It was lightly snowing when I arrived in Den Haag, a day earlier than I should have, due to the lack of suitable flights ensuring I’d arrive on time.
When I stepped out of my taxi at the hotel the first thing I noticed was the warmth of the flourescent pink light, glowing through the long windows of the cocktail bar … and a couple of guys with a camera. I thought perhaps a wedding was taking place.
IHG had again pre-booked my room so when I went to reception to check in, I was surprised to be approached by one of the gentleman I’d seen outside, who then asked if I’d ‘pose for the camera as man and wife’ with him.
Laughingly, I immediately asked the receptionists what was going on but they couldn’t explain. It wasn’t until after the camera had finished rolling that the General Manager of Den Haag’s Crowne Plaza hotel told me it was a Crowne Plaza promotional video across the five Benelux and Nordics countries – Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Finland – the countries represented at the next day’s Winning in 2013 Conference. .
I went on to crack jokes about suddenly appearing in Dutch videos and was rewarded with complimentary drinks from the cocktail bar – and a few mischievous comments in the following days. I’m sure to receive a link to the video when it’s completed.
The next day while awaiting the arrival of the organising IHG team, I made full use of the indoor facilities to relax and reduce my own stress from traveling and the quick turnaround from Vienna; swimming, sauna, steam room and I even ventured outside to the Finnish sauna – which will remain firmly in my memory as the hottest sauna I’ve ever been in. It was a welcome breather to step back out to the minus-whatever temperatures, just to stop myself from frying!
On entering a full lift when exiting the leisure facilities, it came natural to me to say ‘Thank God I put my clothes back on’, raising a few laughs from the surprised faces beside me, but in truth the Finnish sauna hadn’t quite worn off – even after a cold shower and I did wonder if I could sneak back to my room unnoticed…
Arrangements and organising done for the conference, we were free to check out the suites we’d be using the next day. Imagine my surprise when the hotel staff took great joy in showing me their favourite conference room, which I’d be using the next day; softly lit with giant pink and black bean bags for participants, instead of the usual, run-of-the-mill hotel chairs.
It soon became apparent the following day that this was the delegates’ favourite training room too! It took little encouragement for them to loosen restrictive clothing and kick off shoes; they were ready for this!
Each group (made up of General Managers, sales and marketing management and staff and some visiting IHG Head Office staff) welcomed the chance to relax and enjoy the atmosphere, immediately opening up to the concept of being stronger when we’re relaxed than when we’re tense. It made my job a whole lot easier too!
Team building with groups of people who are open to trying new things is hugely enjoyable and effective for all concerned – especially when they’re presented with exercises in coordination and stuff that shifts perception.
Before entering the room no-one knew what was ahead of them but they soon got into things in the true hotelier spirit.
I came to understand and appreciate the huge amount of energy everyone in the trade I came across, has for their work. Most are in direct contact with customers and clients all of their working day; finding solutions and fixing problems, smiling all the while – even when under huge pressure to seal a deal.
Building trust with colleagues and clients is integral to the job so communication and conflict resolution strategies are important. By eradicating some of the fear we hold in these situations we can trust more and communicate better.
The Personal Power training events which were designed specifically for the hotel trade have proven to do the job exceptionally well; they’ve provided [well-received] coping skills, stress management and empowering techniques which can be applied to any area of life, as well as a welcome break to the usual but critical, in-house training IHG provided at the conference.
I spent much of the evening in conversation with a General Manager from Finland who had a great interest in the type of team building workshops I’d just presented.
His one admission was that he had initially failed to see how I could work across different sectors; how could working with corporates possibly be the same as working with criminals?
It took him a little while and a chat with me to convince him of what he already knew; we ALL experience fear and we all need to face those fears. We each have to create opportunities to grow, to have choice and to change what no longer serves us.
Den Haag mission accomplished. Now to tackle Paris; my biggest challenge to date.