Managers – Break defenses and fire up the teams

There was a subdued murmur around the huge room. The entire staff of Hotel Green Acres was gathered in the hotel’s main ballroom.  Occupancy had been down and was reducing steadily for the previous four quarters. The CEO had been fired last month and the new CEO, Jeffrey Rivers, had taken over and everyone was now waiting to hear him talk to them for the first time. He had a terrific reputation for turning around poorly performing companies and rumours were rife that he would fire a lot of them and bring in new and smarter people.

Suddenly the silence was broken with the loud music of the song, “Tub thumping” by Chumbawamba. Jaws dropped as Jeffrey danced into the room dressed in a loud Hawaiian shirt and shorts. As the strains of “I get knocked down, but I get up again” blasted around the room, Jeffrey came dancing down from the dais and right into their midst. People started getting up and moving their chairs to create space. Suddenly, Sharon, the young receptionist joined in and soon more and more people joined in.  Soon all the chairs were being pushed aside and the whole room was jiving to the song. There was pandemonium and even the staid General Manager, Richard Stone, was swaying to the music.

Finally the music tapered down and Jeffrey motioned to everyone to grab a chair and sit down while he continued to stand in the middle. Someone handed a microphone to him and he started to talk in a soft conversational tone. “David was only a shepherd boy and for years he had been one. But even as a shepherd boy he was honing his skill with staff and sling. He had frightened away wild animals that came to kill the sheep and even killed a lion. Now when the stage was set, with Goliath the giant, he was ready and was victorious. Do you know why? Because his time had come. “

“When I came on board I looked into everything connected with this hotel. It had excellent location, experienced and loyal people, and everything for a successful hotel. There are a few areas that we can look into” Jeffrey continued. He then touched upon all the various departments unhurriedly and gave concrete advice. His credibility was already strong and his knowledge and understanding further strengthened that. The new emphasis was on customer experience and everyone could see how each of them was in a position to influence that.

“I am reminded of a true story” Jeffrey continued.” On a rainy day an elderly couple came into a hotel and asked for a room. With no rooms available, the young receptionist insisted that the couple take his own room rather than go out in the rain. The next morning while checking out the old man said told the young receptionist that he was the type of manager who should be in the best hotel and that he may build one just for him. The young man laughed at the kind thought and didn’t think about it after that. A couple of years later, this young man was stunned to receive tickets to come to New York for an interview where he met the same old man who showed him a brand new hotel that he wanted him to run. That old man was William Waldorf-Aster and the hotel was the Waldorf-Astoria. The young man was George Boldt the first manager of the hotel. His time had come. You have been preparing for this day and now we need to walk forward and achieve our potential. Remember. Our time has come” he ended. The room was filled with the theme song from “Chariots of Fire’ and Jeffrey stepped down and started talking to people as the room was filled with thunderous applause and cheering.

Now years later, Richard Stone could still remember that day in vivid detail. Jeffrey had used the David and Goliath story to deliver a simple message that the time had come for the hotel to reach its destiny. Nobody would have believed him but when he danced into the room unexpectedly, he took them out of their despondent frame of mind, broke their defences and grabbed their full attention. Then Jeffrey had systematically shown concrete steps as to how every part of the hotel could make dramatic improvements. His brilliant reputation for turning things around gave him such credibility that no one actually doubted him and he fired everyone’s emotions by using the story of George Boldt and the William Waldorf-Aster so that each of them could believe that he or she could excel and realise their potential. Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional and with a Story to latch onto – that was the secret of Jeffrey’s SUCCESs, he concluded.

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