollars.

Johnstown, PA
View from the Incline Plane of Johnstown, PA

Johnstown, PA is an old town, settled in 1770.  The only reason people would have a reason to visit there now is because of a natural disaster back in 1889.  The Great Flood was the largest man-made disaster up until 9/11. The event killed 2200+ people and leveled the prosperous steel town.  Now, since steel has pulled out, the city is a shell of its former self.  Still a beautiful place to live, but survival hinges on the National Monument to the Flood as well as several key events throughout the year.

Thunder in the Valley is a motorcycle rally that happens every June.  Last year, 2016 was one of the best turnouts because of the beautiful weather and increase in services available.  As reported in the Tribune:

When the weather cooperates, the four-day event has drawn as many as 200,000 people to the area – and this weekend was likely no exception, said Lisa Rager, executive director of the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Motorcylces line Johnstown, PA streets during Thunder in the Valley
Motorcycles line Johnstown, PA streets during Thunder in the Valley

That is a lot of people traveling to a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania for three or more days.  To a town that has limited resources to host 200,000 people over three days.  Maybe it does.  Maybe I don’t know the exact carrying capacity of the area or the extent of services.  Yet, think of the revenues generated from a host of sources.  How many jobs are created just for that weekend?  How much revenue is generated from event sales?  And then that revenue is circulated through the community.

Budweiser Clydesdales
Budweiser Clydesdale at Thunder in the Valley

Therefore, attractions are classified as something that generates some form of revenue.  They sell an entrance fee or cluster a host of services around it to generate revenue.  Take it away and revenues are lost.  Some people do not understand that concept.  What the community loses.

And sometimes that happens when motivations shift over time and choice is directed elsewhere.

Sometimes we lose attractions through other means.  How will the Caribbean rebuild after the devastating hurricanes?  How much will the islands alone lose from the loss of cruise ship revenues?  A host of questions.

A loss of revenue for the catchment area means a loss of revenues to circulate through the system.  A loss of future development.  Attractions can be the reason some businesses are drawn to the area.  This past summer I was at home during the annual Thunder.  One of my favorite motorcycle companies had heard about Thunder and was making its first appearance.

Ducati Logo
Ducati Logo ©Ducati

Ducati had come to town.  I would have loved to have visited the Rally but personal plans got in the way.  Yet, with such a famous brand drawn to this event, others followed.  The weather dampened the festival for the first day, but more than made up for it the last two, giving Ducati and others the chance to showcase their products.  I’m sure Harley Davidson enjoyed the friendly competition.  Throughout the 19 years this event has been held in Johnstown, it has evolved to what it is today.  An attraction that is just not for bikers.  It caters to a host of different types of tourists.  And that is important if the event is to continue.

I try not to be political in class or here.  But I can’t go without addressing certain issues effecting tourism today.  The destruction of certain attractions must be discussed if we are having an honest conversation about tourism.  The recent destruction of Civil War Monuments and the potential for more changes in that landscape.  Try to see and envision all sides.  Try to understand the impacts of all points of reality.  The total effect this has on the host community.

Dad at the Alabamians Memorial at Gettysburg during honeymoon.
Dad at the Alabamians Memorial at Gettysburg during honeymoon.

Tourism has a history.  Tourism exist in time and space.  The reasons for attractions and construction of attractions is particular to each stakeholder given that time and space.  The reasons for travel have varied through the generations that have engaged in the activity.  It has its positive and negative connotations. Good and bad.  The tourism landscape has countless stories to tell to explain the history of civilization.  Tourism is an action and behavior.  Tourists engage with a variety of landscapes.  Host communities rely on tourists for revenues.  If the main reason for travel is gone, people will shift their actions and behaviors.  They will go elsewhere.

We are all stewards of this landscape.  This landscape needs all sides to understand the implications to all three environments and participants.  All voices must be heard and considered.

A host of questions must be asked before action is taken.  We must be sympathetic and empathetic to the multiplier effect.  And the multiplier effect is not just revenues any more.  It is more.  Again, I stress that all voices must be heard and considered.

