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Interview with the General Manager of Grand Hyatt São Paulo, Yann Gillet, about his Management Approach

About two months ago, I met with Yann Gillet and interviewed about the Grand Hyatt São Paulo, where he has been the general manager since 2016. This time I talked with Yann Gillet about his hotel management style.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Yann Gillet

Yann Gillet


by Melisa Kaya

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The hotel is not only made up of a building, carefully decorated rooms, a beautiful pool, a stylish lobby, and restaurants serving different tastes, the most important factor is always human. Being a general manager of a hotel means taking on all responsibilities. It is necessary to manage all the processes with the skill of a conductor, by only in this way, a hotel can be created where the guests are satisfied to be there. Since his first step into the career at Hyatt in 1994, Yann Gillet has been shaping hotels all over the world. With the awareness that the most valuable asset as a manager is his teammates, he has been successful for years and was appointed to Grand Hyatt São Paulo in 2016. With reflecting his lifestyle to his management approach, he ensures the progress of his colleagues. And, at the end of the whole process, the main goal is to make sure that guests are satisfied. I talked with Yann Gillet to get detailed information about his hotel management style, which he has been shaping over 25 years by stacking the stones one by one.

Yann, before talking about your professional career, I would like to learn more about your pre-professional life. How was being born in Bordeaux, France affected your life and decisions about your career?

Being born in Bordeaux didn't affect my professional life, as much as I did my personal life. It's my family's hometown and where I grew up. Although I love it there, I don't see myself working in Bordeaux, since it doesn't have such a vibrant hotel activity, and it's rather small in terms of corporate business.

When you were a child, what would you answer to when your teacher asked what you wanted to be in the future?

I wanted to be a cruiseship capitain and travel the world.

What inspired you to decide to pursue a career in hotel management? How did you get information about how to proceed?

When I was in law school I went to Brighton, UK to study English and earn some pocket money, so I worked as a waiter. I loved the experience, the interaction with guests and the energy during service. When I went back to France, I left law school and enrolled in the Paris Hotel School. In the hospitality industry I found my calling, from the first day I started working at a hotel.

Yann Gillet, General Manager at Grand Hyatt São Paulo

Yann Gillet, General Manager at Grand Hyatt São Paulo

You have received your Hotel Management degree from Paris Hotel School and your Master's degree from Strasbourg Hotel School. Why did you prefer to study finance at the IAE in Paris after your graduation? What is the importance of financial knowledge to manage a hotel?

After a few years as a Food & Beverage leader I accepted an opportunity to work in Finance. I felt I needed to deepen my knowledge in this area and that's when I decided to pursue an MBA in Finance. It helped my career tremendously, as I was later promoted to Director of Finance

Your career began at Hyatt in 1994. During your career, you have managed many hotels in many different countries and in 2016 you were appointed to Grand Hyatt São Paulo as General Manager. What is the secret of being successful in managing employees in different countries? How did you adapt and succeed?

I think the secret lies in the desire to learn and be curious. I love learning new languages, new cultures and understanding the impact religion can have to certain countries. Curiosity promotes growth and I feel intelectually fulfilled when I am able to connect to so many different cultures, and to people of such different backgrounds.

The general manager of the hotel, for a person who is not from the industry, is the face of the hotel that meets the VIP guests. What are the responsibilities of the General Manager of a hotel in real life?

It is very important to be the face of the hotel and be present "on the floor", meeting as many guests as possible. Many return and say "I want to speak to the Director!" and it's nice! I feel hotel General Managers today are as much asset managers as they are team leaders. We must set the vision for the business and focus on innovation, long-term strategies, brand awareness and presence in the trade.

Yann Gillet, General Manager at Grand Hyatt São Paulo

Yann Gillet, General Manager at Grand Hyatt São Paulo

Which is the most stressful one among all these responsibilities?

I consider my responsibilities to be far less stressful than those of my team, who are the ones "running the show" on a daily basis.

How could you define your managing style?

I aim to always be humble and easily accessible to everyone.

How did managing hotels in different countries contribute to your management approach?

It made me extremely multicultural. It also made me believe that diversity and inclusion are the reasons for our success. At the end of the day, we are an industry that is 100% human.

What are the greatest challenges a hotel general manager faces?

Routine, which I am really scared of!

You are a marathon and ultra trail runner. What else do you prefer to do in your time outside of work?

I love practicing pilates and going out with friends and family. I also enjoy the "good" life of great wining and dining, as well as dancing.

You are inspiring your younger colleagues and running marathons with them. How did you transform your colleagues into athletes that can run 42km and complete marathon successfully?

In late 2018 there were 5 of us running the Buenos Aires marathon, and it was all of their first full marathons. Three years ago they merely ran 5 kilometers, but they were determined to run a marathon one day. After months of training together, the power of determination and focus helped the runners reach their goals, such as the 10k bridge run in São Paulo in 2016, the São Silvestre 15k race, the Rio half marathon in 2017 and eventually the 42k in Buenos Aires in 2018. Running teaches us powerful life lessons. It shows us how to take things one step at a time, and that for every kilometer ran we will eventually get to 10. It teaches us that perseverance leads to success, and that if we keep moving forward we will arrive at the next level - often stronger and as a better version of ourselves. It inspires us to achieve new goals and awards serenity and a sense of accomplishment. Out there on the tracks social status and backgrounds do not matter. Everyone who runs during our weekly Hyatt Runs events is just a runner. That alone is very powerful.

Yann Gillet, General Manager at Grand Hyatt São Paulo

Yann Gillet, General Manager at Grand Hyatt São Paulo

What are the most important values each part of the team you are managing should have?

Empathy for one another. Having the eagerness to sacrifice personal interests over the welfare of all is a key value. One player attempting to stand out more than others can put the whole team's success in jeopardy. We must live by the philosophy of "one for all and all for one", with every player giving their best every second of the game. There is no room for selfishness or individualism in our squad.

Talent or diligence, which one is more important on the road to success?

For me, the answer is both. Success requires talent and diligence in every aspect of our lives. Talent alone can trigger over-confidence and one may underestimate the value of hard work, thus sabotaging the opportunity for success. Diligence and talent combined can lead the work in the right direction.

What were the moment that made you most happy as a general manager?

One of my greatest moments as a general manager was spearheading the opening of Park Hyatt Chennai in India, which was a very challenging project. All in all, I believe I've managed to contribute to the growth of the Hyatt brands in the countries I had the chance to work, together with the great team of professionals that have accompanied me on this journey.

What advice would you give to those who are planning to become a General Manager in the future?

A newcomer in the hospitality industry should make sure to always remember where they came from, regardless of the position they hold now. I would also advise them to always stay reachable to everyone and promote teamwork. This attitude is game-changer in work relationships and will make all the difference for a positive environment.

What is next for you?

We look forward to Hyatt Hotels being recognized as the best company to work in Brazil, with colleagues who love what they do. They should feel proud of the work they do every day, under the conditions and with the benefits that will make them be their best. We also aim for growth in the number of properties within Brazil and South America.

Thank you Yann for your time.

For more information, please click here to visit the website of Grand Hyatt São Paulo