We had the good fortune of connecting with André van Hall and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi André, what’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
How many times have you heard that if you work hard, you will be rewarded? Yes, there is no question that hard work, yields results, but, stop and consider, are you getting the results YOU WANT? My entire career as a Hospitality worker, I have been surrounded by some of the most hard working, dedicated employees you could ever wish for. but guess what….I presided over numerous retirement parties in which a dedicated employee that has worked for us for 25 plus years was presented with their pension plan (yes, I am THAT old) or 401K savings, and very rarely were those checks or statements for more than $10,000! For them, in most cases, it represented about a half year of income, hardly enough to retire on….and Social Security checks, are most certainly not going to give them a comfortable retirement. So yes, I do believe in hard work, but more importantly, in SMART work! By this I mean….show up every day, and do your work, and you will get incremental increases, benefits and yes….layoffs as business dictates. BUT, show up every day, work hard and show INITIATIVE, and everything changes, with just one word! We reward hard work, with the right to keep your job, we reward initiative with promotions! I know, not everybody WANTS a promotion. Some promotions initially, come with added hours and therefore less average pay per hour worked, and that is not for everybody. But….if your goal IS to retire with more security….show initiative! You will love the results.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In my career I have been blessed for having worked with some of the best….and yes, some of the worst bosses you can ever wish for. But the important thing is that I have learned from BOTH! there is no question that if you want quick results, bullying and intimidating your team, WILL get a reaction….think of a sports coach at half time. But that only works for a very short time, and only if used infrequently. Regretfully, I have worked for many bosses whose management style was to diminish, coerce and intimidate employees. The sad thing is, that many organizations BELIEVE in such management sales. They manage by punishing bad behavior, rather than rewarding good one. As a blind man, I had a guide dog (passed away in July, on wait list for a new one) and learned that for decades, Guide Dogs for the Blind trained their dogs with slight “checks” of the choke collar. About 15 years ago, they experimented with rewarding good behavior with praise and kibble, and have astoundingly shortened their training time by half! It is no different when dealing with humans. Encourage your team members to challenge the status quo, to come up with new ideas on how to do things better, show them that you prefer initiative, even if the steps taken were the wrong one, over passivity. Reward failure as a way of encouraging them to try new things, but above all, show your team that you care about THEM as human beings, not as a cog in the machine. I worked for a hotel owner that literally told me that, as an engineer, he sees his employees as parts of an intricate machine, Keep it lubricated and maintain it, and when it wears out, throw it away! Tell me, how motivated would you be working for him? When you manage people, you are responsible for the people, before you are responsible for their results!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I have lived in 12 cities, in three continents. Some of them are Buenos Aires, Argentina, Paris, France, New York, NY and many others…..my favorite….Denver, CO! Firs of all, I love the vestiges of the “cowboy ethics” that exist here. So much can be done with just a handshake….and it is a big city, that behaves as a small town! As an avid, and I mean avid, cyclist, when I have visitors from out of town, my first thought is to show off denver from a bicycle seat. Leaving my home in Platt Park, to the Platt River and ride towards downtown, and showing off how in CO, what we could a creek in the rparts of the world, here we call it The Mighty Platte. Arriving at REI, it is a wonderful place to talk about the founding of Denver at the confluence fo the Cherry Creek and the Platt, the gold rush, and the floods, cable cars and so much more that makes up the history of our city. A ride “up the hill” to Little Man ice cream is a must, of course, and then ride back via the Cherry Creek, exiting at Downing, which gives the opportunity to talk about the architecture of downtown, our conventions, the history of Colfax, and so much more. Then a quick loop around Wash Park, culminating with drinks at a S Gaylord eateries, Dinner at Sushi Den on S. Pearl St. and a second ice cream of the day (we earned it, right?) at Sweet Cow also on S. Pearl St. Showing off Waterton Canyon from the vantage point of a bike is also a very pleasant way to show the more rugged side of Denver.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I left my native Argentina at age 20 to start my hotel career as a pot washer at the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Hamburg, Germany. At the time, it was one of the 10 top hotels in the world, according to Travel & Leisure magazine. I had been admitted to the Hotel School at Lausanne, Switzerland, but they wanted me to get some practical experience before I started as a student. My General Manager was a graduate of Lausanne, so he took me “under his wing” and kept me on a narrow path through advice and mentorship. I will never forget the day her told me that Lausanne, with all it’s glory, was really a school that taught the excellence of service, but that the future of hospitality was in the USA where the hotel schools were teaching Business Management, vs excellent service, and that the future was not in independent hotels like ours, but in chain affiliated ones. It was thanks to this advice, that I decided to apply to American Schools and ended up attending Cornell University instead. Gert Prantner also called me into his office one day, to tell me that his friend, the General Manager of the Ritz in Paris needed someone with my language skills, and that he had recommended me for the job. I hesitated as I was well settled in Germany, and transferring to another country, just seemed a bit overwhelming after my move from Argentina. He pointed out that The Ritz, more historical famous, but also one of the 10 top hotels, was a property he would have given his right arm to work at as a young executive, and that the job came with live in privileges, and that he was not asking me to go, he was telling me to go. That he would fire me from my job, if I needed motivation….. It is visionaries like that, that help shape careers. I owe Mr. Prantner a huge debt of gratitude. Eventually he was recognized as independent “Hotellier of the year”, a very well deserved accolade. Have YOU mentored anyone? What are you waiting for!