Where have all the good people gone?


On the hunt for the next generation of leaders

In today’s ultra-tight labor landscape, the competition for hiring and retaining staff can be a tough, and ever-present, obstacle to overcome. Against that backdrop, finding and developing a new generation of leaders becomes even more challenging.

“The war for talent in any customer-facing industry has become fierce and somewhat counterproductive to ensuring sectors, such as hospitality, survive,” said Christina Reti, head of real estate and hospitality, EMEA, for Korn Ferry. “The hospitality sector isn’t sustainable without people.”

Bruce Tulgan, founder and CEO of Rainmaker Thinking and an author who specializes in management training and generational diversity in the workforce, said identifying and developing the next generation of leaders depends on an organization-wide emphasis on cultivating leadership skills in team members and creating a culture “where the best can rise to the top.” That will not only help attract workers but will help to keep them and encourage them to develop and grow with an organization.

“You’re telling them and showing them that this is a place where we seek to develop leaders,” Tulgan said. “This is a place where we want the right kind of leaders.”

To find and cultivate future leaders, Reti said hotel operators need to offer a culture that will appeal to younger workers and offer them a clear path to build a career that includes leadership opportunities.

“Hotel operators need to align their cultures with the current generation of youth who enter the sector, either for a short period or a longer term career,” Reti said. “Ensuring the organization’s values resonate with those of the staff on the floor is critical to attract and retain staff, and to build a culture that encourages personal development alongside service delivery.”

A “strong, identifiable group culture” makes finding future leaders easier, Reti said.

“Employee engagement increases significantly when employees’ values are reflected in the corporate ethos,” Reti elaborated. “Leadership develops from within a healthy and happy workforce, and this is where the mindset is critical to reinforce.”

Tulgan noted that some organizations are much better at selecting leaders than others. Those who don’t put the effort into identifying leaders risk allowing the wrong people to seize those opportunities.

“If you do not have a rigorous, purposeful selection process, then fundamentally you will be erring on the side of letting leaders self-select,” Tulgan said.

Self-selection leads to putting those who are “power hungry” in charge, Tulgan said.

“The people who are the most outspoken, opinionated, and ego-driven are the ones most likely to jump to the front of the line and demand and badger and bribe and threaten,” Tulgan said. “Those aren’t good criteria for leaders. At many organizations, though, because those people are the most visible, they’re the most noticed and they seem to want it – so they find their way to the top.”

Tulgan said organizations should look for staff members who are good at self-evaluation against an objective standard and who understand personal responsibility.

“It’s people who have good work habits, people who are good at interpersonal communication, people who have good critical thinking skills, people who understand teamwork, and people who have a service mindset,” Tulgan said. “Being a good citizen in the organization, playing your role on the team, but being aware of how that role fits in with other members of the team – that’s what we look for when we look for new leaders.”

Tulgan said managers should pay attention to who team members turn to for help. Who is a frequent “go-to” person for others?

“They’re always willing to help and do a little extra heavy lifting,” Tulgan said. “Find people who go out of their way to quietly teach their peers and co-workers. It’s not who stands out because they have the loudest voice or the most opinions or who is the most demanding; it’s who stands out for always being willing to help their colleagues.”

The performance of current leaders also will impact how well organizations identify strong leadership candidates internally. Tulgan said highly engaged leaders are much more likely to properly identify potential successful future leaders.

“If managers throughout the organization are managing properly, if they’re in dialogue with people, then they’re going to be much more likely to be identifying the right people,” Tulgan said.

Once team members are selected for a leadership track, Tulgan said it’s crucial to provide them with a technical framework for being a leader. That means teaching them skills such as decision-making, communication, teaching others, talking like a coach, setting clear expectations, providing feedback, solving problems, resource planning and how to monitor, measure and document performance.

Tulgan added that the organizations excelling at cultivating and promoting effective leaders maintain an intent focus on training, coaching, and mentoring.

“The lion’s share of this formula is training, training, training, training, training, training, training,” Tulgan said.

Tulgan said organizations too often put people in leadership roles and fail to ensure they excel in their new role.

“The biggest mistake that organizations make is putting people in leadership roles officially, but then without any significant training,” Tulgan said. “So, we tell them ‘here’s a little extra paperwork you have to do,’ but nobody ever teaches them how to do the paperwork. And then, every so often, we send them to a seminar where somebody tells them a whole bunch of stuff that’s probably not very good advice.”

Ultimately, someone with promise for a leadership position will not reach that promise without the proper help.

“If you put somebody in a position of leadership because they were very good at their job, it may not be because they’re good at managing people,” Tulgan said. “And even if they have what it takes to manage people, maybe they have no experience, and then what they do is they start making it up as they go along and follow the path of least resistance to do what everyone else is doing. It’s so much smarter to train and teach them the evidence-based best practices of management.”

Developing a leadership mindset for your newest workers

It’s never too early for a new generation of workers to begin to develop a leadership mindset, and organizations play a major role in helping them see the career possibilities that could lie ahead.

Christina Reti, head of real estate and hospitality, EMEA, for Korn Ferry, said organizations that offer team members the freedom to demonstrate their unique skills and personality within the structures of their jobs will be providing them with a chance to show their leadership potential – and to realize it for themselves.

developing a leadership mindset for your newest workers


“Providing opportunity for individuals to impress their personality on decision-making and service delivery is essential to encourage accountability, which is central to the leadership mindset,” Reti said. “This often is difficult within hospitality because of the desire for brand consistency, but celebrating each employee’s interpretation of the brand is helpful to ensure employees remain engaged and develop brand affinity. Whether someone greeting guests at the door says, ‘Good morning, sir’ or ‘How are you today?’ shouldn’t matter; it’s the smile on that person’s face that will resonate in the guest’s memory of their stay at a hotel.”

Reti said giving young workers those kinds of chances and a view of the future can help the hospitality sector promote itself to up-and-coming talent.

“Young talent needs to be made aware of all the flexibility, mobility, and career longevity that exists within this incredibly rewarding sector,” Reti said. “Organizations don’t have the option to be as selective anymore and need to ingratiate those willing to enter the world of hotels. Thank them, encourage them to speak their mind, and offer their opinion of what could be changed in how something is done. Listen and respond to young staff to constantly keep them engaged and motivated to make a difference.”


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