“What Now?” Moment…

“What Now?” Moment…
Time
Don’t let time be the enemy

As I have explained in the post Developing Managers, meeting planning is all about project management.  It doesn’t matter how the sales lead is generated, how you come by the business, it comes down to managing time.  It can be your breaking point. Therefore, preparation is vital.  Success hinges on lining up those ducks in their right positions, and having enough flexibility for problems.

Today, marks the middle of the second week of classes, and for the next six weeks my students will be given information about their scenarios.  I enjoy this time, creating this reality of challenges.  This journey isn’t easy.  Life isn’t always a bed of roses.  They will have to think, use their respective brain power to sort out the twists and bumps.  And this morning, I barked a laugh at my latest creation.  One group will not be happy.  Welcome, to real life.  I hope they have listened to me over the course of their time here.  I hope they remember that I just don’t sit in my office during office hours and at other times for nothing.  I hope they have that epiphany.

[Knocks on the glass] “Hello, anyone out there!  Any of my students?  Hello?”  Questions.  It comes down to asking questions.  Don’t assume anything.  One lesson you must learn as an event planner is don’t assume you know what the clients want.  You don’t.  You may think you do, but in all reality, you don’t!

Get off your respective posterior and come and talk to me.  One requirement of my meeting planning class is they have to meet with me eight times over the course of the sixteen weeks to discuss their projects.  Everyone has to be there unless their team leader and I approve the excuse.

Hopefully, by now they have identified their roles and responsibilities.  There has to be a team leader, one that will be responsible for getting the job done–the broader goal.  The others will be accomplishing the objectives or individual tasks to get to that broader goal.

How they start is up to them.  Have they researched the craft of meetings?  Have they cruised around their books, the Internet or other sources to understand the process?  Are they waiting to be told?  I hope not.

Floppy Disks
Floppy Disks

My time in event planning and sales was during an era when paper ruled the desktop.  I started out as a sales coordinator.  A glorified personal assistant to the other sales managers and ran an office.  Thank the good Lord, I have been a gadget girl all my life. Old school floppy disks! I worked part-time at an office supply store to supplement and pay for my schooling. I sold the first renditions of IBM and Dell computers. On my desk at the hotel was a 286 processor with probably 50 k of memory. Five and quarter-inch flimsy disks were my life saver.  The convention calendar was this behemoth book that had its own desk.  For a small hotel, we had two or three major file cabinets full of client files.  Some as thick as the city phone book (four inches or more).

Personal planners crammed full of written notes.  Notebooks full of third-party information.  Day-to-day was all about pushing paper and making phone calls, pounding the pavement and finding leads as well as execution of various events or tour group arrivals.  Forget cell phones.  Landlines with a complex web of office numbers and only ten speed dial buttons (if that).  Back-up wasn’t an option.  Lose your personal planner–deep, heart stopping, whole-body anxiety attack until you found it.  Total disappearance meant frantic hours of combing through all that paper to recreate your day-to-day work life.  And if you didn’t keep meticulous notes, (I just laughed), you were on a bar stool later that night crying into your drink, casting curses and prayers simultaneously to the air and powers that be that you did what you had to do or your other associates had your back (another little snicker).  What did I say about life being fair, it isn’t.

Cue JoePa:

The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.

Time management has various dimensions.  One of those critical dimensions is communication which is basically the sharing of information.  An exchange process.  If you aren’t prepared for the encounter, it will show.  If you don’t value other points of reality, a host will lose value.  The process is stymied by the narrow-mindedness of others.  Basically, don’t be myopic.  Try to see the whole picture.  See beyond that picture.  Your developed skill level and capabilities at this point in time may not be as developed as others.  Do not discount experience, even those with just an ounce.  You do not know the complete picture.  You don’t know what that experience was and the depth of impact or how they handled it.  Get that through your mind.  Open your mind, open your heart, open your soul to receive.  The only way you can work together, and that doesn’t mean you can’t lead, but the only way you will all succeed is if you listen and contemplate.

So I guess that comes full circle to that leadership role.

But before we get into that, I wanted to over up a reminder.

