Love and The New Age of Service
By Steven Ferry, Chairman International Institute of Modern Butlers
Much attention has been placed by training departments of luxury hotels and resorts on bringing new hires up to the required standard of superior service. This is no small challenge in some areas, given the lack of familiarity of the new hires with high-end lifestyles, the expectations of those who live them, and the general state of education and society in general.
We have always taught that there are four levels of motivation: money motivation and then personal gain at the lower end, neither of which are acceptable because these people are just interested in me-me-me, "What is in it for me?" whenever they are asked to do anything—while the interests and needs of team mates and guests are inexplicably nowhere to be found on the radar. These kinds of individuals need to be weeded out during the hiring process, because they drag down the morale of the good staff if allowed to join the team.
Above these two bottom feeders of motivation lie personal conviction—being passionate about the work and doing it for the love of it— and above that, duty: being passionate, for sure, but beyond that, willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the guest or team mates because they are counting on the person to deliver, come rain or snow.
But above these four levels could be said to be a level of service motivation that is World Class—resulting in moments so memorable that they become legendary.
Take a recent example at Per Aquum's Niyama resort in the Maldives. One of the new hires realized during training how many opportunities he had to create special moments for his guests, and the importance of doing so. Soon after, he serviced one family so well that they wanted to show their appreciation. The butler declined a tip, so the guests had him take them in a speedboat to his local island, where they donated just under US$250,000 to the school and hospital, and pledged a further million for 2015.
It is easy to train those who are passionate about service: all one has to do is show them the path to follow. This is not simply a matter of teaching mechanical actions and procedures, however, but expanding their understanding of their spiritual nature and how to interact with guests, and colleagues, from this perspective. One might say teaching them to love their guests (and colleagues), because this fundamental of fundamentals is perforce the next advance in luxury hospitality standards.
Spiritual nature in our hard-boiled, mechanistic world? Love? Sounds like some airy fairy, LOL piece of new-age hippiness. But hospitality is all about being hospitable, not hard-nosed, programmed robots. The difference between being alive and being mechanistic is the element of life that is in each of us: ourselves. Anyone who has seen a dead body knows that there is something missing. What is it? The individual himself, the spirit, the life force, élan vital, whatever we call it; the person himself—that which animates and motivates, emanates emotions and communications…all things that humans do, and robots or robot-by-nature individuals cannot or do not.
The individual being is our main resource, because it is the individual who displays intelligence and passion in dealing with guests and colleagues. In such interactions, either they can smile because it is required in company policy, or because they really feel there is something to smile about—and continue to do so come rain or shine. And there is the rub.
So how does one bring about such a mindset shift, a deep-seated happiness that radiates out and touches those around?
While training butlers on a large project in the Bahamas recently, one student lent the author a dog-eared and well-used book entitled The Secret by Rhonda Byrne for the simple reason that the classes he was attending paralleled the book, which considers as a given, and reinforces, the spiritual side of living life.
People in the luxury hospitality industry as a whole are among the more able and upbeat individuals in society, and it seems many of them have gravitated towards this book in an effort to improve their performance at work and in life in general.
Ms. Byrne has accomplished an incredible feat in identifying the understandings and abilities of those through the centuries who have lived charmed and successful lives; and in doing so, helped reinforce the spiritual dynamic of life at a time when the proponents of materialism loudly proclaim that life is a collection of chemicals, might is right, and Machiavellian or amoral role models permeate every sphere, public and private. The book contains much truth, but also, unfortunately, sufficient curveballs to present a problem for anyone trying to apply the information as written. How come so few people can re-assert themselves into a winning frame of mind and have life follow suit? How come those who have this skill are also liable to lose it over time, to start to feel negative emotions or hostile feelings, not be able all the time to radiate happiness and joy?
Unfortunately, the word limit for this article precludes pointing out the strengths and the weaknesses of The Secret, but there is one fundamental barrier to applying this wisdom of the ages: we cannot continue to assert greater ability without finding the cause for having lost it in the first place. Just as we can lift ourselves up by our bootstraps in an emergency and rise above our limitations, so too, inevitably, will those same limitations suck us back down again when the emergency is over, no matter how much we may repudiate these limitations by "royal decree."
What to do?
That'll have to be the subject of the next article if sufficient interest is expressed.