On June 25th, I conducted an on-stage conversation with IHG/ANA Hotels Group Japan CEO, Hans Heijligers for both the American and French Chambers of Commerce at the Tokyo American Club. Here are my takeaways from that conversation.
- Only a leader can build organizational trust with his or her people. Open communication and vulnerability are key. A leader should openly admit mistakes when he or she makes them and express what was learned if he or she wants staff to view failure as a learning opportunity as opposed to something to be avoided. Open office plans and conversations in the open also help establish a culture of trust.
- The key to superlative hospitality in Japan is flexibility. Scripted processes don’t work. Hotel staff need to be in the moment with a guest, and use their own judgement to make for a good experience. That requires comfort with failure.
- People return over and over again to a hotel to relive an experience they loved. An adequate experience is not enough to make people come back.
- The expectations of one group of people has appeal to another. Japanese expect slippers and room amenities, which can also do nothing other than please non-Japanese guests.
- The concept of luxury can be country specific. For Japanese, it is space, people bowing to you, and being at your beck and call for anything you ask for, but otherwise leaving you alone. For Americans, it is space and good design, and people asking you frequently what you want and being at your beck and call.
- Enabling people to work from home results in a major productivity boost, while also helping retain mothers in a company immediately after maternity.