Are you a good leader? Do you listen to others? Are you open to suggestions?
This article is based on a piece of knowledge given to me by Arthur Inch, a “Knight of the shoulder not”. He was born in 1915 to parents who were in private service in England, and naturally followed in his parent’s footsteps. This piece of knowledge and wisdom was given to me in November 1998, when I was attending Ivor Spencer’s International Butler School in London. This frail 90 year old gentleman came in and gave us a short lecture on good leadership. What he told me changed the way I became a good leader, listened to others and opened myself to suggestions. What was the advice? The answer is simple: let the estate staff train themselves.
What do I mean by that?
Let’s take your laundry person. That is the best trained and knowledgeable person to teach laundry skills. The advice Mr. Inch gave me is “You do not know everything as an estate manager and your staff knows more than you in their own field”. So every Monday afternoon Mr. Inch would have an educational moment from his Staff, Housekeeping Chef, Laundry, and so on.
This leadership style gives the laundry person a moment in the spotlight and can pass on the knowledge they have on the Principal’s likes and dislike in the laundry, i.e… to starch or not starch. You can also show the staff what YOU do on a regular basis, like the accounts, scheduling, etc. Do you really know all your staff does? You should. And they should understand the range of your work. This is not the moment correct any deviation from the manual, rather a way of them showing you and the other staff how to do things in their department. If you do find things that are not being done according to the manual policies or procedures, it can be corrected at a later date so as not to embarrass the laundry person.
Mr. Inch’s long Private Service career started as under footman, working his way up to footman and eventually Butler. There were no formal training schools, there was only on the job training. The amazing thing about this technique is cross training really works. If your house keeper calls in sick, the staff can temporarily fill that position until that person returns.
Also take this cross training outside to the gardens, pool care, and car care. It is any one hour a week but I have found that training becomes part of the household routine. Learning is a great alternative to stagnation and boredom of staff that could lead to high staff turnover. When was the last time you had first aid training or food safety handling training?
If your staff are not learning, they’re standing still and looking for other jobs. On-site training is by far the most efficient and cost-effective way of training household staff. The nice thing about on-site training is you learn in your own environment on items you’re familiar with.