“Start by being humble and you will inspire your team to be humble,” says Denis Drossart, global vice president of Culture & Experience at Selina, about leadership behaviors enforced within this lifestyle, travel and hospitality brand.
Selina is a startup platform that connects people to local places and activities for purpose-filled experiences. Combining the hostel community aspect with the accommodations of a luxury hotel, Selina breaks the barriers between the traditional hospitality experience and hostel.
Denis shares some tactics and strategies regarding how they’ve shaped the purpose and culture of this hospitality-disruptive brand. With a focus on leadership and creating authentic connections, Denis and his team have created an essential framework to create the ultimate experience for guests and employees.
1. Define Your Purpose and Value
Selina is a rapidly growing company that focuses on people and experiences, and Denis’ role was created because someone needed to lead the internal culture of the company. According to Denis, Selina employees can’t create memorable experiences without having an amazing experience within the company. So it became his job to ensure that his staff is supported in ways that empower and enables them to deliver great experiences to guests.
When he first stepped into the role, Denis shares that he spent time watching, learning, and talking to his staff. He needed to understand what was missing in the organization. Denis learned that Selina needed to define the culture, the brand’s identity, its purpose, and the desired experience they wanted guests to have. He explains that they needed language to define the behaviors that will help drive specific feelings.
2. Create Brand Identity and Values
Denis tells that a core value of Selina is to inspire authentic and meaningful connections with guests. To do so, he needed to align leaders and staff on the purpose of the business, then he developed four core behaviors to trigger the feelings they want to elicit out of their connectors and team.
Selina connectors are people who connect people, places, and communities around the world. A Selina connector can serve as a guide who exposes guests to the local culture, arts, food; sharing knowledge of the city or village. Even the Selina properties have been designed by local artists and incorporate upcycled furniture.
Four core behaviors are as follows:
Trust – care about what you do. Care about your people, the brand, and the communities/environments you work in. This generates trust.
Share – share your passion, share your enthusiasm, share your knowledge. If you keep sharing, people will learn. Sharing and learning goes hand in hand.
Creativity – Selina connectors need to be creative. Creatives drive fun. If people are creative within the organization and within the culture, they will drive a fun feeling.
Connect – guests and employees need to be able to connect. When they connect with one another, they’re able to feel like they belong to the movement they’re creating, which is a core part of the Selina identity.
3. Implement the Work
Once Denis defined the company’s culture and identity and instituted the four core behaviors, he implemented these values through a behavioral activation process.
He shares that this meant going out into the field and doing full-day face-to-face immersion sessions. During this time, Denis and his team take the full day at different Selina headquarters to onboard teams about the culture, experience teams they’re building, the company’s identity, and behaviors.
Denis and his Selina team also worked with an outside company to create a customized blueprint that defines the overall brand ecosystem. This blueprint laid out the company’s “who, what, why, and how,” the organization experience, and what behaviors are needed to trigger the experience. It defines the working plan needed to operate the behaviors as well as the leadership behaviors needed to activate it all.
Denis shares that leadership behavior required humility – which drives an authentic work environment, ultimately driving caring behavior. They also look for leaders who can inspire an educational working climate, as this quality is important for working with the team and connectors. These behaviors are also sought out during the recruitment phase. They actively look for specific behaviors in future candidates.
What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?
“Make sure that we align on that language. To make sure that everybody’s aligned on the common desired experience, the desired behavior. And it sounds stupid, but making sure that all your employees, all your leadership team, all your executives, the CEO, they all speak the same language because that’s the ultimate goal of that company; it makes it so much easier. You wake up, and you suddenly know why you’re going to work. And obviously, it’s not for money. Well, I mean, it could be at least the money will be a consequence of your purpose, right? So yes, start with designing a couple of language goals.”