Winning Over a Tough Crowd: Strategies for Hospitality Trainers

January 31, 2017 | 2907 Views

Winning Over a Tough Crowd: Strategies for Hospitality Trainers

Serah Morrissey, SPHR

Senior Director, People Resources | Schoox

If there is one thing people know about me, it is that I am comfortable in front of people. Training, speaking, singing, participating, volunteering…I have no shame and often say I was born without the embarrassment gene. When I have the opportunity to train with my leadership team at work, I prepare like a mad woman. I memorize the material, incorporate examples, stories, and humor, and I psych myself up just before the ‘show’ to make sure my energy is high. However, I was reminded recently that sometimes no amount of preparation or enthusiasm on my part can win over a tough crowd…especially when I have not fully considered their various needs.

In an ideal world, the leaders of every company would share a common mission and be raving fans of the brand! They would all be on the same page and share it with their teams in abundance. 

In the real world, though, some accept the branding willingly, some only when spiked with sarcasm and some abstain completely. As I muddled my way through a brand-mandated training session, the resistance in the room was affecting my energy level. There had already been two prior back-to-back meetings (planning fail #1), there was only tepid water to refresh my audience (planning fail #2), and the room was freezing (Minnesota weather fail #1). While these factors were ones I should have minimized, I should have better considered the needs of everyone in the group. Thankfully, I had two vocal supporters in the room who were eagerly answering my questions, giving relevant examples, and smiling in sympathy when I looked their way. However, it was not enough to compensate for the teetotalers in the front row who were not keen on what I was delivering. The body language alone nearly led me to do a pulse check, until the eye rolling confirmed that these folks were indeed alive. To say I was glad when it was over would be grossly understating my relief.

As I reflected on the experience later that day, I remembered learning about Abraham Lincoln and how, in his cabinet, he appointed a diverse group of people, including his most controversial enemies, so that he could pull from a pool of differing perspectives and make more sophisticated decisions. To quote someone smarter than me (I can’t remember who), “you rarely have an A-HA moment with people who are just like you.”  As much as I often walk in the certainty of my right-ness, there is always knowledge to be gained from differing perspectives. Even though I cannot imagine working in a job where I did not firmly and enthusiastically support the common mission, it is my responsibility to accept and understand that we are all different. We all work here for different reasons, and just because a few folks in the crowd would rather eat hot lava than hear me talk about our brand image, it does not make what I do any less important. It also doesn’t make what THEY do any less important.

It was not comfortable or easy for me to force my way through the presentation. The gifts of time and reflection, though, are helping me move to a place of learning and gratitude. Not everyone is going to drink what I’m placing in their glasses, and I must respect that choice and work more diligently on meeting them where they are. 

Unless I’m serving a nice Pinot, because that’s where I draw the line.


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Comments (4)

  1. Heather:
    Jan 31, 2017 at 03:10 PM

    I needed to read this today. Thanks!!! I am sharing with my team.

  2. Serah Morrissey:
    Jan 31, 2017 at 05:15 PM

    Thank you, Heather! I need to remember to share it with MYSELF during the tough training days!

  3. Olga Syutkina, Sheraton Maldives:
    Mar 24, 2017 at 06:48 AM

    Hi Serah,
    Just came across your post. Thank you for sharing! Very inspirational and much needed. Especially when going through rebranding...

  4. Serah Morrissey:
    Mar 24, 2017 at 10:42 AM

    Olga, thank you for your kind words. I'm honored that it was useful to you! Best wishes with rebranding (I'm in the same boat)!