“You don’t have to be in the position to lead” this is particularly true for Mona San Gabriel, a former Administrator/Coordinator at Talise Spa, the wellness spa of a five-star luxury resort in Dubai, Madinat Jumeirah.
Originally from her hometown Jaen, Nueva Ecija, in Philippines. Mona is a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at the Philippine School of Business Administration in Manila.
On top of Mona’s college education, learnings, and pieces of training she’s attended within Jumeirah over the years, she has also continued to develop her skills by completing a short course on Spa Management at Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in 2017 and the Jumeirah Leadership Foundation Program.
From being a Kids club supervisor in 2001 to office administrator/coordinator in 2012, Mona has consistently led her team of 80 staff members on behalf of various Directors-of-Operations in charge of the wellness department during her tenure in the company.
I interviewed Mona to explore her knowledge and further understand what made her passionate about what she does and what motivates her to do more beyond her role as an administrator, without doubt leading the department on behalf of the Director of Operations.
Mona, looking back during your time with your former company, what do you miss the most?
“I miss having subtly led the team for the department on behalf of the Directors in charge; I miss the great accolades we receive from the guests, especially when a team member is recognized because, for me, that means we’re doing well in our communications and training.”
What is Leadership in your own interpretation based on what you do?
“Leadership for me is within us. Let me explain. Everyone is born a leader; it only takes the right amount of knowledge, integrity, and care to set yourself up in leading a team fully. My role in the department then was to organize simple to complex administration task, but it felt like I have to do more as I have been within the company for years; I’m happy that I was able to guide every one of them with anything they need, may they be the person I report to, our therapists, spa attendants, or colleagues from other departments.”
“Even if it’s a simple encouraging them in participating in resort-wide colleague activities or pieces of training, sharing best practices, or assisting them with their requirements with HR, its something that motivates me in doing naturally because I know that each team member has an important role in the business, it’s my way of helping them be a focus on their day-to-day task.”
What other steps that you did in your role that you think is relevant to subtly leading a team?
“Communicating with your team is not always easy because you need to deal with many personalities, you will often get criticized, so you have to stand your ground. How? By always being an example, doing the extra mile, making sure that your work is presentable, and never hesitate to ask for help when you need one.”
“I’ve taken the initiative to understand each member of the team; I try to get to know them well and learn how I can motivate/help them bring results to the department. I do this by getting to know them personally on an individual approach to each colleague. It’s also a way to motivate them when they needed to. I would often organize team get-together, conduct training, briefings on behalf of our operations manager, and even attend the colleague welcome program, an HR event where newly hired colleagues must attend to get to know the person in charge of various departments, often when the Director is not available, I speak and present about our wellness department.”
If you will advise an employee who doesn’t have people reporting to them, what one characteristic do you think is most important to have?
“I believe that an individual’s character and integrity sets the difference; your character defines you as a person as this is what you live with every day, even if you are not in the workplace. When you need to motivate your colleague to perform and accept that there will be hurdles along the way, being resilient to handle situations professionally is most important, especially when guests and colleagues are involved.”
How do you manage “hurdles” within your department and how do you prevent them?
“With my experience, and with the team’s collective experiences, we are able to see what can go wrong and manage them accordingly advance. I do a lot of random checks especially in our reservations system, I always wanted to get the team involved, this doesn’t just add new knowledge to them but it also helps me delegate task so I can focus on a bigger and more important job for the department, similar to what I do for our Spa Director of Operations.”
“Leading a team is not easy, you have to be ready for it, be ready to be criticized, be ready to make mistake, but most of all be ready to learn from your mistakes, from your colleagues, and managers because that’s the only way you can develop yourself and become better in the future.”
Leadership is within us and should indeed start within ourselves, and once this is mastered, we will be able to lead others regardless of the position we are in. Thank you Mona for sharing your simple but valuable leadership practices with us, I’m certain that you’ll inspire a lot of readers with your experience.