“Do more with less” has been the prevailing theme of the last three-ish years, driven first by the need to economize during the immediate business slowdown caused by the pandemic and then by staffing shortages as the hospitality industry began to recover. Unfortunately, the “less” we had was not adequate to cover the “more” we were expected to do. No matter how clever we tried to be, things slipped through the cracks, and burnout was real (and ongoing).
Not that 2023 will be any easier. “More” is still too much. It’s not working, and we’re sacrificing quality and our mental health to meet this expectation. Last year, my challenge to hospitality leaders was to make a “don’t do” list for 2022. This year, I’m recommending we continue in that spirit and make 2023 the year that we do less—and do less better. I recognize we won’t magically have less to do. This is a change to the way we work, how work is deployed and how we organize ourselves and our teams.
This will require some upfront work, investment and ongoing discipline. However, the results will be worth it. Here are five focus areas that will help you do less and do it better:
1. Surround yourself with the right people: People became a huge topic in 2022. Between labor shortages and “quiet quitting,” it was all about how we were going to keep the teams we had and attract people back to hospitality. These were crucial conversations, and critical steps were taken that will tremendously benefit the industry. However, while we focused on what prospective hires needed from us, I think we let go a bit of understanding what they could bring to the team beyond their resume and the job description. It’s time to focus not only on what needs to get done but also on how we’re going to do it.
We are taught to identify our weaknesses so we can work on them. I think this is the wrong approach. Instead of trying to force yourself to be better at something outside your wheelhouse, why not assign that task to someone who’s great at it and spend your energy playing to your strengths? You might be a visionary who’s great at building a strategy and inspiring people to work together toward a common goal, but you aren’t as great at developing your team members. You can empower a direct report to focus on team development opportunities. You still recognize this as important, of course, so much so that you are investing in the right person to do it. Maybe you are a detail-oriented, bottom-up thinker who’s great at tracking every detail, but you can get tied up in the day-to-day morass. Do you have a peer who’s great at big picture thinking and can help you stay focused on the end goal? Remember, the only thing you have to be an expert in is identifying the expertise within your team. Don’t waste time trying to replicate what you already have. How can you balance your capabilities with the strengths of the people around you to the benefit of all? If you can trust your team to take on some key activities, you’ll have less work to do. If everyone works efficiently together, they have less work too.
- Complement your strengths and weaknesses: There are plenty of tools to assess your team’s soft skills (such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Gallup’s CliftonStrengths). Each one is great for starting a conversation. Just be sure you follow through on them. See how you can shift some activities to ensure your weak spots are covered. Identify who to tap for a perspective you might not see right away. This could be a tremendous source of development and empowerment for your people, and you can take some activities off your plate that are probably draining your energy anyway.
- Inventory everyone’s work styles: Understanding the working styles of individual team members can help you align the way you work together, so you get the best work from each person and create efficiencies that help all of you do less. Why trap people in brainstorming meetings if they think better by themselves at their desk? If you had a choice, would you make a morning person take late night calls with colleagues on the other side of the world? Do you want to trap your extroverts behind Microsoft Excel spreadsheets when they’re better qualified to explain your promotional strategy to owners? Explicitly ask your team members how they work best, and make sure you are communicating your preferences as well. Small adaptations in schedules and styles of communication could produce big efficiency results, not to mention engendering loyalty and engagement that will help you retain your best talent.
2. Be relentless in removing: Last year I recommended you create a “don’t do” list for 2022, and I’m asking you to push it even further in 2023.
- Every time you add, remove: As you add a new task or activity, try to find one that can be taken away. This will not only reduce your overall workload, but it also will force you to prioritize. As you evaluate the importance of what you are about to take on against everything else you have to do, you might make a different decision.
- Proactively evaluate everything: Take a detailed, step-by-step look at your regular tasks and find opportunities to streamline. Who is the work for and what are they trying to achieve with it? How important is the outcome versus the steps in the process? How many checkpoints are necessary? Everyone jokes about turning off routine reports or emails and then waiting to see who complains, but it’s a good way to see what really matters—and to whom.
- Empower the team: Let the team be involved in streamlining and removing. Be sure you set up a judgment-free environment to brainstorm opportunities for removing burdensome work and commit to taking on new ideas.
3. Invest in automation: The best way to find the space to do less better is to “outsource” all routine manual work to technology. Everything from simple tasks such as copy-pasting data for reports or sending update emails to very complicated tasks such as rate-loading or new hotel onboarding can be largely left to bots, freeing people to focus on value-add activities. Familiarize yourself with the potential of automation techniques, such as robotic process automation, that replicate the routine actions of humans in a workflow or process. Advocate for bringing these types of solutions into your organization. You’d be surprised to learn how many of even the most complex tasks such as reading emails or tagging images can be accomplished with artificial intelligence-infused process automation.
4. Learn to (respectfully) say no: After analyzing the results of our HSMAI/ZS Voice of the Revenue Manager study, I was shocked (as were the leaders I shared the results with) at the amount of time revenue managers spent reformatting the same information for different stakeholders or answering the same question through multiple channels for different people. Of course, this is tricky because these stakeholders ultimately sign our paychecks or have input on whether we remain employed. Keeping them happy is part of the job.
However, your stakeholders don’t always know the intimate details of your day-to-day responsibilities, and they may not have carefully thought through priorities and impact before asking for something. Find a time free from distractions to sit down with stakeholders and review the scope of your team’s work and the impact of their requests. Make sure you’re prepared to listen to their reasons. If the owner asks for information in a certain format because that’s what lenders need, that request is very different than a personal preference for lines instead of bars. You might be surprised to find where your stakeholders are willing to compromise once they see the impact of their requests. You and the team will certainly benefit from understanding the drivers a bit better. It might be time to invest in the process analysis I mentioned in point 2 to quantify the opportunities to streamline and the impact of investing in technology or process change. This will help you defend your request with stakeholders who need to invest in or align with your process changes.
5. Protect your calendar: You’ve heard this before, but I suspect this situation has only gotten worse. When we worked from home, there was no transition time between meetings, commutes or scheduled lunches with colleagues. Back-to-back meetings scheduled across lunch breaks and focus time became the norm. Now that many of us are returning to in-person routines, scheduling habits haven’t changed, so there’s even less time on our calendars. You can only do less better if you have the time to do it. Create some structure in your calendar that helps you to be as productive as possible with the (less?) time you are working. This means proactively blocking time to protect important parts of your day—whether to focus, commute or eat a meal. Protect time when you are in-person to take advantage of being with people. Most importantly, give yourself a bit of downtime during the day so you can return to work refreshed.
Some of my suggestions will likely take a bit of effort and discipline to accomplish, but the results will be worth the investment. After so much time doing more with less, don’t we deserve to just do less? Especially if we can do less better.