People Management: How to Maximise Your People and Your Potential

Hotel management columnist, Conor Kenny (from Conor Kenny and Associates), turns his attention to the art of people management.

Managing people is both easy and difficult. The easy part is knowing what to do; the difficult part is getting people to do it. Or, as one wise wag said “the problem with common sense is that it’s not very common.”

Today, as the storm eases just a little, it’s imperative that you understand the role your people play in the future of your business. A storm quickly sorts out the good from the bad and pirates will be forever remembered.

If you got through (or are getting through) the storm, it is for one reason alone: your people.

Today, the game is up. Up for you and up for them. Like a boot camp, truth will out. Good people will have risen, leaders too and not so good will stand out (for all the wrong reasons).

Want My Opinion?

A tough market requires new thinking. Quite simply, the old way will not be the new. New thinking requires new ideas and no leader will ever have a monopoly on good ideas.

The first golden rule is to involve your people: they are a rich source of ideas and solutions. They need to be managed from within and they need to play their part as well as know their part. Begin by putting together a team that will help you navigate the challenging seas. If the old way was to exclude, the new way is to include. Smart organizations already know this.

What’s Your Game Plan?

A football team would not enter a cup final without a plan. An army most certainly would not go to war without being ready and that age old institution, the Boy Scouts, was ahead of us all when they developed their motto – “always be prepared!”

In other words, develop a strategy. That strategy is simply a plan, a plan that reflects the new order and a plan that is created by and with your people. If they help create it, they will help deliver it. The opposite is a recipe for failure.


If you tell me something, it is likely I will forget. If you show me and demonstrate, I’ll probably remember. If you involve me, I’ll understand. Many make the mistake of assuming I’ll remember just because you told me. Smart managers realise that by involving your people they will understand the common cause and the greater good.

If they don’t understand, are you involving them?

Starting Point

The starting point is to talk one-on-one with your team. Before that, carefully craft your key questions. In other words, what do you want to know? Create a very safe environment and encourage them to give you their honest view and appraisal – no matter how unpleasant.

Then listen and then listen with even more care. Get it right and you will unlock the problems. Get it wrong and you will end up with a team full of fear and “Yes Sir” answers. The trick is to encourage criticism and remember the old saying: “Most of us would rather be damned by praise than saved by criticism”

What’s It Like Out There?

Once you assemble your team and once you have gathered up information about the gaps, problems, issues and opportunities it’s time to look outside and see what is happening. Markets are changing and so too are customers. The first principle to accept, understand and embrace is “the market will decide”. Your plan and people need to discuss this and understand the new conditions, landscape and dynamics. But, a tough market that forces change is not necessarily a bad thing. Where there is recession there is opportunity.

Your Mission

By now your team will be knitting together. More importantly, they will feel involved, interested and a part of your business. It’s time to get them to do a little more work.

Start by getting them to answer these key questions:

  • How can the business perform better than the competition in those markets?
  • How do we get there, what are the obstacles and how do we overcome them? In other words, our new road map.
  • What is the best way to organise our people and our resources?
  • What kind of engine is needed to overcome obstacles and get things done?

The answers will begin to formulate your new way forward. Put simply, strategy is the step-by-step removal of removable constraints. Competitive strategy means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.


The way to get strategy executed is not by telling people what to do. They will resist. You will get buy in by sharing the strategy in a way that everyone can understand, and that they see how their jobs relate to it. When people lose sight of their work they become insecure, they face humiliation when asked to do what they are not capable of doing and then turn to politics Have a vision party. Look at past present and future. Your people will relate to images.


Strategy needs to be communicated to your people. Traditionally the manager’s role was planning peoples’ work. People increasingly must plan their own work and make their own decisions. This is about self motivation and empowerment for your team. They must create their own departmental vision, mission, targets, goals, measures, reviews Lots of thought should be around getting these teams to innovate and innovate for their own futures

Half Measures?

Half measures are no good, you need full measures. It is impossible to measure anything without the tools. Those tools are targets, objectives and goals. Get your team to set their own targets, that’s the route to an equitable deal.


Success is shared by many. When success comes it is imperative that it is recognised, rewarded and shared. Nothing will demotivate faster than the “reward thief” – people who take the credit without the work.

It’s All About People

The world of hospitality is truly all about people. Great businesses’ are built by people, nothing else. The real question to think on is this: is your business all about people? Your people?

Remember, the storm throws up all sorts of surprises. You already know that. The real question is what will you do now? What will you do differently in the future?

Your business is in their hands and theirs in yours too.

By Conor Kenny

About Conor Kenny and Associates: Conor Kenny and Associates are experts in sales, marketing, sales training and people development. They help you to get the most out of your people and your business. As skilled marketing consultants and experienced experts in innovation, sales, marketing and communications, they know that you and your people have skills too. Companies don’t innovate. People do.

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