Genuine advice Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2010

Edward J. Doherty and his team at The Bricton Group Inc. have an adaptive style of management. That means if they have a general manager of a property with certain strengths, they build around those positives and try to supplement for their weaknesses.

“It’s a very rewarding style of management when you see somebody who you have worked with and really helped focus their strengths and really drive off of their strengths and, at the same time, help them adjust to their deficiencies and make them grow is rewarding,” says the founder, president and CEO of the hotel management group.

Smart Business spoke with Doherty about how to lead with an adaptive management style.

Q. What are the keys to being a good leader?

The one way I encourage — and hopefully, I lead the same way — is I call it the push from the bottom up versus the Whac-A-Mole type of leadership. Some people view leadership as top down. A little Whac-A-Mole pops up and then they whack it down if somebody has an idea. The authoritative, dictator type of management, which is so prevalent in the United States and maybe throughout many of the industrialized countries, I feel is completely wrong. Somebody does have to be the quarterback in the huddle, there is no question about that. But at the same time, I always try to tell our senior leadership team that we’re trying to push them up, and they’re trying to push the next level up so as you keep pushing each level up, the associate can maybe reach the stars. We come from underneath and provide support to lift up, rather than come down from above and dictate.

Q. How can a leader get front-line employees to come forward with an idea?

Just the culture we try to create at the Bricton Group and all the hotels we operate kind of spawns that. We’ve got all sorts of different venues and avenues that they are able to support ideas. We’ve got all sorts of systems and suggestions and open-door polices. And hey, if anyone can help us do something better, that either makes the guests more satisfied or helps bring more dollars to the bottom line through better productivity, we’re all for it. I can assure you that’s the stance that everybody at our company takes.

Q. What advice would you have to grow your type of culture?

Be genuine about it. You have to really mean it and do it and live it and breath it. If it becomes sort of a lip service or management book-of-the-month thing where you just kind of quote it, people sense that and people know it. So you would genuinely have to care about the people; you genuinely have to listen to their ideas and genuinely go out and solicit them. Get to know their names, get to know their stories and get to know what their hot buttons are, what makes them tick. Every human being has an interesting story.

Q. How do you approach employees?

Whenever I am on a property, if there is a banquet that needs to be set up ... everybody from our corporate office ... has the same mantra. If there is something that needs to be done to facilitate an event or a guest, we just dive right in. Many times, I’ll get to meet people on the front lines by working with them, by rolling up (my) sleeves and setting up a banquet table or breaking down a table or whatever. We hold annual reviews with all the teams and we get to know them. As the company grows, it becomes a little more difficult at each position to do that and to know everybody, but we try.

Q. How do you avoid micromanaging?

I don’t know if you can ever avoid it because one thing that we bring to the table is I started the company 22 years ago. I’ve seen almost every possible scenario and seeing it across 14 or 15 hotels, you a lot of times feel you know the right answer, and most likely, you do know the right answer because you’ve had experience in that area before or a situation like that has arisen before. And you are so tempted to go in there and do it yourself. If you are going to have one of your key employees really develop and grow, you have to be tolerant to them and let them go through it. If they make a small mistake, hopefully you were able to step in and correct it and guide them to where it doesn’t become a big mistake. But you’ve got to let them do their job, give them the tools necessary, give them the authority necessary, and as the company continues to mature and grow, you’ve got to, as a leader, make sure that you are giving them the rope and latitude necessary for them to do that.