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What is your learning in leadership from your long experience in the hotel industry?

“Biggest leadership learning of my 40 years of experience is that in order to succeed in the hospitality industry, there must be a seamless co-ordinated effort between all sections of hospitality and all employees must understand and appreciate different departmental responsibilities and challenges” Sajid Mahmood

Thanks, Mr. Sajid Mahmood for a highly insightful discussion.

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I’m actually in fact, I am working on two programs, which are to be mentored by IHS and other pieces. I got in touch with business Institute’s and I told them that you guys are concentrating on preparing people and pushing them into the hospitality industry. Hmm. What about what about getting people who are already working there? Hmm. So as a consultant, I have got, there are two problem areas, when a person reaches the stage of being the head of the department.

And whether the person reaches the stage of being a general manager.


yes. So these are the two positions where your job profile changes? totally correct. Okay. And it’s time that before the people are put into these positions, they should be they should undergo an orientation. Yeah. Which individual hotels are unable to do?

So I would ask you first, to just kind of explain how did you started in the hospitality industry? And when you started, what was your goal?

Okay, what my goal was at that time is very, very different, what the goal should be right now. Hmm. Because when I started, I started my career in 1980. So I joined water management in 1977. Now, at that time, in India, employment was a big issue. But But hotel management was one costs, where it was guaranteed that if you do this course, you’re going to get employed.

Now, as you as you realize that issue is not they’re not

still kind of the issue is still there.

No comment. But the point is, is that too

many institutes or too many institutes and your chances of employment after doing water management are as good as you doing some other costs? Yeah. But in those days, if you did a three year Diploma in water management, because it was available only in four places, Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, and nowhere else, Mm hmm. Right. So the people who came out, we were hired six months before we completed our costs. Can you imagine? Yeah, yeah, we were hired six months before we come across. So that was the chance of getting employed, which is very, very high compared to anything else in the country at that point. So that was a reason. I’ll be very upfront, why a join. But after that fell in love the pace. Yeah, the industry in the sense that after working for about 15 years, the hospitality industry, I left the hospitality industry, and I went into mobile communication. Okay.

Three years later, I was back. Oh,

so you did not get that joy out there. Like

it’s a very stressful job. But a lot of people work very hard. It’s very stressful. But it’s very, very enjoyable.

You know, thing that you get in working out and you do not

get, again, my experience is that

when people enter the hotel industry, they either be within one or two years. They exit or these those

guys who stay back really stay alive for longer.

Yeah, they are not they are not able to go back because of the love that we get in the industry of working with peepers working with guests and a new challenge every single day. That’s not present in the other industries to a large

extent. Yes, yeah. So, I will just quickly give you a rundown, I started my career with the morialta in Delhi at reception within monster discovered that they had recruited us along at the wrong place, put us into a manual training program Okay. Then I spent 15 years with them working both in operations and sales and marketing and worked all over the place and I was Jedi from there are gradually again madra has about the dross botnet Cargill jelly has about again, like all those pieces then after leaving them for 15 years for three years I was in the mobile industry as GM marketing for a company called gt that had that had license for Andhra Pradesh. Then I jumped back I started a jetpack by going into club my Indra which was a timeshare. But I was looking after the hotels division and I was looking after the development of

from there I joined consultants.

consultants came back to the I came to Delhi joined Radisson and I established their sales and marketing network.

Okay, because

at that time I was in sales and marketing. And I had a desire to get back into operations. You know, I have I’d be lucky to be in and out of sales and marketing. So therefore I’ve got an equal experience in marketing and operations. And I jump back into operations I opened out and and Jeff, what I put out in the airport, and then a hotel in Delhi. Before joining server as a that was my last formal job as vice president marketing of the server group over dance. I left them about five years back, because I did not want to reach a stage of getting a type of return. Hmm. After that, I’ve been helping hotels

who are not doing well.

Yeah, I have to recall. Because you see, for a hotel to recover, it has to be a combined process of sales and marketing activity, and operational efficiency. Simply, yeah, the problem is most hotels do not tend to.

Yeah, that’s

one and no, they, if you join them together, the problem is solved. So that’s what I’ve been doing. For the past three months, I’ve been helping hotels become code compliant. Okay.

Yeah. That’s the meat of our

Yeah, the guidelines are there from the government.