I believe that there are four points to successful meeting planning from a customer standpoint:

  • Know your client–that means asking open-ended questions, and some closed ended questions
  • Know the product you sell–and it is more than you really think it is…
  • Know the community in which you are embedded and operate
  • Know yourself

Recall you are selling to the right person, the right product at the right time, for the right price, for the right location, having the right promotion, and employing the right people utilizing effective and efficient processes, and truthful, physical evidence, that is the right stories or testimonials to engage with the right customer.

What will the leader of these projects do?  What do event planners do out in the real world?

I can tell you a fraction of what you should or shouldn’t do from my own experience.  To learn more about leadership, you need to study.  Study those that are successful in a variety of fields.  Read trade magazines and look for case studies.  Visualize the problem and look for plausible solutions.

  1.  Be receptive to ideas.
  2. Don’t over hash things that nothing gets done.  Make a decision.  You can revisit it, but it shouldn’t rule your lives.
  3. Listen to your gut.  Know the difference between right and wrong.
  4. Know standard operating procedures.  If there aren’t any, create them.
  5. Events means experience.  Someone has their heart on having a wonderful experience.  Own it for them.  Make it happen.
  6. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  7. More than one person is affected/effected by the choices you make, especially financial ones.
  8. Time means one thing to you, and something different to another.
  9. Be inquisitive.  Study from experts.  Find a mentor.  Ask questions.
  10. Research the craft.
  11. Keep a reflective journal
  12. Be respectful, responsible, accountable.  Take responsibility for your actions.  Respect yourself and others.  Doesn’t mean you have to like them, but respect means more than what you think.
  13. Listen, just shut up and listen.  And listen with your mind and heart.
  14. Demonstrate empathy, sympathy.  But don’t let anyone run you over.  There is an art to negotiations, learn it.  Compromise is key.
  15. I know I’m going to get in trouble for this.  The customer may not always be right in every situation.  Sometimes you have to take the lead and help them realize reality.  You don’t always want to be their friend.
  16. At the end of the day, there are a host of people counting on you.  Some for a pay check.
  17. Tough decisions are painful, but manageable.  Tough love is the hardest.
  18. Be proactive rather than reactive.  Damn tough sometimes to recover in service execution.  (And if my PPC students are reading this, service is a broad term.)
  19. Study ethics.  Again, every single person is governed by a set of core values and not.  Some don’t have core values.

    Core Values
    Core Values

But what do they mean?  Do you understand them?

20.  Be cognizant of your environment.  Don’t live in a vacuum.  Be aware.  Be open to change.  Change is hard.  Embrace it.  Look for it.

So those are just twenty odd observations to consider, digest and reflect upon.

A good leader knows when to lead, knows when to walk beside and help, and sometimes remain behind and let you on your own.

People Process Culture (PPC): What it is and why study…

People Process Culture (PPC): What it is and why study…

So, this year I’ve taken on the duties of the People Process Culture Endowed Chair here at Stout.  I am looking forward to delivering on previous contributions to organizational behavior as well as some aspects that are pertinent in today’s global society.  Basically, developing the ‘service heart’ concept.  So, what is PPC and why study a concept?  It isn’t new the idea of addressing the needs of all your stakeholders.  The concept has been around in my industry of tourism and hospitality since man traveled afar to find food.  Pretty old.  We just haven’t address solid nomenclature till the 20th century.

The first real historical incidence in my industry of this concept that I can find to date is Delmonico’s of NYC.  My first encounter with this type of philosophy in a practical sense was with Marriott.  The first time it is part of the core values of the company and written down was when the founders of the company, Bill and Alice Marriott, opened their root beer stand in 1927 in Washington, DC.

Yet, the simplicity of the concept, the beauty of it, is breaking down that beauty to its complexity and reconstructing it to understand that brilliance.  It might not always be the same as the original because relationships have these nuances, but there must be core values that are consistently apparent.  What is that quotation from The Last Samuri at the end of the movie:

Katsumoto: The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life. [With his dying breath] Perfect… They are all… perfect..

A rose
A rose…

What is Katsumoto trying to convey?  Perfection doesn’t really exist because everything holds perfection.  There is a sense of perfection.  Now don’t jump to conclusions.  Perfections have flaws and are really never perfect because everything is inherently flawed.  That is the beauty of life.  Embrace that perfection/imperfection, that flaw in all of us and see it for what it is.  Be open and receiving.  Okay, coming down from my higher position, down the stairs and taking a seat (think Socrates here).

