Dr Hilary Cooke FIH is passionate about inspiring and developing hospitality people. Her early background was in HR for hotels and her company, Merlin Business Consultancy, has been helping businesses craft strategies that nurture hospitality people and create strong brand engagement for nearly 30 years. During lockdown Hilary produced an e-book, ‘Picking Up The Pieces’, aimed at hospitality leaders and managers who are navigating the post-COVID-29 workplace.
Picking Up The Pieces
In the introduction to Picking Up The Pieces Hilary addresses the challenges all hospitality businesses face coming back from COVID-19. With simple to follow and insightful advice, her book is a step-by-step guide for managers and leaders to help them develop the leadership strategies to find their way through the transition of the new normal, the end of furlough and into the next stages of recovery.
“I was inspired to write it because there was a great deal of information and communication about how to keep hospitality teams connected but it didn’t really hit the spot for me. A lot of hospitality teams were on furlough and during that time didn’t have a purpose.”
“Other people were in the business, keeping things going, and have never worked harder. You’ve got this very distinct difference between the people working and those at home. Looking ahead I could see the challenge ‘what happens when we bring those people back into one team?’ How do we integrate those that have been working really hard during lockdown and those who hadn’t? It is not a judgement thing, it is a factual question.”
The art of Kintsugi – coming back stronger than before
“One phrase I kept hearing was, ‘we will come back and we will come back stronger.’ I think that is true for businesses, the industry, and also for individuals. So much has changed that the only way of getting through this is to make sure that we do come back stronger.
Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken things using golden resin and precious metals so that the cracks show, and the finished product is even more valuable and beautiful and stronger than it was before. Hilary continued, “It is a great metaphor for hospitality people, isn’t it, because we’re bringing them back, they are facing lots of new challenges, but they are coming back bigger, better, and stronger.”
The leadership game
Picking Up The Pieces can be a workbook to follow or a reference point to dip into. What makes it so compelling and relevant is that Hilary really understands hospitality people and how to navigate uncertain times whilst keeping people onside and engaged with your brand.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re leading a department team or the whole organisation, the process is the same. Start with a good diagnosis of where you want to be. The rest is a diagnosis of, ‘where are we now against where we want to be, what do I need to do as a leader, what are the leadership goals’? The e-book also contains hints and tips and that will help to create a robust strategy.”
A practical guide in a post-crisis world
How can Picking Up The Pieces help hospitality businesses? Using the concept of a cube, each face represents a different stage in the strategic development procedure that can be worked through as part of the overall process. It may be necessary to revisit a stage, just like rolling a dice, depending on the outcomes from a previous section. The sections are:
- The Leadership Game – diagnosis, design and delivery
- Where to next? – organisation, inter-team, team, role, individual
- Skill or Luck? – cognitive, skill/activity, behaviour, emotional/reflective, interpretive
- The key players – group, interpersonal, self
- The game plan – process, method, model
- The game face – low, medium, high
By working through ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ businesses can create a leadership strategy in an entirely practical and holistic way, equipping them and their people with the skills and knowledge to meet any business challenges brought about as a result of COVID-19.
Consider your own wellbeing too
“The strategy must involve the whole team, so that everyone understands the plan and why you’re doing things.” Hilary continued, “More important that is a consideration your own knowledge and looking after yourself. These are tough times. Managers and leaders are used to having all the answers but don’t at the moment. And it’s can be a quite stressful situation to find yourself in. Look after yourselves and be aware of your own wellness.”
Success means trust
We asked Hilary what success might look like for those who take the time to engage with the processes outlined in PUTP. “For some in hospitality, the softer metrics and measurements are going to be important, but difficult, if not impossible to measure. Employers and leaders will know if their people trust them and that’s important. There have been many organisations that have behaved impeccably through this process, and that is reflected in the amount of trust and engagement from employees and colleagues. The relationships, the positivity. Resilience is so important too because we are going to have to change the way we do things. It’s not a new normal; in hospitality we’re constantly on the lookout for how we change things.”
Supporting Invisible Chips
Picking Up The Pieces is free to anyone in hospitality. “Instead of payment if you could buy a portion of Invisible Chips to support Hospitality Action and tell them that it is a result of reading Picking Up The Pieces that would be really great.’ Hilary commented.
“Hospitality Action will use the money to help hospitality people who are less fortunate, have been made redundant or are suffering financially due to COVID-19. It’s all good karma in terms of keeping the industry going. We’re taking something and putting it back in and that’s good for the universe.”
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