You have to go beyond the guidelines. Yes. Yes. Because you have to secure your hotel. If something goes wrong in the hotel, despite your care. It affects you adversely.

Yes, yes.

Right. So you have to give confidence to the guests that they are being well looked after. And a separate operating instruction has to be made for each hotel. This structure is different. Mm hmm. I go around, take a look of the hotel and then make operating procedure and friend people have this. Yeah, yeah. That’s what I’m doing right now.

That’s all you’re doing right now. Okay, a hotel. Basically, I have two jobs. One is the corporate job being a CFO for hotel company here in Myanmar. I think the other job that I have is this hotel management schools that I am running as my own personal venture, where I try trying to create the courses for Hospitality students and professionals alike, who may be willing to learn more skills in business finance, housekeeping front office like multi skilling multitasking, because I see now that a lot of hotels are putting efforts on trying to multi scale their staff and train them into multiple abilities. So, it gives probably the students also a chance to learn by themselves, because it depends on the programs that are run by hotel, some hotels have strong training programs, some hotels have not so strong training programs. So my courses are for those who don’t have the access to the training modules by IHS or you know, the high end Hotel Management institutes or not working with those big brands which might be able to

train them up basically.

If I want to ask you let’s say in the 40 years of experience, how you What are your key learnings if you say okay, these are my five or 10 top learnings in the hospitality industry where things normally go wrong, and people need to be careful from hotels perspective and also from the employee perspective means for their career advancement. So let’s start with the hotel first.

See as far as the hotel is concerned, one very big learning because a hotel is a place where a lot of coordinated activity takes place. Yeah. There is no other place where so much of action takes place in such a small areas of different kinds. So coordinated, working, coordinated, working. Yeah, this is the most important thing. Okay. Now look at the different kinds of people that are working there. You have MBAs working in your sales and marketing people you have Chartered Accountants working in your finance department, you have an highly qualified engineers working in your engineering department. Yeah. You have a you have the kitchen is not an easy place. Yeah, there’s they’re highly experienced people working in the kitchen in fnb in the front office, and they are of all grades,

you know, like like

a file. You have very sophisticated people on one side, then you go the house on another site, the security guards on the other side. Yeah, and all that happens in a very limited geographical area. So coordination, working in coordination, working as a team is the most important thing for the success of any of them. Yeah, yeah, with the youngsters and say that you have to keep on learning, learning, learning, because if you want to be good at coordination, you better know what happens on the other side.

So learning to mean the knowledge of their own operations is not that important. Is that sort of ending of other operational departments, other challenges is equally important.

It’s very important, because how do you coordinate with them? How does a front office person put pressure on housekeeping? Yeah, to turn it around? Who’s fast? If they do not know how housekeeping functions? Yeah,


If they do not know how engine engineering functions,

so they need to know that

we’re in the middle of my experience, I see. Sometimes the front office or the GM or the operational assessor marketing specialists, sometimes they they commit things to the guest, which operational departments, specifically the housekeeping, and security and the battlements, the front office team, the concierge team are not just able to deliver because they don’t have enough capabilities, and also the the equipments that they are required. And if the salespeople and the operational person who is selling and committing to the guest, does not understand their own hotels, let alone the processes. Okay, the process is there, maybe you understand, but if they don’t understand within the capabilities of the other departments, they may generally overcome it.

Yeah, I often

tell them that in any product in any product, hotel or anything, well, now that we talk as a salesperson sales and marketing, in any product, the first step is know your product. If you do not know your product, you can’t sell it. If you’re selling a laptop, unless you know the laptop, you cannot sell it. Now, when it comes to hotels, it’s by knowing your product, it does not mean the physical attributes of the product. But you should also know the strengths and weaknesses of your product or product. Yeah. You need to know the weaknesses not to criticize, but how do you can file selling? How do you work around? Yeah, correct. worker. So that is what happened. So therefore, it’s important for sales in you know, when I used to get people in sales and marketing alongside, and this was wonder, so why are you sending us to work in housekeeping for two, three days? Why are you sending us in the kitchen? Let’s look, huh? You are selling this product? And you better know this?

Yeah, gonna

want to know how this product functions and you better know what it can deliver.

What does it mean,

to offer an early breakfast do unconference offer an early breakfast to a conference because it will check out the last day, you ought to know how the kitchen has to stand has to serve how the jury has to prepare itself to do that, so therefore, knowing the product is most important.