Organizational theory, PPC is important to study because business is about managing not just the tangibles, but the intangibles.  The human element.  All stakeholders and that interaction.  It is dynamic, ever-changing, and always in flux.

I have always loved puzzles.  Why am I bringing this up?  Well, understanding about the interplay of interactions between individuals is a unique puzzle.

Let me explain this illustration.  Bear with me.

You go to the store to buy a puzzle.  If I don’t know anything about this puzzle or its degree of complexity, I examine the box more closely.  I look at the number of pieces, the intricacy of the picture and try to make a decision.  Maybe, I buy it on aesthetics alone.  I am really into cool castles at the moment, so maybe I’m looking for something towards my interests.   I want to find one that I desire.  One that tugs at the hedonistic value.  The outside of the box presents a really pleasing picture of a place I want to visit or be a part of.

Cue Forrest Gump:

“Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you are going to get.”

Now lets tie that into organizations and perhaps, searching for that best employer.  Working for that right firm.  On the outside everything that is presented to you is a very pleasing picture.  All bright and shiny.  You’ve heard great things about this company.  You’ve done some research and examined some public documents.  Yet, you are on the outside looking in…not until you delve further into that company will you understand the depth of complexity.  The tangible and intangible.  The products, the processes, and the human factor.

You open the box.

Are there instructions to understand the complexity?  Sure on the front.  You have a picture of how it is supposed to be. But there is nothing on how to start or how to navigate the waters.  Everything you view is from your own vantage point, your point of reference, your point of view.  That point of reality has been shaped, morphed, changed, or reshaped with experience.  Don’t discount your experience.  Life is an experience, good and bad.  It is how you use that experience that is also important.  Learn from it, strive to overcome challenges.

Cue my own mantra:

“Challenge life, don’t let life challenge you.”

In real live, you have submitted a resume and gained an interview.  You run the hurdles and are offered a job.  You accept, and everything is right in the world.  That day has come, you pack your lunch, and hit the bricks. Open the door and walk in. And faced with a new environment. Somewhat daunting and scary.  Change always comes with fear and joy.  You’ve left the ordinary world you knew, and crossed a threshold into another realm.  Embrace it.

The pile of pieces of the puzzle.
The pile of pieces of the puzzle.an interview.

The goal of the box is to reconstruct the pieces into some sense of organization to recreate the picture.  The objectives are the plan of attack to reach that goal.  Facing a mountain of uncertainty, the pile of pieces is the first challenge.  Where to start?  Every puzzle is different. Yet, more importantly, at this point, what questions do I ask in order to understand how to approach this project before me.

The first day is introduction into your new reality.  This isn’t university anymore Toto.  It sinks in possibly as you are indoctrinated into this new social system, this new community that you might just have a limited awareness.

Set aside now the tangible, the products.  As stated before, there are two avenues to follow, one readily apparent with some degree of mysticism (the production process of tangibles), and the other that has more of mysterious element–the human interplay.  A host of personalities to decipher and understand.  How do I make sense of this complexity?  For some, this reality comes with a greater sense of diversity that they have ever encountered before.

Whoa, hold on.  This isn’t diversity.  Not even close.  This is so much more.  Wait, be patient students, we’ll get to this in a bit.

As a professor and researcher, I am aware of the craft of my job.  I study it.  I pick it apart to gain knowledge.  I had an epiphany in my early thirties that I had a limited awareness about life, both personal and professional.  I had to set aside what I thought and deconstruct my known puzzle.  Those pieces weren’t enough.  It never is…

Look for that Obi-Wan among the multitude of faces and become his or her apprentice.  Ask someone who is successful in that job that may have been hired in the last two years and find out who that person is, because you will need a guide.  Sometimes you have to go it alone with just your gut and intuition.  (How do I know what is right and wrong?)

Game of Thrones, Oathbreaker, 2016
Game of Thrones, Oathbreaker, 2016

Cue Game of Thrones, Ser Davos conversing with Jon Snow after he awakens from the dead:

Davos Seaworth: You clean up as much of the shit as you can.
Jon Snow: I don’t know how to do that. I thought I did, but… I failed.
Davos Seaworth: Good. Now go fail again.

