Professional Comment

Building Back Better – The Role Leaders Have In Creating A Positive Culture

By Dr Aaron Turner, Founder and Senior Partner, One Thought (

As the hospitality sector awakens from an enforced hibernation and looks for- ward to a busy Summer dominated by staycations. Business owners large and small are encouraging staff back to work and expecting them to be on top form and welcome guests with open arms.

However, in my experience as a performance and leadership coach, people running the business often fail to make a connection between their own state of mind and the atmosphere and culture in the workplace.

In this article, I want to outline the importance of leadership on culture and illustrate the fundamental impact a positive culture can have on your business, which is as relevant to single site operators as it is to multi-nationals.

A stressed state of mind in a leader sets a tone for the organisational culture. Which in turn determines the effect of your culture on your business.

To illustrate this, we worked a branch of a large hotel chain.The culture before we started was a very common one: stress was normal and expected because of the demands of the job.Team members were reactive to each other rather than listening and working together. Everyone was committed and working hard, but no one was happy. In this hotel, staff were preoccupied and not present. Guests were largely ignored.

We worked with the heads of department, to show them that stress is optional and not helpful. A stressed mind is a speeded-up mind, and we encouraged leaders not to make decisions when their mind was speeded up. Instead, taught them to let it pass and learn to operate and make decisions in in a clear unstressed state of mind.

In our follow up, the results in the leadership team were significant, they felt happier, more engaged, and reported working less hours and getting more done and being more responsive to each other and their teams.The atmosphere in the hotel felt light.

Team members in the public areas were more present, happier, and more engaged. A barista, who had not been on the One Thought training, no longer stood, head down, behind the cash register. She spent her time walking around the public area, talking to guests and adding thoughtful touches to their napkins and drinks.The guest experience was transformed.

I would encourage single site operators to set a tone of clarity, presence, and well-being.This will create a positive culture right through the business and enable your team to operate more easily and effectively.Avoiding many of the problems that arise from stress, tension, and reactivity. Like burnout, being overwhelmed, lack of focus and organisation, poor communication, tension, and conflict.

It is wonderful that the hospitality industry is opening up, and it provides a rare opportunity to look at how we run our businesses. An awareness of our state of mind can have a positive impact on staff, guests, and the bottom line.

Dr Aaron Turner is founder and senior partner at One Thought, a performance coaching company that improves the way improves the way individuals and companies feel and function. Clients include, Dishoom, Zetter Group, My Hotels, Leon, and Holiday Inn.