Live, learn and adapt

It has been more than half a decade since my first JKH blog and upon reading it, it was surprising how my own perspectives have changed over the course of 6 years.

Back then, the blog was based on a JKH Management Trainee’s perspective, who was just entering the Leisure industry with no knowledge that a terrorist attack and a global pandemic were going to turn the industry upside down. The blog was around the word ‘Balance’ where it was defined as the ability to make one’s own choice leading to self-fulfillment. Now it is the story of a Resort Manager who has new perspectives after successfully managing a couple of Sri Lankan Cinnamon Resorts through both unfortunate events.

Life will go on!

As Yin Yang describes, every force has an opposite but interconnected force. When relating it to effective leadership at work, it breaks down to a combination of both empowerment and management oversight as the formula for success.

On the surface, the life of a hotelier could be a dream job that is tasked with bringing a smile to the faces of the guests. However, we tend to miss the fact that we deal with the most sophisticated machinery that the world has seen: people.

Hotels and resorts do pay an attractive package to boost morale and motivate their associates. However, the Yin to it is the sacrifices a hotelier must make. It’s part of the package that a hotelier will have to dedicate themselves to celebrations such as Christmas and New Year with guests while their families may eagerly wait to celebrate on an alternate date. It’s natural then that the challenge to satisfy and motivate was nearly impossible when the financials, especially service charge, were in question after the Easter attack and during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

But what amazes me about human beings is their resilience to keep going. The associates had to find the courage, self-motivation, and perseverance to fight not only for themselves and their families but also for their employer and the hospitality sector of Sri Lanka, and they did it in style. Yes, there were times they complained, there were moments where they wanted someone to listen and hear them out or needed a supporting hand to find the finishing line, but they never gave up.

As a result, Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts stands out as one of the first three brands in Sri Lanka to restart tourism with the support of the Sri Lanka Tourism & Development Authority.

The ability to self motivate!

It’s a rare ability. One example that is quoted is Cristiano Ronaldo, who once said, “Most of the time, I inspire myself. I’m self-motivated.” Self-motivation is not everyone’s cup of tea.

One of the key messages that helps with being self-motivated is the importance of the role. A simple task of handing a welcome drink to an arriving guest could be translated as a task, but it isn’t just a task. It is part of the first impression a resort creates to welcome the guest while providing the assurance that your stay with us is going to be amazing. It goes a long way, as a positive first impression leads to appreciation of everything that follows. Therefore, understanding the purpose is instrumental to self-motivation.


Quite a lot of us tend to look for perfection in our work, and we choose to often micromanage or have our say in each and every aspect. At some point, we would realise it is neither practical nor healthy. Prioritisation helps, but empowerment is the best solution in the case of the hospitality sector.

Once again, it is important to remind the readers that the hospitality sector is service oriented, where people serve people. It is of paramount importance to place trust in the associates to deliver their best. It may not be smooth, but sooner or later it will be easy to see the benefits.

Empowerment is never about “I”, it is a culture where trust and self-discipline are in full flow with the environment set up for open and constructive discussions. Learnings are identified and shared. The initiative for change is accepted. Everything revolves around the final objective but equally on the welfare and well-being of the members of the team.

The traditional role of a Resort Manager is to be based in the resort to manage operations and have interactions with the guests to increase both the revenue and the reputation of the brand. In today’s context, the role is enhanced, and the expectation is not only to be the face within the resort but also amongst the community, representing the brand. It becomes unavoidable that the resort manager steps out of their comfort zone to help the community, like working with the farmers to boost their chances of livelihood, maintain public relations with key stakeholders, to provide educational packs to school children with the support of the tri forces, school principals, teachers, fellow hoteliers, and the businesses in the surrounding areas, set an example on personal terms by getting involved in activities that bring credit to the resort such as participating & winning the JKH Debate while continuously commuting 250 km to and from Colombo and Yala.

The resort manager would not be able to meet these new expectations if not for the support of their team, a team who truly believes and accepts empowerment. The team is expected to make difficult decisions that are not part of their job description. That is the power of empowerment.

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with these three thoughts: Firstly, never give up because there is light at the end of the tunnel. Secondly, the purpose of each of our roles at work is important and it is important that we self-motivate and keep pushing. Third and finally, believe in the people around you; the same people who the Chairperson of John Keells Group mentioned to be the Group’s biggest assets.

With that, I would like to dedicate this blog to everyone at John Keells Group who fought through the unprecedented challenges in the last 4 years. I would fail in my duties if I did not give a special mention to the associates of Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts who probably took the biggest hit yet stood tall with perseverance and a smile to welcome the tourists back to our motherland. The hope for the future looks better, and together we stand stronger to revive the economy of our beautiful island nation of Sri Lanka.

Let’s look forward and beyond.