I will never forget an interview I had with a CEO of Pilkington’s Auto motive Glass in New Zealand.  The interview was arranged as I had heard that their management practices were quite unique.  I arrived at the reception and then was greeted by the CEO. After a very interesting session, where he did not field any interruption, he walked me back to reception.  I was flabbergasted. I asked ”Peter, why when you are so busy did you greet me and take me back to reception”.  He replied ”When I have agreed to a meeting I am the host, the extra time with the courtesy means I may be more selective with the meetings I agree to have”.  This hostmanship story is one I tell around the world.

Jan Gunnarsson[i] says that hostmanship is the way we make people feel welcome. In his book and accompanying website, Jan provides inspiration and direction to anyone who wants to make a difference, as an individual, as part of a team, or within an organization. His hostmanship approach has had the approval of Tom Peters, and has had a profound impact on organizations applying it, on both the organization’s culture and its interfaces with the outside world.

It is interesting to note that one’s ability to be a host is influenced by one’s past, both in experiences at home and with one’s role models.  It is no wonder so many of us have issues here.

Jan Gunnarsson sees hostmanship as having six areas: serving, maintaining the big picture, taking responsibility, caring, knowledge and dialogue. I have quoted from his work so you have a better understanding of his views.

Serving is using your talents and experiences, first and foremost, because you have a genuine interest in someone else’s well-being: “What can I do to make you feel better at this particular moment in time?” A desire to help someone achieve their goals and thereby be successful in life.

The big picture in the world of Hostmanship is about seeing and understanding wholeness. The person who meets the guest is always the company’s outward face, right there, right then. Even if we can’t be responsible for everything that happens in this entirety, it is important that we understand that it is the guest’s opinion of the entirety that affects their meeting with us.

Taking responsibility is about being courageous. We must take responsibility for how we choose to react to what happens.  Taking responsibility is about standing on the other person’s side and helping them improve the world we are both living in: a position which isn’t always appreciated in “your own ranks,” but at the end of the day it creates stronger and more personal meetings.

Caring is the heart of Hostmanship. Allowing caring to prevail in a business is about seeing the human in the people that seek us out. Adapting our systems and our culture with the notion that the people we work with and the people we meet are human.

Knowledge is about opening up to all cultures and people, regardless of origin or background. Knowledge is far more than just knowing. It is the ability to use your knowledge in the context of another person’s needs.

Dialogue is being able to first listen, which is usually the toughest obstacle when a problem needs resolving. We need to listen and try to understand the context by entering into a dialogue. By opening yourself up for a dialogue at every meeting, you are taking all parties at the meeting seriously.

These quotes come from a well-written brochure from Jan’s website, which can be accessed on www.hostmanship.com.

How often, when under pressure, have you frowned when a staff member came to your office to ask for help?  The great leaders know the visitor in front of them is their most important task and are able to welcome the interruption!

Next steps

  1. Read my article on leadership in an era of distraction
  2. Buy the leadership toolkit called Winning Leadership: A Model on Leadership For The Millennial Manager” – Toolkit (120 page PDF whitepaper + e-templates).

[i] Jan Gunnarsson and Olle Blohm, “The Art of Making People Feel Welcome,” Dialogos, 2008.