The Growth Works Network – Thoughts on Thursday Series – Leading Yourself

Resilience. It’s something we need more than ever right now. But how do we get more of it? How do we manage ourselves to cultivate strength in times of adversity?


Practically, we can maintain good mental health by checking in with our social support networks – those who care about us – and we can focus on activities at work to make ourselves indispensable to the industry.


It starts with assessing our internal motivations to ensure we are following the right career paths. It’s far easier to recover from setbacks when we are emotionally invested and really believe in what we do.


In the final discussion in this round of The Growth Work Networks’ Thoughts on Thursday sessions, Anish Bhatia, formerly of Accor, IHG and Hilton, and Erik Eklund, an independent consultant formerly of Louis Vuitton and Shangri-la, explore how we can develop resilience to help us emerge stronger from the crisis.


You can watch Anish and Erik’s fascinating talk below:



After the presentation, The Growth Works Network, a global community of mentors and mentees from brands such as IHG, Sofitel, Shangri-la, Fairmont, Louvre, Mews and Les Roches, took part in a heated debate around how to integrate our personal selves into the professional sphere.


If you’d like to participate in future Thoughts on Thursday debates or participate in our pro-bono mentoring programme, as either a mentor or mentee, sign up here.


Managing Yourself Through the Recovery Phase

The Growth Works Network resilience

The pandemic has brought huge change to the hospitality industry.


Many of us have sadly been placed on furlough, or indeed let go, as businesses adapt to a world of reduced demand and disrupted operations.


During his presentation, Anish outlined a model – called ‘SOS’ – to help us practice self-care and build resilience with the intention of putting us in the best possible position to work through the industry’s recovery.


  •     Social systems – Anish recommended checking in with friends and family to fill our lives with positive energy and reinforce our mental health.


  •     Ownership – We need to take ownership of our life decisions and career direction. Why do we do what we do? Are we happy with our work-life balance?


  •     Soul – Anish stressed the importance of feeding our souls. What are our passions?


Adapting to the ‘New Normal’

new normal thoughts on Thursday

We mustn’t expect things to be the same when we go back to work. Are we preparing ourselves for a challenging few years ahead of us professionally?


  •     Anish suggested those of us with teams to manage should forget about long-term 1-2-year plans, but should instead focus on achievable 3-6-month strategies. In response to the crisis, we need to be nimble.


  •     Those of us in more junior roles need to make ourselves indispensable. This means learning new skills across different disciplines to become multi-skill employees.


  •     Echoing sentiments from last week’s webinar, Anish urged us to redefine our segments and target new markets, such as government quarantine, medical professionals and niche hypersegments.  It’s all about finding new ways to be profitable during this time of upheaval.


  •     In order to bring the industry back together, we need to share learnings with industry peers. Working together, not against each other, is going to lead us to success.


  •     With new cleanliness standards now an expected necessity, Anish suggested that hoteliers finally place a strong focus on personalisation, to stand out from the crowd and attract demand in a world of reduced travel.


The Neuroscience of Resilience

neuroscience resilience

Erik kicked off his presentation with a touching personal story. You can read a paraphrased account of his story below, but you really need to hear it first-hand from Erik in the video.


In 2012, after graduating from Les Roches, Erik had a goal of working in the luxury sector. After doing some research he decided to focus on China. He sent off dozens of applications and received lots of rejections at first. Eventually, he was accepted onto a job. But his visa was rejected. Undeterred, he continued applying for roles. Four months later, he had made it through three rounds of interviews at Shangri-la and now needed to convince the Director of Rooms that he was the right person for the job. In order to receive a visa, Shangri-la needed to be sure that nobody in the local market could perform the role. During the fourth interview, Erik’s suitability was questioned and he even faced racism from the Director of Rooms. It looked like all was lost. However, at this point, Erik stood up for himself and declared his commitment to the cause. After a long pause, the Director of Rooms said that Erik was ready for the role.


So, why did Erik keep on trying? And why did the Director of Rooms say yes?


Erik explained that different parts of our brain handle different functions.


  •     Reptilian – INSTINCT – Survival – Nutrition – Reproduction
  •     Limbic – EMOTION – Joy – Love – Sadness – Fear
  •     Neocortex – LOGIC – Problem Solving – Analysis – Critical Faculty


He then posed the question: What drove your last three purchases? Instinct, emotion or logic?


And although the majority of people in the webinar said that logic had driven their purchases, Erik stated that it is instinct and emotion that drive all decisions. Nothing we do is driven by logic.


The logic behind Erik’s statement is that most of the actions that we think are motivated by logic (especially in a work environment) are in fact motivated by our instinct to earn money, to pay bills, to buy food, in other words, to survive.


With this in mind, Erik examined our motivations further.


