Leading by Listening: Meet Patrick Beck

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Patrick Beck is the Bordeaux-born General Manager of Hotel Borobudur Jakarta, an epic property with 695 rooms set on 23 acres of land which opened in 1974 and is celebrating its 42nd anniversary this month. Spending most of his life as an expat, including in the United States and Bali, Patrick believes that education is extremely important in the hospitality industry and leads his team of 1,300 staff by listening to and learning from them on a daily basis.

You’ve been the General Manager of Hotel Borobudur since April 2015. In this time, what has this job taught you?

As a General Manager of this iconic hotel, I’ve reinforced the five essentials of hospitality leadership: vision, innovation, inner values, inspiration, and communications. Hotel Borobudur Jakarta has taught me strategy, development, performance, team work, and to be a great leader of our 1,300-strong members.

It takes time and commitment to improve leadership skills, but it can certainly be done. Practising these essentials for becoming a great hospitality leader can help us work better with associates, no matter what our position is. If we try something new and it doesn’t work, try it in a different way. Keep reading, learning and listening, and we can be on our way to experiencing a rewarding and successful leadership journey.

Do you run education or advancement programmes for your staff?

Absolutely! We have a very strong training and development programme. Our training department runs over 20 classes a month, ranging from languages (English and Mandarin), customer service, finance, management and leadership. Training our employees is the responsibility of the hotel. Employee development is a shared responsibility of management and the individual employee.

The responsibility of Borobudur Hotel is to provide the right resources and an environment that supports the growth and development needs of the individual staff. When it’s possible, depending on the position and the requirement, we believe in promoting within. Some of our colleagues have been working 42 years for the hotel in a different capacity and most of them are our top managers.

As a general manager, part of your job is to pass your knowledge down to your team. How do you ensure this is done on a daily basis?

Teaching is part of my job and desires as a hotel general manager. Sharing what you know to your staff will not only foster a sense of empowerment in your hotel, it would actually make your job easier because you’re equipping them with knowledge and skills they can use to perform their job without constant assistance from you.

Every day I try to apply a few principals to help stay focused on my priorities, they are: listen to my staff, share my knowledge, collaborate, motivate, give credit where credit is due, and try to be jovial as much as possible.

What kind of education did you receive growing up?

I was very fortunate to have a loving family by my side and especially a great grandmother who was very strict and taught me some good life values. I grew up in the hospitality business in France; my dad was a chef and was very instrumental in my career choice. I attended the hotel management university in Bordeaux, France where I obtained my Bachelors and Masters Degrees in hospitality management.

What three words sum up your job?

Challenging, happy, rewarding.

What challenges do you face working in hospitality?

Like in all high-end luxury hotels, some of the key elements of success are to maintain the standards, to focus on details and to always try to innovate. I always try to hire the best person for the job and this can be a big challenge.

Borobudur Hotel Jakarta has continued to raise its standards and we have developed the property as the years go by. But we have kept a lot of the culture and service levels, and everything about what makes the hotel truly special.

How have websites like TripAdvisor changed the way hotel GMs work?

I don’t think those websites have a big impact on the way we work; we are just more aware of the guest experience, but we tackle the problems the same way. There are hotels that rate in the top five in the world, and people are still complaining. I’m always shocked by the comments: from the quality of the fruit, to the mobile-phone reception on an island in the middle of nowhere, to whether the person on the front desk was smiling sufficiently upon their arrival.

The good reviews make you feel lovely, and the bad reviews make you do something about any problems. It is part of our time and we have to deal with it. But honestly, I prefer a face-to-face meeting and a good handshake to resolve our differences.

Do you have any special offers at the moment?

We are going to be celebrating our 42nd anniversary on March 23! We are offering a special package price of Rp.4,200,000 net valid from March 18 to 27, 2016.

In keeping with our 42nd anniversary, all of our restaurants will have a special set menu of Rp.42,000++ per person, which guests can enjoy Miyama Japanese Restaurant, Bruschetta Italian Restaurant, Teratai Chinese Restaurant, and Pendopo Lounge. You can also partake in a very special discount of 42 percent in our pastry shop, Borobudur Gourmet!

In March, we will celebrate Easter with a special design of chocolate Easter eggs, inspired by the 1936 comedy film Modern Times, which was written and directed by Charlie Chaplin. These will be available for purchase at Borobudur Gourmet.

Why is the hotel named after the temple in Magelang?

Borobudur Temple has three divisions symbolizing the three ‘realms’ of Buddhist cosmology: Kamadhatu (the world of desires), Rupadhatu (the world of forms), and finally Arupadhatu (the formless world). Borobudur’s ground plan takes the form of a Mandala. There are 10 steps from Kamadhatu (foot), Rupadhatu (body), and Arupadhatu (head). We implemented this Mandala into our mission, called the 10 Quality Points.

What is your favourite quote on education?

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” by Nelson Mandela.

Last but not least, if you could only share one pearl of wisdom from what you’ve learned working in your industry, what would it be?

‘Listen’ is the one I can identify the most with, and I believe has helped me to get where I am today. Listening to the needs of your guests and listening to the needs of your employees are two of the most important priorities that every good General Managers should be doing.

Thanks, Patrick! To get in touch email: p.beck@hotelborobudur.com

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Angela is a freelance journalist and founder of Clean Up Jakarta Day. Outside the office she climbs mountains and dives oceans, all the while picking up litter.