Life and work doesn’t always come with instructions.  Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and try.  Some approach the puzzle and just start, uncovering the patterns along the way.  Others, before even starting, study and look for patterns.  I have always adhered to visualization techniques and using my imagination to envision different scenarios.  I am a big fan of using scenarios when teaching.  Hence, why I like to do projects.

Is there a right way or a wrong way?

When faced with developing the light bulb, Edison didn’t get it the first try.  It took him more than 500+ to get to the finished product.  What did he learn, what was his saying and someone else…”I found 500+ ways how not to invent a light bulb.”

Sometimes you jump right in with great enthusiasm and you get stuck at a point.  A curse slips past your lips as you realize you need to start again.  That this road is not the one you should have taken.  Hopefully, it isn’t too bad that you can’t recover, because in any industry, especially my own recovery from disgruntled stakeholders could mean the ability to capture or not, revenue, today or in the future.  And in tourism, hospitality, compared to other industries revenue isn’t like manufacturing, cars, construction, etc.  We have a 24 hour perishability.  If we don’t capture revenues within a 24 hour period, it is permanently lost.  We can’t gain it back.

We want repeat business and loyalty.  And not just for revenues.  Want want to create a family.

That disgruntled stakeholder might be your employee.  How do we create longevity?  How do we create a working environment where people love to come to work and want to be there?

So, for some this process, this exchange, this dynamic interplay of people is highly important.  Be prepared for anything.  As I tell my students, you have to be prepared for anyone that walks through that door.  You can’t think for a moment that everyone is the same.  Therefore, you have to ask questions of your employees, your peers, your mentors, your managers, your CEOs, and yourself what you should or shouldn’t do.  That is how you develop intuition.  Always asking questions.

Then you can find a path to put the puzzle together.  Not everyone will accomplish this goal the same, so you have to be prepared for everyone’s point of reality.  You all have goals and objectives, even common ones to get to the end result.   It is wondrous to see how this happens.  It is fantastic to learn how this happens. 

The more knowledge you gain from studying PPC, organizational behavior and from your experience, the stronger leader and manager you will become.  The finished product will be fantastic and everyone will love to be in the same place.

I finish this post with two quotes from two football coaches I greatly admire.  Vince Lombardi and Joe Paterno.

“Leadership is not just one quality, but rather a blend of many qualities; and while no one individual possesses all of the needed talents that go into leadership, each man can develop a combination to make him a leader.” ~ Vince Lombardi

“The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.” ~ Joe Paterno
Meld them together and you have one of the answers to that epiphany I had in my thirties.  It was always about me up to that point in my life, and I wasn’t progressing as my peers.  I was unhappy in my daily life.  I looked for rewards before the end of that current journey.  I wanted something concrete before I had even created it.  I wasn’t a true leader.  I’m not even one now.  I still don’t have all of the skills or talents and probably never will.  But preparation is vital for me, for anyone to be better.  And studying this process as well as others is that preparation.  It will help you attain that combination to be a leader or even just a member of a group that is trying to achieve something.
Enjoy the semester!

Empowering your employees…

Empowering your employees…
Empower your employees, don't rule over them
Empower your employees, don’t rule over them

Richard Branson’s recent blog post on Empowering your employees, don’t rule over them is an interesting read.  I agree, we need to treat employees like responsible adults, but one question remains:  Are employees mature enough to understand their responsibility to that policy and the company?  Do they understand the ethical and moral obligations that, that entails?  Maybe I am over thinking this.  Maybe I need to get to the root of what empowerment really means.  But then again, I promised you to be brutally honest, and not sugar coat the world.  Or hand out rose-tinted glasses.

Sure, as an operations manager, supervisor, and fellow employee, I recall the days when colleagues would call in sick, and know perfectly well, they were skipping out.  We called them ‘mental’ days and I took my fair share.  We just had enough of work, and needed to just be ‘bums’.  Now don’t take offense, it’s a fact of life and we all must understand why this behavior occurs.  We all have a threshold of productivity; a pinnacle of use before we slide into procrastination.  And that threshold varies from one person to another.  Believe me when I tell you, this week has been challenging in that capacity.  Half my brain is on an island in the middle of no where, or strolling along the streets of my favorite cities in Scotland.  The other half is tugging, pulling, pushing, and screaming at the procrastinating side to get to work, reminding me I have plenty to do.   I have reached a saturation point, where I need to step away from the desk, the computer, from most things and recharge the batteries.  I need a mental day.

