'Get off social media and start talking to people face to face'

Get off social media and start talking to people face to face

Hussein Khalil, Vice President of Operations, Millennium Hotels and Resorts, MENA, believes there's nothing like human interaction in the hospitality sector

Published: Thu 18 Jan 2018, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 19 Jan 2018, 1:00 AM

How do you typically start your workday?
My workday always starts with a walk around the office. I like to speak to the team personally every day, to catch up on anything that may have happened in the past 24 hours, what the day is going to look like and discuss everything from a hotel opening checklist to guest and customer feedback. Then, I make a cup of coffee and say hello to other people in the office, before settling at my desk to go through emails. 
What is your favourite thing about your job? 
People! Interaction is always the part of the job that has motivated me, ever since I got my first hotel role back in Montreal, where I grew up. The satisfaction you can extend to customers by solving an issue or coming up with a clever initiative, always gets things on the right track. Getting a smile from a guest is the best feeling, it makes you feel close to people and reminds you to think of them as individuals with unique requirements and not just numbers.      
In your workday, what is the one thing you cannot do without?
My mobile phone, which I will admit, I have become totally dependent on professionally. From contacts of hotel staff to colleagues sending pictures of new projects via WhatsApp when I'm travelling, to checking emails on the way to a meeting. I also use it to check various social media accounts for our hotels and to stay up-to-date on world travel news. 
What advice would you give your younger self, if you could?
I would tell him to do it all again. To get into hospitality and be sure to use creativity to connect with people and appreciate the beautiful stuff that comes out of every day - from selecting the perfect furniture for a new hotel to simply shaking the hand of a client.  
Who's your role model and why?
I have two. Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Both went through a long journey and used patience to achieve something extraordinary. I admire their dedication and the fact that they went all the way, doing more than most human beings will ever do and giving up luxuries to do it. Even though they are no longer with us, they remain symbols for change. 
Your favourite indulgence when you need a break from work.
I just love yoga. I love to disconnect totally. It is a activity that closes your mind and makes you focus completely on your breath and posture. I also love the link between movement and music, and how it heals the soul. Once you leave the mat, so many boxes are ticked, not just for exercise. 
Any insights or tips you can share on how to make the most of the workday?
Think outside the box. Always believe that every challenge has a way out and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Remember that systems are there for a reason and find out how to use them to your benefit and to the benefit of your partners. Don't be stuck in one mindset, have a willingness to steer off the path and look at a problem from another person's perspective. If you follow these tips, you will bring a positive energy to the workplace, making the day so much more easier and productive.  
How do you maintain a work-life balance?
By prioritising! In my professional life, my clients come first so when I look at my email, I will mentally prioritise my traffic to make it more manageable. I plan meetings within working hours wherever possible and delegate tasks  to people I trust, supervising and guiding where needed. I don't believe in micro-management, people must have the space to be creative. When I am having dinner with my family or friends, I leave my phone over the other side of the room and look at it later.  
Any advice for youngsters just getting into the professional arena?
Get off social media and start talking to people face to face as much as you can. Go back to having coffee with friends, seek human interaction and make sure you give colleagues a chance to have their say. In my first hotel job in Montreal, they installed a self-service check in to speed up the process. Guests still insisted on coming to reception to get their room key and ask about breakfast, so, in the end, they removed the machine because they realised that it didn't replace a real welcome. I always tell my staff, we sell emotions and experiences and every happy guest is a potential sales recruit.  
- Staff reporter

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