HORST SCHULZE knew from the time he was eleven years old that he wanted to work in a hotel. It was at the end of his first apprenticeship in an assigned essay he coined the phrase that would guide him the rest of his life: “Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”
This guiding principle—Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen—is the bedrock of everything Schulze does and teaches. It has a wide application because it is about having enough self-respect to treat all others with respect.
Schultz, the co-founder of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. and Capella Hotels & Resorts, has captured his philosophy in Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise. Throughout the book, he shares the practical application of respect and how it shapes people, workplaces, and the customer experience. Here are a few of the lessons from his experience that stood out:
Real knowledge of the customer is absolutely essential.
Sometimes a customer service problem—or any defect, for that matter—is rooted a much as five steps away from where it shows itself. One solitary person at a counter somewhere can’t solve it alone. It needs the best thinking of everyone connected to the process, because they are fully connected to the process, because they are fully committed to giving the customer every reason to keep coming back—again and again.
Elegance is warmth without arrogance.
When we look at any employee, or even at an applicant, we need to stop and recognize; This is the kid I used to be. He wants to be inspired by a dream.
When t comes right down to it, the vast majority of people in this world want to excel at something. They just need a context in which to do so. They look to us as leaders to provide that setting.
Schultz says leadership is about a lot of conscious decision-making. “It is about making up your mind that certain things are going to happen because you’re going to pursue them relentlessly.” There are four decisions every leader must make:
Decision #1: Strive to Inspire
Because employees are important, I will create an environment where people want to do a good job. I will invite, not dictate. I will get results by inspiring, not by controlling or dictating.
Decision #2: Don’t Settle for Less
I won’t settle for less than the vision. No excuses allowed, either from myself or those who work with me. There is no beauty in the excuse or “explanation.” No forward motion comes from it. I don’t pay people to think up “explanations”; I pay them to find answers.
How can I serve? Not “it can’t be done.”
Decision #3: Let Nothing Cloud Your Vision
I will not let my company’s growth and complexity cloud my vision. The bigger an organization becomes, the more people you hire, the more departments you set up—and as all this evolves, the easier it is to neglect the vision. Something negative happens on any given day, and managers write a policy to keep that from happening again. The next month, something else happens, and another policy gets written. Soon the policy manual is four hundred pages thick.
This is what is called a bureaucracy. People are afraid to get outside of the rules and regulations. Growth is stunted. So is creativity.
Decision #4: Always Look to Improve
I will always keep looking for new ways to improve, to be more efficient. True leaders never stop asking, “How can we improve this process? Who should I ask to help me think of a better approach? Am I willing to hear things that don’t fit my preconceptions?
You can build a life and business around the principles found in Excellence Wins. Here is one more thought worth contemplating. It directly relates to his mantra: Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen.
Someone said to me,”Well not every guest acts like a lady or a gentleman. Some of them can be very obnoxious.”
“Yes, I know,” I replied, “but it’s not up to us to judge or categorize. They may have made their decision to be cantankerous, but we’ve made our decision to respect them regardless. This is our value; this is our identity. It’s who we are, regardless.”
Always stick to the vision.