Lori Da Silva: Essential Leadership Insights

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5 Key Learnings on Accelerating Operational Performance

“I started out in sales, and I realized that when you walk into any building, if you are polite, kind, respectful of everybody, then it gets you much further in life.”

Lori Da Silva, the General Manager & CEO of RBC Place London, formerly known as the London Convention Centre Corporation, brings over 40 years of experience in London, Ontario’s hospitality sector. Reporting to a Board of Directors appointed by the City of London Council, Lori has managed the convention center with a mandate to drive economic impact for the community. Here are five essential learnings about operational excellence from her discussion with leadership expert Greg Schinkel on the Accelerating Operational Performance podcast. Together they offer practical strategies and highlight the impact of investing in people and processes. Feel free to listen to the full episode here or watch the video here.

1. The Importance of Organization and Communication

The fundamental pillars of operational excellence are organization and communication. Live events, such as live theater, demand precision and flawless execution. Everything must run like clockwork, achievable only when every team member is aligned.

Organization is the backbone of this process, involving lots of planning, detailed schedules, clear timelines, and comprehensive checklists. But organization alone is not enough. Effective communication is the glue that holds everything together. It ensures that every team member understands their role and responsibilities, creating a unified front where everyone knows what needs to be done and when.

“Whenever we do an event, the most crucial things are to be organized, to have a huge amount of communication throughout, and to have a really well-trained team ready to go. And whenever we do an event, we have a backup plan for the backup plan, because everything is live. So you need to really be flexible and nimble.”

Whether it is a technical glitch or a sudden schedule change, having backup plans helps the team pivot quickly. These plans stem from thorough organization and proactive communication, allowing the team to handle changes without missing a beat. Effective communication fosters collaboration, encouraging team members to share ideas, voice concerns, and contribute to the event’s success which in turn improves operational efficiency, boosts morale and strengthens teamwork. Ensuring that every team member is well-informed, prepared, and adaptable, organizations can achieve a level of operational excellence that sets them apart.

Key Insight: Operational excellence hinges on the synergy between organization and communication.

Strategy: To enhance operational efficiency and team cohesion, create comprehensive schedules, timelines, and checklists that facilitate detailed planning.

Impact: Increased efficiency results in smooth execution and quick adaptation to issues. Enhanced teamwork and a positive work environment boost morale.

2. The Power of a Great Team

Lori’s experience underscores the transformative impact of a dedicated and cohesive team. In an environment where challenges can arise unexpectedly, a great team is invaluable.

A great team is more than just a collection of individuals – it is a unified force capable of achieving remarkable results. When team members trust and support each other, they can overcome obstacles and deliver exceptional outcomes. This cohesion is built on a foundation of mutual respect, open communication, and shared goals.

It is important to create a workplace culture where every team member feels valued and heard. Organizations can achieve this by promoting collaboration, recognizing achievements, and celebrating successes together. Investing in team development not only boosts performance but also enhances employee satisfaction and retention. Team members feel empowered to take ownership of their work, knowing that their contributions are valued and supported. This sense of belonging fosters loyalty and commitment, leading to higher levels of engagement and productivity.

A great team is essential for achieving short-term goals and crucial for long-term success and sustainability. By prioritizing the development and well-being of team members, businesses set the stage for ongoing excellence.

Key Insight: A dedicated and cohesive team is transformative, capable of overcoming challenges and achieving remarkable results through mutual trust, support, and shared goals.

Strategy: Invest in team development by nurturing skills, providing growth opportunities, and fostering continuous learning. Create a workplace culture that values every team member through collaboration, recognition, and celebration of successes.

Impact: Increased performance from team development programs leads to higher retention and engagement. A strong sense of belonging fosters loyalty and commitment, driving exceptional results and ensuring long-term success and sustainability.

3. Adaptability and Resilience

In an industry characterized by constant change and unpredictability, adaptability is not just desirable; it is essential. Individuals and organizations need to be able to pivot and adjust plans swiftly in response to unforeseen circumstances. Whether it is a sudden change in event requirements, unexpected technical issues, or external factors like the COVID-19 pandemic, being adaptable is key to staying ahead.

Resilience, too, plays a critical role. Resilience enables individuals and organizations to weather storms, learn from setbacks, and emerge stronger. When faced with adversity, resilient individuals do not falter; they find ways to overcome obstacles and keep moving forward.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lori’s organization faced unprecedented challenges, including mandated closures and event cancellations. However, instead of succumbing to despair, they pivoted their approach, finding innovative ways to support the community and stay connected with clients.

Adaptability and resilience are not just individual traits; they are also characteristics of successful organizations. In a world where change is constant, companies that can adapt and bounce back ultimately succeed.

Key Insight: Adaptability and resilience are essential for thriving in an industry characterized by constant change and unpredictability.

Strategy: Develop the ability to pivot and adjust plans swiftly in response to unforeseen circumstances. Foster resilience by learning from setbacks and finding ways to overcome obstacles. 

Impact: Organizations and individuals who adapt quickly and remain resilient in the face of challenges are better positioned to thrive. This leads to sustained success and the ability to navigate dynamic environments effectively.

