When I met, Gonçalo Paulo, Night Manager, Corinthia Lisbon, he was looking around and ruminating. I asked him what was on his mind. ‘Just enjoying life coming back to the hotel after those dark times of Covid. In the first phase of the pandemic, everything stopped in Lisbon, restaurants, hotels… and we all had to be quarantined in our homes.
When I saw our hotel putting off the lights and closing its doors, my heart missed a beat. It was one of my saddest days. But we were not beaten and almost all of us from all grades and departments, without any distinction, joined hands and took care of the building, cleaning everywhere, watering gardens and plants, working and devising new concepts and tasks to meet the new realities.
Corinthia needed all of our resilience and help. Some of our most disadvantaged colleagues who could not assist were not forgotten. We saw to their needs and silently helped them. We revised the concept of our Erva Terrace and started venturing out when the time was right.’
We sought to delve into the nature of the job and challenges of a Night Manager. Would a Night Manager mirror Front Office management ? ‘Naturally, as Night Manager, I represent the Hotel Management during the Night. I must organise and motivates employees and, while supervising the hotel operations, I am also responsible for carrying out administrative tasks. I confer with department managers, such as the Hotel Manager, Front Office Manager, Food & Beverage (F&B) Manager, or will directly oversee areas of hotel operations in our restaurants, Housekeeping, Maintenance, Security, Guest Service and I am also responsible for the cleanliness, appearance, maintenance, customer relations, and all other aspects of the hotel.’
Would he also conduct regular briefing of staff during night shift? What would be the main topics in such briefings? ‘At night we have our briefing together with the day shift and we ensure that all the important information is properly conveyed to all the shifts. I would say the Night Manager bridges the gap between the Front Office and the different departments during the night, such as House Keeping and F&B so that all information flows between departments and ensure that our customers needs and good functionality of the hotel are never compromised. As Night Manager I pass the information to the Duty Manager of the day. We have always one Duty Manager available for any issue concerning guests or operation.’
High quality standards do not sleep at night. Are there regular checks to see that quality standards are retained? Gonçalo Paulo nodded heavily: ‘You are perfectly right, standards do not sleep at night. A long series of checks follow during the night, for example overseeing all the services, ensuring they are consistent with the policy and procedures of Hotel; ensuring the proper functioning of all points of sale in line with the Hotel’s standards of hygiene and safety; ensuring opening and closure of all outlets and hotel services on time; controlling all overnight cleaning of public areas and services; settling all claims and demands of guests ensuring their satisfaction; commanding a thorough knowledge of hotel business, occupation, availability, day events, groups, promotions and special request from guests; assisting the night team, including night auditors in the audit process; reviewing all night audit checklist to ensure that all tasks were completed; ensuring that all operation reports are delivered on time; ascertaining the safety of all guests, staff members and hotel assets; ensuring guest satisfaction as a main goal according to the company standards…’ He would have continued had we not made a gentle sign that he had offered more than enough examples.
Certainly, there was much ongoing work, so a sort of summary report would be a good thing. Or not? We were right. On a daily basis, the night team takes reports from the End Of Day ( Financial, Revenue, sales, etc) and the forecast for the next days to the Front Office and F&B departments and for Directors and Heads of Departments. ‘As Night Manager I check daily that these reports are being done well so that the whole operation flows without hiccups. We have the responsibility to verify all transactions, close all accounts for the day and start a new one. ‘
Listening to all that information, we suggested that initiative, problem-solving and team-leading must be important requisites for his job. He pondered for a second and then emphasised that all those requisites were indeed essential for a Night Manager, joining all those points in one sentence; ‘The art of taking the initiative to lead by solving all the problems that come to me from different fields and being a true team leader. When we talk about a leader in the work environment, the main characteristics expected of this person are the vision, passion, strategic thinking, communication skills, self-motivation, and ability to unite people, personal power, congruence, adaptability, discipline, resolution, and search constant par excellence, ability to relate.
He needs to manage people and teams composed of the most diverse personalities, and mobilise them to achieve a common goal. Leadership is not merely communicating with people but also making them see their value and potential and convincing them to believe in themselves, and feeling as an important part of the whole process.’
What was his study and work experience before joining Corinthia? Gonçalo Paulo, specialised in hospitality at EPHTL, a Professional School of Hospitality and Tourism in Lisbon. It was a very demanding but rewarding course and it injected in his veins the love for this industry. ‘In the third and final year of my course, I was an intern at Corinthia Lisbon. It was and still is the best 5-star hotel in Lisbon. I was very well received and was asked to join this Corinthia family, as front desk agent.’
And then? ‘I was Front Office Agent, Front Office Tournant, Concierge, then Night Auditor, Night Auditor Supervisor, Night Duty Manager, and now Night Manager. Every post was an exciting journey for me.’
A question which could not be avoided was whether working at night and sleeping during the day was difficult and whether it created special or particular problems. He was quick on the draw. ‘Working on night shift was challenging for me in the early years. Our body was made to work during the day and sleep at night. I had to organise myself and create mechanisms so that my physical and mental health did not deteriorate. I had to create specific eating routines, combined with a good day’s sleep and exercise. I am blessed that that I have very good family support that respects my routines. I try to have an active presence in my family’s daily life but with slightly different shifts.
I am proud of my family, my darling wife and my six-year old daughter. They are my world. And by the way…I also have a few animal pets: two dogs, that is a Pug and another of mixed race and I also have two guinea pigs.’
He must also find time for his hobbies. Being 37 years old, he does not play football and basketball as often as he did in his younger days. He has now started fishing, practices some gym, horse-riding and loves attending music festivals. Quite a handful!
Something in his behaviour and way of speaking, made us believe he had no patience with persons who are not truthful. “Bulls eye! I loathe persons who lie. I am very sincere and do not hide behind corners. If I can’t be myself and say what I want to say to you, we’d better keep our distance. I wouldn’t trade my personality and my honesty for anything. And I am a very loyal person, and will not fall short of trust.’ He stopped for a fraction of a second and added: ‘I owe my utmost loyalty to Corinthia who has allowed me to join and grow within this wonderful family.’
Indeed a person to be admired !