Want to be successful in hotels? Set fewer goals (yes, really)

November 28, 2017


 Very few hoteliers — at least those of us in it for the long haul — will tell you the road is easy. The day-to-day is a never-ending stream of challenges, while the longer career path demands persistence. There is a certain mental toughness that comes with the territory. We need to think creatively, foster a winning team, and fuse immediate actions with broader goals. It takes time and training to develop these skills. It also requires a certain measure of talent.


This was all true before the digital revolution and before the share-economy. But now it’s really, really true. Those of us who stick with it do so because we love it, or because we’re good at it, or because we don’t know anything else.


But I think there’s another reason. I think some of us are inherently better at navigating change within the industry, and evolving in our careers as hotel professionals. Why? Because we believe that quality is more important than outcomes.


The importance of developing (and focusing on) a system


Various leaders throughout the years have instilled the need in me to set goals and achieve them, however I often found that achieving the goal was less satisfying than I had expected. A recent article on Goal Setting by James Clear got me thinking about what how important goals were versus maybe the systems that supported them.


One of the many benefits to starting my hotel consultancy was that I could experiment with how to achieve something. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, and I just kept doing it. I got up every day, networked, and didn't think too much about the results. It sounds crazy, but it was really as simple as talking to potential clients, listening to them and emphasising the quality of my work. Instead of fixating on goals I had to reach, I focused on developing and practising a system of work that I believed would produce good quality work.


Sure, I spent time negotiating fees — but when that part was over, I didn’t think about it again. I just threw myself into the work, no matter how much time and energy it took. The funny thing is, with this mentality, it usually required less time and energy than I thought it might.


That’s not to say I didn’t have goals when I set out as a hospitality professional — I did. But they weren’t necessarily tied to the system I was practising. It wasn’t about putting pressure on myself to meet specific objectives, as we’re often encouraged to do these days. For me, it was all about the belief that if I committed to the art (as Seth Godin would say), worked hard and did a good job, the rewards would come.


I still practise the system I developed in those early days. It’s based on a few simple principles:


  • Have confidence in my own capability even when the little voices are chattering (one advisor said I had to believe my own PR)

  • Explore networks for work referral, and discard those that don’t work, especially those whose work ethic does not match my own.

  • Take the time to help anyone who asks for it.

  • Find a mentor and be one, but practise mentoring.

  • Take risks and back myself but be honest with myself and others around me.

  • Don’t always compare to others, even if the voice says I should, and;

  • Enjoy the journey!

This last point is particularly important. Goals obviously have their place in the scheme of things because they can act a marker for achievement, but fixating on goals can distract us from the quality of our work. They can give our work a rollercoaster quality, wherein we push toward a goal and rest on our laurels when it’s done.


In other words, thinking and worrying too much about goals (especially financial ones) takes away from the enjoyment of our work — and when enjoyment goes, quality follows.


The message here is simple. Hospitality professionals who focus on quality work and living a good life will see greater rewards with less perceived effort. In a moment when competition in hospitality is at an all-time high, this is how we flourish.



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