Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rachel Argaman, CEO of Toga Hospitality Group

We have a guest blog today from one of our top facilitators, Kerri Blackstone She attended a presentation by Rachel Argamen, CEO of Toga Hospitality Group and this is what she learned:

Before she even began speaking, I was so impressed with Rachel. She didn’t arrive like some rock star celebrity who enters the crowd at the last minute before ‘Show time.’ She was the first in the room. I should know because I was the second to arrive. She was approachable and so interested in making a connection with me.

Here are some of the valuable lessons that Rachel openly shared about her business and what she calls ‘Reflective Leadership.’

Good leaders are self aware and consciously create the right culture. Great companies focus on two things:

1. Creating a meaningful place for people to work in and 2. Building meaningful relationships with all stakeholders.

Rachel admits to loathing the term ‘work life balance.’ This infers that work is awful and that life is great. If we manage to strike a balance between the two, the result is something mediocre. Who wants mediocre? Happiness is what we should strive for. If you’re unhappy with your situation at work, get out now.

My favourite quote of the evening from Dick Clark, CEO of Merck, was that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. We don’t watch every move that our employees make, but they watch us. So, don’t text during meetings!

Rachel sends out two e-mails per year. One is about Toga’s results. For this she suggest that companies use one crystalised metric for success. Some companies use balanced scorecards. Just pick one and use it properly. Everybody in the company should understand how that measure works and it should be visible to everybody. The other e-mail is about Toga’s SNAP (smile, name, attention to details, personality)survey. This is qualitative feedback for each front line employee that captures how high well they engage with customers.

Another great tip from Rachel was that culture drives performance; leaders drive the culture. Leaders should be modeling the way for their employees. They’re watching your every move.

Rachel suggested that there are two key issues in any business; people and money. Finding the right people is not easy. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. Rachel’s advice: hire the smile. You can teach people the technical skills, but you cannot teach attitude. We should be hiring people with portable competencies.

Finally, Rachel shared her experiences on the reality television show Undercover Boss. Her advice to business leaders after returning from the field is the following:

1. Get out of the office more often and onto the front line, without an agenda

2. Don’t waste so much money on food. Donate leftovers to charity

3. Develop centralised systems to help streamline your business and don’t get caught up in fad management tools. Pick a good one and stick with it. Otherwise you lose credibility with your peers and employees.

This was a refreshing and inspiring evening. Rachel has created a solid reputation in the Australian business arena and it’s easy to see why. She knows herself, understands people, lives her values and has a strong sense of purpose for her business.

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