Yeah. Okay. So the first thing is the coordinated effort from everybody and knowing the product by each and everyone. Okay, what would Okay, what would what would be the second or third thing you will say?

See, is very difficult to pin it down? ABCD. But I’ll just share with you some of the experience Yeah, I share with you a concept which is to share with my head of departments and general managers. I tell them that you have to follow the CEO concept,


CEO concept. What is meant by CEO is that there are three areas that you have to pay equal attention to C stands for the customer, E stands for employee and most stands for the ownership.

Mm hmm. First, you have to look at the customer, the

guest who we call as a guest in our industry, as to are they getting their

value value for money.

Now value for money is not something cheap, but whatever you’re paying, are you getting what you need to understand the needs of a guest and fulfill them because a delighted guest is going to come back to you.

That’s that’s a focused, that’s one focus.

The second focus that you have to do is on your employees. Because the hotel industry runs on people.

Yeah. This is what five people’s

Yes, because this the ultimate your ultimate test of your product is in the delivery of service and the delivery. is done by humans,

by people. And it’s done by

people. I, I would like to use a term but just explaining explaining that down the rack. Okay, so your front office functioning is not as good as your front office manager, but it is as good as the receptionist that tracks the guest.

Your f&b

is not as good as you have any manager, but it’s as good as the stewards that So,

yes, good.

housekeeping is as good as the Houseman that makes up your room.

So you have to look after your employees. And as we say that, you know, we must serve with a smile. The smile for an employee will not come on this is employees smiling from inside.

Yes, that’s right.

This is not an industry where you can trash people, this is where many ideas go wrong. This is not an industry where you can pressurize people and make them work in spite that we are false fine, your guests will recognize right away. So you have to look after your employees, you have to look that your employees are well trained, they are motivated,

you know, they’re happy,

you’re gonna put them in your lap and pat them know. But you want to make sure that they’re satisfied and happy. And finally, you have to come to the ownership to somebody has invested in that for their for the sake of profit. So is your concept of profitability clear. I often say that, you have to stop being an executive management become a business manager. And you have to strike a balance between all three. Any general managers running out to profitability, and neglecting employees and guests is headed. Similarly, anybody who’s just too good with guests and doesn’t care about employees or property, again, as a manager, who’s makes employees very happy, but is unable to deliver the service and unable to deliver profits again. So you have to you know, this model, you have to balance you have to balance these three, you got to understand what can go deeper into it. There are reasons as to how to take care of it.

Yes, yeah. Correct. Okay, this is

something that most managers have to learn. And I would I always share it with youngsters, because they are the managers of tomorrow, they will not join us managers, but keep it in the back of their mind, by the time they reach that place. Hmm. That’s

talking about the employees. I mean, yes, we see that that employees need to be motivated. And companies normally are doing quite a lot of activities and some activities are becoming like a standard, you know, the compensation benefits, celebrating of birthdays, occasions and doing some staff recreation team building activities. In your experience, what have you learned how the hoteliers can motivate and keep because as you said, rightly said, if people are not happy from within insight, then it’s very difficult for them to be happy at the work and their happiness will not be determined only by the workplace, but also by their own personal matters, how they have been working, how what what where are they where are they living? So how the hoteliers would be able to make or try to meet the people’s happier at at work.

You see in this, this is a keeping people happier at work

is not a mechanical matter. It’s an emotional matter.


So saying Actually, I’ve done it and this and that. I’ve done it if it is not done from your heart, sorry, it will not work. What is important is to have a sensitive management. Okay, by sensitive I do not mean to go to the extreme of being a charitable organization. Oh, yeah. We are a profit making organization. But being sensitive to people as to what they need. Arguing one example, in one of my hotels. We used to have this Admiralty and

I had a chef who was a very efficient person.

So one day he said, Sir, this

year I will organize the Admiralty.

I said, Okay, I bet you in charge you have another guy or

a fabulous show. It was a fabulous show. Very well organized lights were good and this and that. But what he was doing his most of time was screaming and shouting at people who are working. Yeah. And like he, his intention was to get the work done. Perfect show, huh? And he succeeded in that. So then he asked me sir cassava So I said, Let me put it this way the show was good, but I was not happy with it. There why what happened? I said the purpose of annual day is not to put up an excellent show. But to conduct an activity, where people from different departments are involved in a common activity. That is what the purpose of celebrating annually is. Likely, if some flyers have to be put up. So somebody from front office, somebody from the kitchen, somebody from engineering is doing it together and putting up those flyers. Yeah, yeah. So that is the purpose of organizing it will be to involve every guest.