But empowerment is a bit more than just needing a day off.  There are a host of other factors, and considerations to process.  Virgin is a service company, rooted in helping people.  Let me rephrase that, helping its stakeholders.  And as I have discussed in class those stakeholders include employees.  JW Marriott had it right, “If you don’t take care of your employees, they can’t take care of the customer.  They can’t take care of the business.  Profits won’t follow.”  In today’s information overload, our brains are working over time.  And couple that with other hard work of the body, and something has to bend, even break.

How do you create a balanced life?

I have mentioned this in class.  How do you balance your work, your professional career with personal needs, desires?  How do you give 110% or more to all the ‘hats’ you wear?  How do we develop and attain effective and efficient employees, that genuinely care about our business?  How do we demonstrate a caring attitude about our employees as persons with lives outside of work?  How do we create an innovative culture that allows our businesses to remain fresh, and progressive without high turnover rates?  How do we keep our best employees?  How do we hire employees that have the same value set, and beliefs?  All these questions and more are the layers that is empowerment.

Innovative businesses and culture must have fresh ideas, fresh viewpoints, and fresh perspectives on the dynamic world.  We can’t see the good, the bad, the ugly unless we are focused and cognizant of the world around us.  We can’t take advantage of opportunities, address threats, and weaknesses, or exploit strengths, unless we let the muddy waters settle, and acquire clarity.  We can’t recognize that precarious edge when a decision has to be made before we tumble over into deep, dark pits of stagnation, and potentially worse.  Empowerment is giving the employees the right to make decisions and more.  It has its roots in ethics.

Empowerment is about employing several of the ethical principles I mentioned in my last post.  We are definitely extending the hand of trust (trustworthiness), in that we have hired the right people, that understand that our business’ success and failure hinges on their work ethic.  That they will be honest with their employers, and their fellow employees, even customers.  That they have integrity in that they are courageous enough to recognize their responsibilities.  They will be fair, and not abuse the privilege granted them.  That there is a two-way street, a concern and respect for others, in that we employ the golden rule–that they respect the company, their fellow employees, and the guest/customer–basically, all those stakeholders that effect the company and its continuation.  That the employees have a commitment to excellence, that they give more than 110%, even more before they are even called upon to do so.  That they are all leaders, that they must walk the walk, talk the talk.

Such a policy can succeed and reinforce the corporate culture, and propel the reputation and morale of the company if this culture becomes ingrained in the psyche, and there is self policing of the policy by all individuals.  That corrections are identified and made before that behavior abuses said privilege.  And the employees are made accountable for their actions.  This in turn will build a loyal following within and outwit the company itself.  That they might set the benchmark for others to follow.

So empowerment encompasses all of these principles.  It is an action on the esteem, and self actualisation scale.  It is a difficult concept for some, easier for others.  It can’t be one of those concepts that is merely understood, but needs to be discussed and argued about.  Committed to paper, and more.

Virgin isn’t the only company that has put such a belief on the shoulders of their employees.  Ritz-Carlton, and other firms have clearly stated in their corporate culture and policies what empowerment means to their companies.  That is why it is important to research the corporate culture and core values/beliefs of those companies you want to work for.

The Tourism Business Environment, part 2

The Tourism Business Environment, part 2

The Functions of Managment

Functions of Management
Functions of Management

So as we tumble into the first areas of hospitality, understanding careers and the different opportunities, I want to expand on the business environment (part 1).

In hospitality sector, if we are talking about any business entity there are several different departments that comprise operations.  In a hotel for instance, we have Rooms, F&B, Sales & Marketing, Facilities, Administration, and Security.  At golf resorts, sometimes the Golf area is under a leisure heading or stands on its own.  Each of these departments work interdependent on another.  Yet, each execute three core functions:  planning, organize, and control.

