Why hostmanship is an integral part of my personal and professional life

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Sometimes it just clicks in your mind. When you read about a specific topic and think, “Hey! That’s me!“. A few days ago, while falling through another late-night Scrum rabbit hole, I came across the term ‘hostmanship’. After reading about it, I realized how much it reminded me of values I hold dear in both my personal and professional life. To me, everything I do revolves around creating a welcoming and inclusive environment. Not only in private, but also in my capacity as an Agile Coach, manager and leader.

In this blog post, I will look at the principles of hostmanship and how they can be used to improve team dynamics, outcomes and growth.

What is hostmanship?

Jan Gunnarson defines hostmanship as the philosophy of creating welcoming and meaningful encounters in personal and professional settings. Hostmanship is defined as “the art of making people feel welcome” and emphasizes the value of hospitality, empathy, and proactive engagement in cultivating positive relationships and experiences. This philosophy applies to all interactions, with the goal of creating a sense of belonging and value for all parties involved.

According to Jan Gunnarson, hostmanship consists of six major components: serving, responsibility, caring, knowledge, dialogue, and seeing the big picture. These elements demonstrate a proactive and thoughtful approach to creating environments in which everyone feels expected, respected, and valued, both personally and professionally.

The philosophy of hostmanship promotes an empathetic and service-oriented mindset, emphasizing the importance of developing meaningful relationships through genuine care and understanding.

Hostmanship at home

The discovery of hostmanship was a lightbulb moment for me. It perfectly encapsulated my natural inclination for empathy, connection, and creating joyful, inclusive environments. Suddenly, there was a term for what I had been doing instinctively all along: making others feel welcome and valued.

My husband and I have always enjoyed creating welcoming spaces for our guests, with every detail carefully curated, from creating ambiance to engaging in good conversation. This philosophy extends to our experiences at bars, restaurants, and in our social circles, where we have been critical observers of hospitality. It has always been about creating experiences in which guests feel truly seen and valued.

Hostmanship as a professional

Discovering hostmanship has been a revelation for me, reflecting my ESFP personality and inherent desire to connect with and uplift those around me. At its core, hostmanship reflects my life’s ethos of creating positive environments in which everyone feels valued, heard, and inspired. Hostmanship offers a philosophy that perfectly complements my intuitive approach to leadership and teamwork.

🍝 Serving reflects my desire to support and elevate others, not for recognition, but for the team’s success and joy. This translates into creating environments in which each team member can thrive, removing roadblocks, and celebrating their accomplishments as a collective victory.

🛟 As a host, I believe in taking responsibility for our actions and the impact they have on others. As a Scrum Master, it’s important to guide the team with integrity, uphold principles, and adapt to individual needs.

💌 Caring is at the heart of everything I do. Understanding and responding to my team’s needs and emotions not only improves our work environment, but also strengthens our bond and overall resilience. It’s about creating an environment in which everyone feels truly supported, both professionally and personally.

💡 Knowledge in hostmanship is a continuous process of learning and sharing. It’s a goal I strive to achieve by staying up-to-date on Agile methodologies and seeking understanding from my team’s diverse experiences and perspectives. This commitment to growth creates an environment of mutual respect and inspiration.

🗣️ Dialogue emphasizes open and honest communication, which I always prioritize. Meaningful conversations allow us to navigate challenges, celebrate successes, and foster an environment of transparency and trust.

Finally, seeing the big picture 🖼️ reflects my approach to understanding and connecting the dots. It’s about reminding the team of our overarching goals and how each contribution brings us closer to our common vision, fostering a sense of purpose and belonging.

Hostmanship shares many similarities with the role of ‘servant leadership’, which is one of the virtuous roles of a Scrum Master. Both concepts emphasize the importance of creating a supportive, inclusive, and empowering environment in which team members can thrive and excel.

Hostmanship could however, complement and enhance the servant leadership approach. A Scrum Master can effectively support their team by integrating hostmanship values and creating an environment conducive to collaboration and excellence.

Practical tips for effective hostmanship

Integrating hostmanship into your professional role can have a significant impact on the team’s dynamics, performance, and overall satisfaction. I’ve come up with 13 ways to incorporate hostmanship into your daily professional practices:

  1. Every day, greet team members warmly
    • A warm greeting promotes inclusion and respect, setting a positive tone for the day. It communicates to team members that they are valued individuals, not just resources, creating a welcoming environment.
  2. Encourage a culture of gratitude and appreciation
    • Recognizing contributions and expressing gratitude strengthens team relationships and morale. It demonstrates that efforts are recognized and valued, encouraging team members to continue giving their best.
  3. Lead by example in demonstrating respect and empathy
    • Modeling respect and empathy in all interactions sets a good example for the team. It fosters a supportive environment in which team members feel understood and valued, which is critical for collaborative problem solving.
  4. Engage in small talk to demonstrate interest in colleagues’ lives
    • Taking an interest in your team members’ lives outside of work demonstrates that you care about them as individuals. This fosters deeper connections and trust, essential for a well-functioning team.
  5. Provide proactive assistance to team members who are facing challenges
    • Proactively offering assistance not only helps to overcome immediate obstacles, but it also strengthens the team’s resilience and ability to tackle future challenges collaboratively.
  6. Maintain an open-door policy for discussions and spontaneous conversations
    • An open-door policy promotes transparency and continuous feedback, which are critical components of agile practices. It ensures that concerns and ideas can be raised and addressed quickly, contributing to continuous improvement.
  7. Celebrate team and individual accomplishments publicly
    • Achievements are recognized publicly, which boosts morale and fosters a sense of accomplishment. It emphasizes the importance of individual and collective contributions to the team’s and organization’s goals.
  8. Plan team-building activities to strengthen relationships
    • Team-building activities help to foster trust and collaboration, both of which are essential for team success. They allow team members to connect and understand each other better, resulting in smoother collaboration.
  9. Listen actively and empathetically in all interactions
    • Active and empathetic listening validates team members’ ideas and concerns. It creates a safe environment for expressing ideas and challenges, critical for innovation and overcoming barriers.
  10. Give constructive feedback with kindness
    • Giving feedback with kindness and a constructive intent encourages growth and improvement while not lowering morale.
  11. Create a welcoming work environment
    • A welcoming and comfortable work environment improves team members’ well-being and productivity. It reflects the importance placed on their comfort and effectiveness.
  12. Recognize and celebrate the cultural diversity within the team
    • Celebrating cultural diversity improves team dynamics by introducing new perspectives and problem-solving methods. It promotes inclusivity and respect for different backgrounds, improving team creativity and cohesion.
  13. Don’t force your hostmanship; instead, keep it authentic
    • Authenticity is the foundation of hosting. People have an intuitive ability to distinguish between sincerity and pretense. If you have a day off, that’s OK. Simply do not force it!

What if hostmanship isn’t your thing? 

If hostmanship is not a natural part of your skillset, there are still ways to cope with this. First and foremost, take the time to study and comprehend the principles of hostmanship. Practice incorporating them into your interactions with and outside of your team. Hostmanship should be viewed as a skill that can be improved over time. Set goals for yourself to improve skills like empathy, communication, and relationship-building. Make an intentional effort to understand and empathize with the experiences and perspectives of others. Empathy is an essential component of hostmanship and can significantly improve your ability to connect with and support your team. Solicit feedback from team members on how you can create a more welcoming and supportive environment. Use this feedback constructively to modify your behavior.

Also, don’t be afraid to seek help and advice from mentors, coaches, or colleagues who have experience with hostmanship or effective leadership practices. Observe and learn from other leaders who excel at demonstrating hospitality. Model their behavior and techniques in your own leadership style.


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