General Manager & Coach || Karma Bavaria
“Servus everyone! My name is Christian Huschka, I’m the General Manager and Coach at Karma Bavaria and this is my SMACK story. The Karma Bavaria at the beautiful Schliersee is a multifaceted hotel resort with 65 rooms, suites, and apartments, with the largest indoor wellness area in town, fine local cuisine with a Scandinavian twist, and personal warmth, in other words, our version of “international hotel meets Bavarian hospitality”.
Born in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, where the Reinheitsgebot for beer was decreed in 1516, I’ve spent my hotel career with luxury brands Kempinski and Sofitel for 18 years, and in the private hotel industry for 4 years. Most of the time in Munich, briefly in Frankfurt and Hamburg, and for 9 years in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.
During my time in “Mama Africa”, I’ve lived in Chad, Tanzania, and Rwanda – this alone a thousand stories to tell! And hospitality is perhaps the best industry in the world, because you meet so many cultures and people and learn so much from them. As a manager at a luxury hotel, you would likely deal with heads of governments, important people from the UN, and board members of big companies, as hotels are the platform to meet and greet. It’s crazy that as a regular person you suddenly find it normal to have breakfast with an ambassador! I was blessed to learn a lot about life and about the world there. Fun fact: Philip Ibrahim, your podcast host, was my successor in N’Djamena / Chad. In the Middle East, I’ve worked for a Sheikh family in the United Arab Emirates and Kempinski’s flagship property in Qatar. There you can learn a lot about ultra-luxury and especially in Dubai about the complex structure of tourism.
Coaching: my way is based on my experiences and learnings and thinking about what I can do to have an impact. How could I make the world a little bit better? What are my strengths? How can I be of added value for others? In fact, “added value” has become my buzzword. How can we be an added value for guests, for the team and for the community?
You as a guest have a clear added value spending your leisure time here at beautiful Schliersee. It’s a perfect place to recharge your batteries. For example, our bike business partner consults you on the best tours, depending on how hard you want to push yourself or who comes over if you have a flat tire. Our snow partner at the top of the ski slopes 11 km away has top equipment at reasonable rates and recommends, for example, that you don’t commit to a weekly ski course for children, but rather to pass by spontaneously, as your kids may not feel like it every day. You fancy adventure or romance? How about a torchlit hike through nature or a horse-drawn carriage tour? All these options are the most fun for everyone and flexible. That only works if you work together (see community).
An added value for our team is that coaching is part of our leadership style. I have simply reversed the hierarchical pyramid of leadership as we know it and see the task of leadership as a supporting role from the bottom up. Therefore, tasks are not commanded top-down, but everything is support and guidance from the bottom up. My job is to make sure that my team is successful. I’m only successful if my team is. And I do quite well with this concept, which obviously is not my personal invention. I’ve adopted it from some great minds for today’s world. For me, this solves a lot of different challenges…
I am also a coach especially for the department heads. Many times, you would do an apprenticeship or study, then you are taken on as an employee, you develop, you become a supervisor in an area. And then, if you do well, after a certain time, you are promoted to head of department. Now it often happens that you don’t get as much support and guidance on how to be a successful manager. This is where the concept of a coaching is great. Inviting the department heads to join the leadership style and to adapt the holistic approach of our hotel. For example, I think hotel positioning is very important for economic success. I coach them on topics such as SWOT analyses, competitors, USP, positioning, and target group analyses. In other words, things that are important to run a business. As a manager, I need to know about these things. Also, to be able to explain to team members why we are taking certain steps. If I understand why I do things, then I am much more behind doing them and we all pull in the same direction, which, in turn, favours the inverted leadership pyramid. It’s important to look at the big picture. Beyond my department and the one next to me, what do sales, marketing, revenue management, e-commerce, communication as well as financial controlling mean to us specifically.
Another advantage is that as a coach you pull yourself out and can put back the focus on the guest experience. This changes the perspective and makes it easier to find solutions to problems. This is not about your standard operating procedures. I ask myself: “How do I do best what guests want? How can I adapt to guests? How can I positively surprise?”.
Stepping into different roles is important as a General Manager. You have your emails and Excel sheets, your presentations, your meetings, your team members… but you also have guests on site. Therefore, I’ve introduced something extraordinary. I go to guests again! Crazy, right? For example, in the morning at breakfast I walk through the restaurant and greet guests. That’s such an aha-moment every time. I go to a table, saying, “Good morning – my name is Christian and I’m the General Manager of the hotel.” And then guests look at me with a face that says: “Did I do something wrong?” It’s so delightful! I almost celebrate this arc of tension by now, and then after a long second I say “just to tell you that I do appreciate you. Thank you. It’s great that you’re here!”. The pandemic period has been hard for staff and guests, and it made us all much more grateful for little things which we took for granted.
Talking “granted”. When I started at Karma Bavaria still in lockdown, my first email was to every staff member saying: “We don’t know exactly when we will continue, but we will.” 6 months later, our New Year’s Eve 2021 was also a big goosebump moment. When we didn’t know until “5 minutes prior to the event” what and how it will happen in concrete terms. When I gave the New Year’s speech with many families and children sitting before me, I found it humbling: “Tonight, we are three superstars: first the children, then you – dear guests, and also our team.” Three superstars. They really are.