You’re not an event management company.

That has to make sure that it goes to you. So the guy was shocked, huh?

Today, he’s a general manager. And he says, sir, I got that learning. And another thing you know, I tell you, as if you want to motivate people, which people often forget, is creating a concept of justice. Now, what I mean by Justice is that people get recognized for what they have done, and they do not get praised for what they’ve not done. Now, I was fortunate enough, like most hoteliers have risen through ranks. And I’m sure money’s you also you must remember, you must be remembering some situations where you are very, very upset. Because you felt what is happening was not right. Correct. You get that thing? Yes. So that is what I mean by a sense of justice. I know that people should get that sense of justice that if we have worked, we should get rewarded. And let me tell you something. If a person has not worked inside their heart, they know they don’t deserve it.

Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. And even

my what my what my granddad used to tell me, he said, Can I speak in go to Hindi? Yeah, sure. You said beta job exam. decoteau. Okay. Look, we changed your paycheck. So welcome. cobia Chihuahua, but didn’t read the memo make it Norwalk get the Naga leather work nothing. Almost such a bad deal with the main motto make it 20 40% I’m gay.

Or the 40% I get to the roga bonobo now

you did work. So people actually do their work. So if they do not get recognized, then they may show that they’re upset from top but they will not be upset from inside. You got to make sure that they are okay from inside. Hmm.

Right. I mean, definitely You are right. Especially when because I mean this best buds personal experience when I used to work and I used to work very hard. And in my mind, I know that I have worked very hard I have to sacrifice my even my personal time or my my leisure time to achieve something for the company and I’m able to do that. And if by the end of the day or by the end of the budget session, I mean normally we used to work super hard for budgets even taking the responsibility which is not our responsibility is the other department responsibility. I used to gay say okay, I will help you out. No problem. Don’t worry about it. At the end of the day when the budget is finished and then I see are there is no appreciation or there is not even a tank symbol tanks forget about rewards or anything else that that breaks. But yeah, if you only thing is it, I’m a positive person, unfortunately. And I forget things very easily. So I said okay, never mind. At least I learned something. I learned how the other department works because I have them. So that’s a silver lining for me that okay, I learned something new from from helping others.

So Manish, I would like to differ with you a little focus. Yeah, when such a thing happens. You may have the majority you have the majority of handling it, like most of us have suggestions. But the truth is that little something is left behind.

Yeah, correct. The main Yeah.

As a manager, when you come on the other side of the table,

you got to understand that these little little things should not be left behind. But the little little things that we will create a positive or negative bias.

Hmm. So yes, you can. What I’m trying to say is that

when the injustice took place with you, you can’t seem to feel bad. Yeah, you did feel very bad. Only thing is that you have the capability of energy.

Yeah, yeah. Gotta get the


If I’m saying this now, that means that that might that thing is still in my mouse.

There it goes. You’re saying it now. That means it is there somewhere in the back corner yes there Yeah, we have to eliminate as many dots as possible we will eliminate all Hmm. But as senior management would make an effort to eliminate as many dots as possible,

yeah. Yeah. But not inexpensive, but I think it happens with the when you are the senior management, you have to take care of multiple things, you some way somehow slip and forget to appreciate peoples who are working for you some way sometimes you does not even notice that somebody has been doing how many hours of work for you. And so, how do you how do you try to counter that? Is it like, maybe a routine of I mean, I have seen I have read some self help books where say, okay, you need to make a routine of meeting at least one person and then appreciate their work on a daily basis or a weekly basis.

See, ish, didn’t work this way. We are humans. So we cannot be perfect. Yeah. But we must make an effort to be right, on any, as many occasions as possible. So if this thought is in your mind that I need to appreciate what people are doing.

It will come out.

Yeah, yeah.

You need not you need not say that I have to appreciate one person per day two people per day. Hmm. And appreciation is best. When it comes at the right time. Immediately.

Either immediately, or for the right time, something has done a good job.

If I were to tell them that, you know, what you did for the third of September was excellent.

Not so good. Yeah. Yeah. As it is now.

Because, according to mean management books, appreciation, and reprimand has to be immediate.