4. Customer-Centric Approach

Understanding and anticipating customer needs is key to success in the hospitality industry, so Lori emphasizes the importance of a customer-centric approach.

Her team can deliver exceptional service and build long-lasting relationships by truly understanding their client’s needs and desires. This dedication to customer satisfaction not only develops loyalty but also drives operational excellence and business success.

Exceptional service does not just happen by chance; it requires a proactive and customer-focused mindset at every level of the organization. From front line staff to senior management, everyone plays a role in delivering outstanding service and exceeding customer expectations.

By prioritizing the customer experience, RBC London Place has differentiated itself in a competitive market. A customer-centric approach is not just about meeting needs; it is about anticipating them. By staying attuned to industry trends, gathering feedback, and constantly innovating, the team ensures they are always one step ahead in delivering what their customers want and need.

Key Insight: A customer-centric approach is foundational to achieving operational excellence and long-term business success.

Strategy: Foster a proactive and customer-focused mindset across all levels of the organization, from front line staff to senior management.

Impact: Prioritizing the customer experience differentiates the organization in a competitive market, fostering loyalty and trust. A customer-centric approach inspires innovation, strengthens relationships, and ensures sustainable success by staying ahead of industry trends.

5. Embracing Technology and Innovation

The world underwent a dramatic transformation during the COVID-19 pandemic, reshaping how businesses, organizations, and individuals connect. As discussed, the pivot to virtual meetings was not just a temporary fix but a significant evolution in how we communicate and collaborate. This shift has proven to be a resilient and valuable aspect of the modern workplace, even as the world returns to in-person interactions.

The Initial Shift to Virtual

When the pandemic hit, social distancing and lockdowns forced many events and meetings to go virtual. Conferences, business meetings, and even casual gatherings quickly adapted to platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Companies and organizations that had never considered remote work or virtual meetings found themselves navigating new technology and rethinking their operational strategies.

Embracing Hybrid Models

Recognizing the potential of virtual and hybrid meetings was crucial. Lori’s organization collaborated with an audiovisual partner to set up a studio within their building, facilitating high-quality virtual events. This foresight allowed them to continue hosting events, such as a band performance in an empty ballroom, with only the crew present. This adaptability ensured they could maintain operations and engage with their audience despite physical limitations.

Learning from Global Experiences

The experience of organizations around the world varied significantly. Some regions continued with in-person events under strict health protocols, while others embraced virtual and hybrid models for extended periods. This global diversity provided a rich tapestry of models and practices from which to learn. Lori’s team closely monitored these global trends, gathering research and insights to inform their strategies.

One key takeaway was that hybrid meetings often resulted in higher costs. Hosting an event with both in-person and virtual components meant doubling efforts and expenses, as each format required tailored content and technical support.

The Return to In-Person Events

Despite the initial success and necessity of virtual meetings, there has been a noticeable swing back to live, in-person events. As Lori pointed out, the emotional and relational aspects of face-to-face interactions are irreplaceable. People value the connections and experiences that come from being physically present with others, something that virtual platforms struggle to replicate fully. This return to in-person events highlights the importance of human connection in our professional and personal lives.

The Future of Meetings

The pandemic has changed the outlook of meetings and events. While many have returned to in-person gatherings, the tools and practices developed for virtual meetings remain invaluable. They provide flexibility and accessibility, allowing for broader participation and inclusivity. The challenge moving forward will be to blend the best of both worlds, creating seamless hybrid experiences that cater to both in-person and virtual audiences.

Key Insight: The COVID-19 pandemic transformed online meetings from a temporary necessity into a significant evolution in communication and collaboration. Virtual and hybrid models have proven resilient and valuable, providing flexibility and inclusivity in the modern workplace, even as in-person interactions resume.

Strategy: Collaborate with audiovisual partners to set up dedicated rooms and adapt to virtual platforms. Research different virtual strategies to ensure that both in-person and virtual components are well-executed and engaging.

Impact: Enhanced operational flexibility and broader participation by integrating virtual and hybrid models. Organizations can maintain engagement and productivity despite physical limitations, ensuring continued success. The blend of in-person and virtual meetings fosters human connection while leveraging the benefits of technology for an inclusive experience.

Shaping a Successful Future

“If I’m leaving a legacy, it’s a very strong team, a very determined team, a very capable team, and a well-trained team.”

Achieving operational excellence and long-term success requires strategic planning, continuous learning, and a strong commitment to the team. 

Investing in team development and leveraging technology are essential strategies. The pivot to virtual and hybrid meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for flexibility and innovation. Organizations that navigated this shift successfully demonstrated the importance of adapting quickly to changing circumstances, ensuring continued engagement and productivity.

Building a successful future means cultivating a strong, capable team ready to tackle any challenge. This involves nurturing skills, fostering continuous learning, and creating a culture of collaboration and support. A well-trained, determined team, coupled with a proactive approach to customer service, lays the foundation for sustained excellence and growth.

For those seeking to elevate their team’s skills, we stand ready to engage in a conversation. Explore the topics on our website, uniquedevelopment.com, that matter most to your organization, and let us chart a course toward enhanced skills, confidence, and capability for your leaders.


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