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Embracing Change & Communicating As Leaders

Duetto’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales, Chris Crowley, joined other industry leaders to take part in a RaizUp event on ‘Leadership & A Growth Mindset’ on April 20.

RaizUp is a global community for the hospitality and travel technology sector, providing a career platform to inspire and elevate each other.

Moderated by Marjorie Sundström, Sales Manager at The Sparrow Hotel and RaizUp Sweden chapter co-leader, and Evelyn Hamilton, Global Bid & Project Manager at BCD Travel and RaizUp Sweden chapter co-leader, the panel discussed the importance of teamwork, how to communicate as leaders today and how to pivot a company during a crisis.

Alongside Chris Crowley, the panel included Monica Hilm, Managing Director for Yasuragi Spa Hotel; Kerstin Öhman, Owner and CEO of Business Service Club; and Erik Eklund, Human Connections Specialist.

The discussion started with an appraisal of management styles. Kerstin Öhman explained how, as a Swedish leader, she is always checking in with the team. “This is the way we work here in Sweden. Take decisions, but make sure you always have the team with you,” she remarked.

Monica Hilm, also based in Sweden, agreed: “Once everyone agrees they run in the same direction and they run faster.”

Embracing Change

Hilm recently returned to Sweden after many years working abroad. She is currently MD of the Yasuragi Spa Hotel. She talked about the challenges of leadership when leading ‘digitally’ and when leading team members she is still to meet in person. Yet, all panelists agreed that this new way of remote working could have its positives.

“I have always encouraged people to work from home if the role enables them. The hotel industry is catching up with the rest of the world, especially the tech industry, so the pandemic has opened up a lot of possibility,” she said.

Hilm has taken over a hotel that has 36 managers but now only has eight. “We need to build up from the beginning,” she said. “But this is a golden opportunity to review an industry that structure-wise has looked the same for 150 years. Hotels haven’t changed. The industry is extremely hierarchic. Now is a great opportunity to shake that up, work with self-managed employees, and work horizontally to develop yourself and learn new things.”

Hilm recently recruited a lot of new staff from the airline industry, which has proved a real boost for the hotel.

Communicating as Leaders

Chris Crowley from Duetto talked about how communication has changed in the last 12 months and the worrying trend of a talent drain out of travel and hospitality, predominantly from middle management.

“When you communicate as a middle manager in a hotel you communicate around process and the management of process – the setting up of a restaurant or the filling of a reservation cycle. This is not really face to face; it is structured and ordered in a way that has worked for 100 years. This world we live in now is different. We have management not used to communicating face to face who now are confronted with 10 faces on a screen,” he said.

“For senior leaders, who relied on personality-style leadership filled with bluff and bluster this doesn’t lend itself to that either. This forces leaders to be more apparent. When you say you are going to do something you have to do it. But this gives us an opportunity to leave some of this behind and focus on actions and deliverables. We have to keep our sense of inclusion. And stay committed to a unity of purpose, constant communication, and actionable engagement – these will make you successful,” Chris added.

Emotional Leadership

Erik Eklund talked to the audience about taking an emotional leadership approach, showing transparency and vulnerability.

“We’re in a period of time where change happens so fast. We have to adapt to that. Ask ‘do I want to stick to my plans/thoughts/feelings prior to Covid or is it time to revisit these so I can be part of this change?

“When something changes the dynamic, people will start to look for somebody to take the lead. People are not looking for talkers, they are looking for those who can lead the way through. It’s time to drop the personal and professional divide. I am Eric. What can I bring to my work? If I am separating myself you will not get the genuine Eric. This builds up trust,” he explained.

Monica agreed that it was important to erase the lines between private and work life, but to always remain respectful of each other too. It is OK to have a bad day.

“We used to say you go on stage when you go to work in hotels, but now it’s ok to have a bad day. Now, even with digital meetings, don’t force people to have a camera on. We have to be more flexible as leaders and appreciate there needs to be a distinction between private time and work time, and to not always expect team members to be online,” she said.

Closing the discussion Marjorie asked each of the panelists for advice they would give to their younger selves:

Kerstin: “You are worth so much more!”

Erik: “It’s not about knowing, it’s about trusting.”

Monica: “Be less hard on yourself and it’s OK not to know everything. It’s OK to say you don’t know and ask for advice.”

Chris: “Don’t worry so much because in the end it will be OK.”

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Sarah McCay Tams, Director of Marketing Communications

Sarah joined Duetto in 2015 as a contributing editor covering Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA). In 2017, she was promoted to Director of Content, EMEA, and in 2022 promoted to Director of Marketing Communications. An experienced B2B travel industry journalist, Sarah spent 14 years working in the Middle East, most notably as senior editor – hospitality for ITP Publishing Group in Dubai, where she headed up the editorial teams on Hotelier Middle East, Caterer Middle East and Arabian Travel News. Sarah is now based back in the UK.

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