Yeah, the only difference is the only difference is that I believe appreciation should be in public. Yeah.

And reprimand should be in private. Yeah.

Then the people, the first thing that you have to do is, let me talk a little about performance appraisal, coming down to giving people a pat on the back for a kick, whatever you may want to do. For performance appraisal, it’s important that at the beginning of the year, it should be laid out as to what is expected out of you. Yeah, that’s what I do. Know, what is expected out of you should be laid out very, very clearly. And during the course of the six months or the one one year, if anybody is performing as per that ad profile that has been given to them. They should be given periodic. Pat’s on the back and corrected Yeah. So that when you reach the time of an appraisal, you have been able to discuss?

Yeah, now,

at this, you know, what we’re seeing is happens because of our D, what we’ve inherited. Like in the Government of India, this is a concept of a car.

That’s confidential report.

Your boss wrote a confidential report about you, which you had no access to. It went into your file, and it went to the next boss and the next person next to very often we used to say, if you don’t do this method, ecrb guardzilla. It was a it was an opaque concept. Now from OPIC, we had to bring it to a transparent concept. Yeah, yeah. There should be a system by which a person can come to that. I tell you the operating system that I had followed, we had what is known as a handled work plan.

And work plan. There were five objectives

of the organization and everybody’s work plan was as per those five objectives. The weightage was different depending upon their rank,

where they were working, like for example, if we’re talking about cost control,

so finance and others would have a high wage announcement. So we have an annual work plan and based upon the annual work plan, and a prison to take place, and appraisal in the appraiser both had to sign off.

The person who was being appraised had a right to object

and say that I did not agree mm. So the boss had to

discuss it out with them and come to her agreement

this year. And if he still disagreed, it would go one step up. Yeah. Yeah. So that was very clear. Because it’s happened with me was my boss told me I needed you to do this, as you never told me. Yeah. I never knew that this was expected on a new ad, you told me I’m quite capable of doing it every minute. Mm hmm. So to bring it in transparency, you know, brings about a better sense of justice. You’re coming back to about praising and reprimands. I found a very good system that I was working with console

in Carlson demo system of Bravo.


so anytime a Bravo certificate can be given to anyone whenever they do something good.


Let us put on the electronic notice both everybody to see

Oh, sorry, bravo. Yeah.

So, so there’s a,

there’s a gastrulation executive,

largely large group came, and she did an excellent job of quickly checking them in and housing them looking after them, and going to the left, and which led to a lot of satisfaction, immediately give her a pro certificate

report on the ball,

electronic board. And when people see people meet, and they say congratulations,

there’s nothing there’s no money involved, there’s no nothing.

certificate, beautifully made one which comes on the computer comes on, and it comes on everybody’s email for

that so and so’s got a certificate for


And the pro certificates are taken into consideration

when your appraisal is being done.

Okay. So you have led off this team by praising them. And when your appraisal comes in, you know, your revenue certificates are read out.

You know, what they’re doing? Yeah, can I,

I, I found that very good.

And I and I,

I implemented it in sort of our library. There’s nothing wrong with taking one idea from an organization and putting it to the other. Yeah,

that’s the benefit of working with multiple cultures, multiple industries that you take the best practice from one to two other.

Yeah, yeah, that’s what I feel.

That’s great. Okay. So what are the advice to young people in to develop their career in hospitality? If you can advise a few things and

see, all I tell them is that hotel industry is very, very exciting career. It is an exciting career. And once you join, you will enjoy yourself. What is required our care is hard work and constantly learning.

Yeah, hard work, constant learning and

a desire to serve.

Yes, you must have a desire to serve. If you do not have a desire to serve, please do not join this industry. And you will have to serve, no matter what positions you are in. Yeah. If you have these three things, sky’s the limit for you.

This is one industry where a bellboy

becomes a general manager. And I have a couple of In fact,

I’ll name the brand in IDC

they have this brand welcome group which is hotels and they have fortunately they have welcome heritage. The head of sales of heritage the person who wants to work at the front desk when I was in the front office. So that has the possibility if you work your way up, Mm hmm. And and all of all of these students are intelligent, they can find their way to that. Self education people educating yourself. self help you. Nobody. me as a potty potty experience of repeat experience can give you any other body.

Yeah, gotta go.

Find your way out. And if you find your way out Martha’s open, drive to the top

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