  1.   Fear – Discounts, Fines, FOMO
  2.   Reward – Bonuses, Promotions, Fame
  3.   Duty – Cause, Belief, Purpose
  4.   Love – Passion, Care, Contribution


He grouped fear and reward together as manipulation tactics.


And he described duty and love as inspiration.


He asserted that those of us who feel a sense of purpose and passion for what we do will be inspired to bring more energy to our jobs, and will be more willing to stick around through the hard times than those who are solely focussed on external motivations like fear and reward.


Erik concluded by explaining that the more emotionally invested we are, the more resilient we will become.


He linked this idea back to his personal story.


Because he was acting on his internal motivation of belief, purpose and passion, Erik was able to be resilient and keep on trying in the face of adversity.


And because he was able to convey his resilience, he was able to win the trust of the Director of Floors during the interview.


Finding the Balance


Following Anish and Erik’s presentation, The Growth Works Network debated how to bring emotional decisions into the professional sphere.


Andrew Wheal, Director of Mews Systems, formerly with Shangri-la, asked how do we find the balance between business strategy and human emotions?


Erik Eklund, an independent consultant formerly of Louis Vuitton and Shangri-la, said that most people are well-versed in thinking logically, but that now is the time to give ourselves permission to explore emotional decision making. He argued that when making strategic decisions, we all look for those facts, figures and insights that appeal to us, which is evidence that we are all already letting emotions, at least in part, drive our decisions.


Anuja Rananaware, a Manager at Sofitel, asked where do we draw the line between our professional selves and our private selves?


Erik Eklund said that trust is the most important factor in any part of our lives, especially in business and leadership. We need to integrate our personal selves – our emotions and personality – into the professional sphere if we are to inspire trust in others. 


James Lemon, CEO and Founder of The Growth Works, agreed that his most successful professional interactions have been occasions where he’s connected on a personal level with those involved. He suggested that the crisis has put pressure on people to put on a formal mask of professionalism in an attempt to appear valuable, whereas in actual fact results always come from a place of trust and personal connection.


Erik Eklund said that in the competition for jobs, new leaders are emerging. We need to communicate with transparency, not just boast about figures, to build trust.


Sabah Mehta, a student at Les Roches, asked what should young hoteliers use as motivation for success – logic or instinct?


Anish Bhatia, formerly of Accor, IHG and Hilton, said that we must be aware of our energy and emotions. We need to learn how to pick ourselves up and turn negative energy into positive. We need to be conscious of our emotions and let our negative thoughts wash through us before taking ownership and focussing on the positive. Right now, people are looking for genuine connections with people and that is what hoteliers need to focus on.


Returning to Work

hotel work resilience 

Angelo Vassallo, F&B Director at Fairmont, stressed the need for leaders to communicate and be open about what they know, and what they don’t know. This is important for building trust among teams. 


Anish Bhatia agreed that in this climate of job insecurity it is more important than ever to build and maintain trust. Uncertainty is the worst thing for staff right now, and a lack of transparency or a misstep in communication could cause that trust and motivation to evaporate.


Sandro Fonseca, Head of Revenue and Sales at Louvre Hotel Group, said that emotion drives decisions and fear was the reason for low occupancy, therefore clear communication of hygiene and safety measures could be the way to appease that.


Erik Eklund disagreed, claiming that telling people our hotels are clean is an external motivation. He argued it was more important to communicate a clear reason to inspire people to travel.


Anish Bhatia said that while our positioning statements have been affected by safety, the important thing was to train our staff in empathy and ensure that all of the human touchpoints along the customer journey are fulfilling the need for an emotional, personal experience.


James Lemon concluded the debate with the idea that resilience is not just about overcoming challenges, it is about the emotional investment needed to overcome challenges. He suggested that now is the perfect time to pause, think long-term and take control of your career path, adding that mentorship can be a great way to assess your personal journey.


Sign up here to join The Growth Works Network to broaden your horizon, gain expert insight and participate in future debates.



Mentor profile – Martin Kubler
Martin Kubler – Mentor Profile
Anuja Rananaware – Mentee Profile

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Susan Husa
    28/09/2020 9:54 pm

    I love this article! All the insights about leadership is what I believe a true leader is. It’s what I stress most in what I publish. Be YOU! Let others know you don’t know the answer, etc.

    I’d love to add that as I break into a phase in life where both my husband and I can work remotely, adding spaces for those of us traveling, clean is hopefully a given and what we really need is a place that is comfortable, easy to access food, a separate room for meetings at times when we are scheduled at the same time. Having helpful and friendly staff simply making sure our needs are met is always the icing on the cake and what brings us back. Keeping it simple, friendly and like home, where can you go wrong? Perhaps a new tag line! 🙂


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