Magnificent managers mentor to the max
Magnificent managers mentor to the max
02 OCTOBER 2018 7:19 AM

If your hotel is looking to improve guest service satisfaction, one of the first steps midlevel managers should do is evaluate how they’re mentoring or developing front-line staff.

Nearly every week I head out on the road delivering hotel sales and guest service training that focuses on all departments. Although my program topics are mostly the same, what really keeps it interesting for me is getting to peek behind the scenes at an extremely wide range of lodging companies.

In just the past few months I’ve worked with five-star hotels and focused service; hotels flying flags of major worldwide brands and independents; resorts and city-center hotels; luxury all-inclusives and select service.

Although the “physical product” is always very different and the market segments my clients are pursuing vary greatly, one common theme is that hotels that invest the most in outside training tend to already be the best for their “niche” of lodging.

My job provides the very unique opportunity to observe the qualities required for a hotel to be successful in its own space. One commonality I notice is that the best hotels focus on developing their midlevel managers and help them realize that their most important job is to mentor and coach those future stars on the front line.

On the other hand, hotels at the bottom of those TripAdvisor rankings simply move people up the organizational chart without giving them the skills to succeed in their new roles.

If you look back at your own career, or look around at the resumes of midlevel managers at your hotel, you will probably find that most were promoted into their first supervisory position usually for the sole reason that they did an excellent job as a front-line worker. However, the skills that make one successful as a “doer” do not necessarily translate into what it takes to be a successful hospitality leader.

If your hotel is looking to raise the bar on guest service excellence, a good starting place is to take a hard look at what you are doing to develop those first-level managers. Here are some characteristics of successful midlevel managers that you can share at your next in-house management meeting:

  • Mentoring to the max starts with demonstrating hospitality excellence every hour of every shift for every guest, with zero slippage. Those front-line colleagues closely scrutinize your actions, and your performance sets the real standards.


  • Great mentors consistently coach all associates. They provide frequent feedback right after guest interactions conclude—when guests are no longer present of course. They commend the specifics of what was done well to reinforce. If something was missed, they first ask the colleague, “When you think back on what just happened, what could we have done differently?” rather than jumping right into criticism.


  • Great mentors avoid “superstar slippage,” which can occur when top performers are allowed to routinely cut corners based on their past successes. They remind such superstars that the reputation of the hotel is only as good as the experience of the last guest that walked out of the front door or the last guest they spoke to on the phone.


  • Those who mentor effectively avoid “reading the headlines” and knee-jerk reactions to incidents. When they read a bad review or guest survey, they take time to research before jumping to a conclusion about who dropped the ball and potentially demoralizing a budding young superstar.


  • Successful leaders stay tuned in to the daily cycle of service and anticipate—and prepare for—potential bottleneck periods. They pitch in momentarily when needed and demonstrate moral support during stressful moments.


  • Exemplary midlevel leaders proactively manage upward to secure long-term change. They work with other departments to resolve annoying operational issues that are causing recurring problems and frustrations. They fight for the resources and budget their colleagues’ need to be successful.

When training your midlevel managers to mentor to the max, remind them of the many positive outcomes from developing leadership qualities in those who report to them. For one, the front-line staff will create more positive guest experiences. Also, the careers of middle managers will continue to evolve when they make the transition from “doer” to “leader.” Yet one very tangible and immediate benefit is that those who mentor to the max receive far fewer phone calls on their days off! Instead, their charges feel empowered to make decisions and know that they will be supported for doing what they think is the right thing to do.

Doug Kennedy is president of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of hotel sales, guest service, reservations and front desk training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Kennedy has been a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations for more than two decades. Since 1996, Kennedy’s monthly training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hospitality industry authorities. Visit KTN at or email him directly at He is the author of “So You REALLY Like Working With People? - Five Principles for Hospitality Excellence.”

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