Seasoned executive search professional and human capital advisor, Thomas Mielke, shares his thoughts on success for emerging hospitality industry leaders
In last month’s article, AETHOS raised the importance of assembling a small group of advisors or mentors – specifically during the early stage of one’s career. In today’s world, though, in which everyone is or can be an ‘influencer’, irrespective of their track record or what their credentials are, choosing such a personal board of advisors is probably more challenging than just a decade ago. Add to that a growing general scepticism amongst the younger generation – having grown up in a world where ‘fake news’ makes more headlines than real news – and one can see why the ‘up-and-comers’ do not know where to look for guidance.
However, Gen Z is characterised as being natural in absorbing a lot of information, having grown up in a technologically advanced world, and as being independent, self-confident, and autonomous. These are good, quite entrepreneurial traits to have when building a career. The suggestion here is to proactively leverage those character traits. Building a career does not purely rest on outside advice – instead, the ‘up-and-comers’ are advised not only to be independent thinkers but to be more mindful as well. ‘Mindful’ is being used here with the intent to be aware of one’s own bad habits – or to make sure not to develop them in the first place. The one bad habit to watch out for is not to isolate oneself, deliberately or not, and not to become – over time – disconnected.
The latest generation to enter the workforce, which is bound to become the future leaders of the industry, has – as some might say – the benefit to move up the ranks quite quickly. This is partially because Gen Z is characterised by being ambitious, but also because of some significant changes in the work environment. Today’s businesses move at a much faster pace than just a decade ago. New skill sets are needed and ‘adaptability’ as well as ‘contextual performance’, as opposed to domain knowledge, have been established as reliable performance indicators in today’s professional world – character traits that Gen Z happens to bring to the table in heaps.
However, such rapid career movements and taking on greater responsibilities quite early on in one’s professional life can leave their marks. It leaves precious little time to assimilate and, with frequent promotions being the norm rather than an exception, (peer) pressure to perform and deliver can mount. It is thus easy for those future leaders of the industry to get caught in a vicious cycle. Without a strong, developed support network, it very quickly gets lonely at the top for those up-and-comers.
So, what should they be mindful of and what should they be watching out for when climbing the career ladder? First and foremost, it is all centred around communication:
- Be an open book: Many executives, and leaders alike, struggle to engage with the teams that surround them. Connecting with those around you, and getting them to back one common vision, depends on trust – trust, though, can only be established over time. Being true to one’s word and not taking others for granted are two of the pillars. Many executives believe that this also requires a certain ‘toughness’. Yet, they forget that showing vulnerability plays a key role in earning respect and trust. Expressing oneself, and sharing personal stories, is fundamental in becoming more relatable and in securing buy-in – thus avoiding the old saying of “it gets lonely at the top”.
- Actively listen, don’t tolerate silence: Often, executives talk at one another; they do not communicate. When an up-and-comer encounters obstacles, or personal problems, it is easy for a leader or mentor to keep things at a high level, to give a short pep talk and move on. Vice-versa, many up-and-comers believe it is important to show that they have what it takes to survive; therefore, they want to show that they have a thick skin. Yet, this often leads to a vicious circle of not facing the problems – instead, it only amplifies them over time. Up-and-comers should remember that it always pays to go that one level deeper in a conversation, to probe and question, and show personal interest in one’s counterpart. It is easy to ignore silence, but true leaders take a step back. They look out for what has not been said and they strive to have meaningful conversations.
- We all have the right to disconnect, no matter what: Often, burnouts, depression, and/or anxiety all share one common root – they develop because executives get overwhelmed with workloads or responsibilities, but avoid confronting the truth until it is too late. They believe resilience is key and look to prove themselves by persevering. Sometimes, though, this leads to being overworked, to feeling disconnected, and to completely forget about one’s mental health in favour of delivering on set targets. However, with those around them believing that ‘s/he can take it’, it is easy to take on even more responsibilities; thus, the vicious cycle continues. It is important to remember, and practice, that asking for help is not shameful but actually a sign of strength.