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Blog Article

Daring To Be Great: Leadership Insights With Kelly Smith

Mar 30, 2021

Q&A with Banquet Manager / Acting Front Office Manager - Kelly Smith

Describe your professional development path at Davidson and Pivot – how did you get to where you are?

I was hired as Hotel Viking’s banquet manager in July of 2019. I was brought on board during a period of leadership change, which resulted in temporary hotel leadership in many departments, including food & beverage. During this time, I had the opportunity to work with and learn from numerous individuals from other Davidson properties, contracted support staff, as well as Davidson leadership. As these many individuals passed in and out of Hotel Viking I did my best to learn something from each person and to continue to develop the banquets department. In the midst of our high season, I worked with the banquet team to elevate our service and standards. We were able to purchase new equipment, such as a versatile banquet hub; as well as various presentation pieces. As the pinnacle event to our season, and what would also be our final event prior to the COVID shut down, Hotel Viking was able to host the Pivot Sales Blitz. This event invited all Pivot leadership and Pivot sales departments to property for professional development and to showcase Hotel Viking and our superior F&B operation. This event involved our entire hotel and was an event we were all proud to be a part of. In March of 2019, like many, I was furloughed due to the pandemic and in July of 2020 was invited back to assist with the F&B operation, as well as at the front desk. Upon my return back to property, I was predominantly scheduled at the front desk to support the front desk team, as well as the Director of Rooms. Upon returning to the hotel I was tasked with learning and understanding a new department, operating system (Opera) and team. Then in August, I was tasked to become the acting Front Office Manager and department lead. At this time, I am currently still the acting Front Office Manager.

What inspires you to be great?

My leadership at Hotel Viking inspires me to be great. In my leadership role, I do my best to fulfill my job duties to the best of my ability. This ensures that, we as a hotel, maintain a cohesive message and level of service for our team members and guests.

How do you inspire team members? (Give us examples!)

To motivate and inspire my team I push myself to be fully engrained in the hotel operation, while always keeping a lens on how decisions will impact my team, as well as the guest experience. I intentionally work alongside my team to show that I am here as a support and am appreciative of their efforts. This helps me stay connected with my team and build camaraderie and engagement. I also place importance on empowering my team members to make decisions, and support the decisions they make to build confidence and trust. If I am not on property, my team knows they can contact me at any time. Recently, our key machine went down and I Facetimed my team member Gayle from home to walk her through resetting our system to ensure she was set up for success. I also place an emphasis on collaboration and believe we can all learn from one another. I have a versatile team who have been afforded opportunities to cross train in other departments. Recently I had two team members, Gayle and Enny, cross train in reservations and present their new knowledge back to the front desk team to expand my team’s knowledge and strengthen team engagement. We also have a very tenured and committed overnight team who handle night audit, as well as security. As I had not worked at a front desk in the past, I recently worked an overnight shift to better understand the night audit process and again learn from my team members. This went a long wat to show appreciation and support. Together, as a team, we celebrate our individual wins, as well as team wins. We observe birthdays with cake and cards; our front desk supervisor Christine organized secret Santa and we all work to find ways to bond with one another.

What advice/tips resonated with you most from mentors throughout your career?

  1. Set yourself up for success and plan, plan, plan. Know what you are dealing with, anticipate needs, and possible issues to ensure success. There are always scenarios that we cannot predict; but if we are prepared for possible curve balls when we get the unexpected ones, we will be better prepared to pivot and address the concern.
  2. Be the duck – A duck glides through the water effortlessly but under water no one sees the ducks feet going a mile a minute propelling the duck across the lake. This analogy was shared by Jenny Schleiger in Davidson Restaurant Group and really resonated with me. As hoteliers we all know the effort and work that goes on behind the scenes to provide a seamless guest experience. Our goal is to not let our guests see our (at times frantic) behind the scenes efforts to provide top notch service and experiences.
  3. Realize you are only as strong as your team. Nurture relationships, build and develop talent and support team member goals and growth.
  4. Hire for fit and train for technical skills.
  5. Be as transparent as possible with your team members with both positive and negative news. Often times the why behind a decision is explained it will help your team with future execution.

What is the most pressing challenge you’ve faced and resolved in the past year?

The biggest challenge I faced in the last year was transitioning to and leading the Hotel Viking Front Desk team, and re-engaging an overworked and frustrated team with my lack of front desk experience. To overcome the challenge before me, I tackled small pieces of the job daily. I relied on my more tenured team members, such as Daniel, one of our Front Desk Supervisors to help guide me through the operating system and day-to-day department needs and goals. It was important for me to let the team know that anything we were tasked with we would tackle together, and that I would be a resource for them. There were times where, as the manager, I would speak to a guest with a concern, devise a guest recovery solution and then go back to the desk and lean on my supervisors and agents to fulfill the recovery on the back end in the operating system. I learned my role as Front Office Manager daily and added additional responsibilities and duties as they presented themselves. Part of my job was making the most of resources afforded to me and learning from those around me. Taking on this role was a humbling experience; and I know that I wouldn’t be successful in the role without the help and support of many individuals.