For Jennifer Robbins, success is all about engagement. As general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Naples, Fla., Robbins doesn’t think her management style is unique, but she does bring a somewhat unique outlook to engaging her staff. “I don’t know if it’s unique, but I think what’s definitely characteristic of my management style is engagement, trying to get everyone involved,” she says from her hotel. “That’s across the board. I want them to enjoy what they do.”
Robbins realizes that engaged employees make for a better hotel for guests to enjoy. “I think it makes them better invested in the success of the hotel,” she says. “They want to present guests with a great experience. I think they welcome our guests to the hotel like they are welcoming them into their home.”
Robbins says she’s tried to create a culture where the staff thinks of the hotel like a second home, because in many ways it is. “That leads to warmth and graciousness,” she continues.
While wanting employees (and guests) to be engaged in a hotel is easy to say, creating that sort of culture is where the real work for a general manager comes in. “The most important thing is that everyone knows what the goal is—that everyone is on the same page,” she explains. “Everyone has to realize that is sort of a cycle and every department has to work as part of that cycle to complete a common goal.
“What the front desk does affects engineering, what engineering does affects housekeeping, and so on,” she continues. “It’s always encouraging for them to know that they have support throughout the hotel, whether it is from the executive committee or another department. That overall spirit of a common goal helps them know that their voice is heard and that they truly are part of a team.”
When it comes to engaging guests, Robbins says that service is personal. “We try to offer personalized service. We have a lot of repeat guests, and it’s really pretty simple, you just have to ask them,” she says. “Most of the time guests really want to tell you what they want. You just have to ask. The same thing is true with employees. I think sometimes we are all guilty of overcomplicating matters and getting in our own way. You just need to find out what they want.”
It’s not a management style Robbins developed overnight. She’s a veteran of the hospitality industry, having served as general manager of her current property for nearly seven years. And, she’s been working in the hotel industry for, “longer than you probably would think I have,” she says coyly.
Robbins began working in hotels while in college, “because it fit my schedule,” she says. She attended college in her native central Florida. “I think I’m one of the three natives left in the state,” she quips. “My brother is one of the other three.”
She didn’t intend to work in hospitality. She actually entered college to study graphic and commercial design, but her experience at a hotel made her fall in love with the industry.
“I really didn’t have the stomach for graphic and commercial design,” she admits. “I just then found hospitality really gratifying and that I had a knack for it. I just never really stopped working in it.”
She believes that knack comes from her gregarious nature. “I’m a talker,” she says. “I just really enjoy the interaction with not only the team members but also the guests.”
By the time she was out of college, she’d already become a front office manager. Following college she decided to stay with it. “From there I went into working as a revenue manager and then a director of operations, and then here as general manager,” she says. “I stayed on that path from day one.”