These core functions can be broken down into efficient and effective processes that equate to staffing, evaluation, directions or delegation, coordination, reporting and budgetary.  These process my demonstrate the fiscal responsibility of the department to the stakeholders.  Managers must maintain and build positive employee relations, engage in social responsibility, and finally the goal of each team member is to develop and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with quality service execution.

How do they compose the goals and objectives to achieve these ends?  These strategies are developed from a conceptual standpoint, based on qualitative and quantitative data mining from the exchange of information, money and promises fulfilled during service execution.  These strategies are influenced by trends and issues, external forces exerting influence with the dynamic nature of the industry.  Technology in all its forms helps to ‘crunch’ the numbers, analyze the information, and communicate that information to all interested parties.  Leadership cannot rise to the challenge without this information, without synthesizing with all exchanges formed and developed in the guest contact cycle.

This stems back to that moment of truth, which is basically the fulfillment of strategic goals and objectives for a parties.  Management has overcome any objections, or adversity of problems to recapture and retain quality.  They utilize the diversity of this industry to its positive end.  Mistakes are lessen with time, experience, utilizing perceptions of that aforementioned analysis, to address the future.

Promises are kept and made today, and in the future.  Our product lines are validated and value created.  We have delivered on what we say, and the expectations of the consumer.  We have fulfilled our contracts, both physical, psychological and social.  We have executed a successful transaction, and created loyalty.

The Tourism Business Environment, part 1

The Tourism Business Environment, part 1
Tourism-Business-Environment
Tourism-Business-Environment

The first day of class, I alluded to the dynamic nature of our tourism industry.  This involves the interaction and exchange between key players.  The goal of each is to develop and maintain mutually beneficial partnerships that meet or exceed the expectations of the participant.  On both sides of the aisle.  We want to create value.

Sure we are a 24/7/365 industry.  Our open sign remains in the ‘on’ position for that period of time.  Exchange happens at any time of the day, given the exponential development of technology.  Money, information, and promises are the drivers of that exchange.  Time is expended, and must be maximized efficiently and effectively on both sides of the equation.  Remember, tourism is defined as a movement, in space, and time by individuals and groups.

These stakeholders are directly or indirectly involved in tourism.  They may be guests that convert interest to actual use, employees, government entities, and others.  Others, could be those indirect individuals, those arm-chair travelers that take a moment out of their day and post to Twitter, or Facebook, about desires.  That tweet, or post may go viral and prompt another person, or group of people to act.  The arm-chair traveler has indirectly influenced someones decision-making, whether they know they did or not.  They have created value.  Our dynamic nature is a constant stream between players, constantly moving.  If exchange doesn’t happen, our product’s ability to capture value is diminished or eliminated.  Our product has a 24 hour shelf life, perishable without use.  If we don’t sell that product, put a head in a bed, or a butt in a seat, we will lose those revenues, and never have the opportunity to gain them back.  If that cycle continues, we could stagnate and die.

Our stakeholders are unique.  They are matrix of individual personalities with differing motivations for travel, to engage in tourism.  Their expectations, some tangible and others intangible, may not be easily articulated and measured.  But in the exchange we have the opportunity to develop relationships that allow the flow of information to create an experience that could meet or even exceed those expectations.  Without knowledge, service failure looms ever-present.  That pendulum ever ticking in the background.

Stakeholders, guests, those that consume our products as well as others, each come from varying backgrounds melded and shaped by the three environments:  Natural/Man-made landscape, economic, and sociocultural.  These environments shape our sense of self and sense of identity.  Inner forces, our intellect, beliefs, values, lifestyle, gender, age, all are formed and influenced by external forces.  Products, people, information, experience, etc.  These forces define who we are, and our decision-making.  Our awareness, and understanding will vary over our life span.  Choices we make today will be different tomorrow, twenty years from now.  Change is a constant.  Adaptability a must.

Success in our industry, for the most part is measured by our profitability.  But profitability doesn’t always indicate a measurable outcome.  Money can be counted, but promises not so much.  They have tangible and intangible elements due to the insertion of the human factor.  Promises are made before, during and after experience.  We should strive to create more, create loyalty by fulfillment of those promises.  Service success hinges on that aspect.

More to come…