I frequently spend some time in a fabulous resort in Koh Samui. I’ve had the pleasure of staying there before and so impressive was the experience I was champing at the bit to return.
The hotel is one of those places that renders the phrase “runs like clockwork” wholly inadequate. The effortless ease with which everything happens – and in which it is always delivered with equal measures of great charm and seamless efficiency – was staggeringly impressive.
In many years of travelling the world I don’t think I’ve ever been made to feel so welcome, relaxed and genuinely special as I have at this rather special spot on the Thai island.
On this visit, I got talking to the manager – one of those wonderful Europeans (invariably German or Swiss) who presides over a major hotel or resort with the sort of effortless laid back ease that would make most of us feel decidedly inferior.
I congratulated him on the faultless quality of the hotel and, especially, on the amazing team he has. His response stopped me in my tracks.
“Oh, don’t thank me,” he said. “Thank them. All I do is write the cheques.”
Now, isn’t that telling? In this country where, let’s be honest, we see a large swathe of middle and senior management that is misguided at best and inept at worst, would you have received a response so humble? I doubt it.
This man is quite obviously professional to his fingertips. You can’t run a large, busy resort without that obsessive attention to detail and passion for the highest standards.
But what he quite obviously does judging by that understated and reserved response to my comments is to preside with huge success and influence over the whole operation. But, and here’s the nub, allowing the various departments of the hotel and the teams within those departments get on with their jobs. No micro managing, no undermining of people and systems and, quite obviously, no ego that needs paraded about at every available opportunity.
I used to work with a wonderful training manager who always said an exceptional manager adopts what she called the “helicopter” or “captain on the bridge of a ship” approach.
Yes, they are there to ensure a business runs as it should – and to kick arse when it doesn’t – but they have the confidence, the experience and the ability to do so without interfering every five minutes, without overloading people with targets, key performance indicators and all that other management crap we came to love and then loathe in the 90s.
The response from this particular manager was, as I said, humble and understated. It was also wonderfully refreshing and is an approach from which many could learn.