Archive for June, 2009

The Many Ways to “Kill” Employee Empowerment

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Several weeks back we blogged about the importance of creating a culture that promotes Employee Empowerment at your club.  We quoted from John Tschohl, President of the Service Quality Institute, who said, “Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader.”  Mr. Tschohl went on to say that, “Empowerment is the most critical skill an employee can master and a company can drive in order to lure and keep customers.”Â

quote1-2Given the importance of empowering your employees, it’s helpful to understand the many ways to destroy such empowerment and that none of them are caused by employees.  If your employees do not feel empowered, look no further than your leadership and the way you interact with your people.  In searching for reasons empowerment isn’t working, focus on the following:

You are only paying lip service to empowerment.  Without your sincere commitment to your employees and their success, they will recognize your “empowerment” as a sham and will become more cynical and disaffected the more you try to encourage their “empowerment.”

You don’t really understand what empowerment is.  If you fail to realize that empowerment begins and ends with your leadership, if you think that empowerment is something your employees have to create, expecting your employees to act in empowered ways is a waste of time and energy.

You haven’t provided the “big picture” context of what your organization is trying to achieve.  Your employees need to understand how their contribution furthers the basic aims of the organization.  Defining and sharing your values and goals is a first step.

You’ve failed to give your employees the information and training they need to understand the context and scope of their empowerment.  When you ask them to take on additional responsibilities as empowered employees, they need to understand why and what the benefits are to them as well as to you and the club.  They will also need examples of what empowered behavior is.  Lastly, they will need to know that they will not be blamed or punished for making mistakes.Â

You’ve given them guidelines, but then micromanage them.  Maybe you’ve done a good job of defining limits, but then micromanage them.  When you do this they will quickly understand that they are not “empowered” and that you will continue to make all the decisions, no matter how trivial.

You second guess the decisions you’ve authorized your employees to make.  After giving your employees the guidelines to make empowered decisions, you second guess and criticize every decision they make.  Put yourself in their shoes; how long would you put up with this before throwing in the towel on “employee empowerment”?

You have failed to give feedback on how your empowered employees are doing.  Feedback, particularly early on, is critical so that employees understand by constant discussion and explanation what they are doing right and what can be improved on.  Once they achieve a critical mass of understanding, they will feel more and more confident of their actions, will need less guidance, and will be looking for more and more ways to contribute.

You have failed to value your employees.  Without the most basic sense that they are valued and recognized as partners in your efforts to provide quality and service to members, they will recognize that your program of “empowerment” is just a way to manipulate them.  People who think they are being manipulated are resentful and will be unresponsive to your continued exhortations to be “empowered.”

For more information on what it takes to empower your employees, click here.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – where membership and all resources are FREE!

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Guest Blog: Add More than a Towel Service and Lounge Chairs to Your Pool Deck!

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

 We are operating in different times.  How many times have you heard that lately?  Our members want more for less and expect exceptional service at all times (ok, so their mindset probably has not changed with the downturn economy).  What have you added to your program to add value?   Summer is here!  It’s a great time to add a few low cost programs to keep your members happy and the pool deck is the perfect place to get started!

 Pool Games

Calling all kids!  Grab a couple staff members to conduct weekly poolside games to include a penny dive, relay races (wet t-shirt, ride a noodle, etc.), ping pong ball Scrabble, etc.  Most of the needed supplies are probably lying around the club or can be borrowed.  Prizes can be as inexpensive as a 5 cent freeze pop!  The kids will love it!  Log onto www.wemanagefun.com all summer long for pool game ideas!

Sno-cones or Sundaes on Sunday

What fun to come to the pool for a FREE (or inexpensive) cool treat!  Once or twice per month, schedule a staff member to man a sno-cone machine or build your own sundae bar.  You can rent a sno-cone machine for as little as $35 or buy your own!  Providing ice cream and toppings is a bit more expensive, but worth the member satisfaction.

Water Fitness

For $25-$40 per hour, you can provide a water fitness class for your membership.  Exercising outdoors is great alternative to going to the gym and you can work on your tan!  Contact your local YMCA or fitness club for a list of water fitness instructors you can contact to employ over the summer or ask your membership for names of instructors they have met in the past – you know they love to share their ideas!Â

Kids Splash and Parents Dash

Give parents a 2-hour window to run errands or spend time at home alone by providing a 2-hour pool program for the kids!  Engage them with games, contests, outdoor crafts, etc.  Parents will gladly pay for this service.  I suggest offering a second child discount.  What a great way to make some revenue and help out a mom who needs a few hours to herself!

Dive In Movie

Outdoor movies are making a come back, why not offer one at your pool!  Wal-Mart is selling inflatable movie screens for less than $200.  You will also need a DVD projector and speakers for sound.  Many times, clubs have projectors available for conferences and meetings and most pools these days have speakers on the deck.  Check out your facility and see if this might be an easy addition for you!Â

Poolside Pampering

How about hosting a manicures and mimosa morning at the pool for the ladies?  Hire a mobile spa service to conduct mini pedicures and manicures on the pool deck.  The cost is passed on to members and the club can decide whether the mimosas are charged or complimentary.Â

The possibilities are endless!  Adding a little pizzaz to your pool deck will keep your members interested and coming back for more.  It’s one more reason why they will continue to talk up your club and possibly recruit a few of their friends!Â

Cindy Williams, Corporate Director of Activities, East West Partners Club Management

Cindy is a nationally-recognized expert in family lifestyle programming in private clubs. In addition to her blog, WeManageFun, she speaks at conferences and seminars and provides consulting services to the club industry.

 

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – where membership and all resources are FREE!

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Service Breakdown: A Failure of Leadership

Monday, June 15th, 2009

After thirty-five plus years in the hospitality business in both hotels and private clubs, I can state categorically that poor service comes from poor leadership.  Show me an operation with poor, shoddy, inconsistent service, and I’ll show you an organization with a failure of leadership.  This observation flows from the understanding that leaders who recognize service problems in their organization will take corrective action.  They will establish a plan of action, set priorities, lead employees to execute the plan, and follow through to completion.

Why, then, is poor service so often the rule rather than the exception?  I have met many competent, hard-working, and professional general managers who voiced a clear and unequivocal service vision for their operations.  They understood the need for well-defined standards, thorough training of employees, and constant reinforcement of service ideals within their organizations.  Yet, they struggle to establish and maintain high standards of service.  While we all recognize the many demands on our time, the challenge of employee turnover, the training burden in a detail-intensive business, time constraints, and ever-present budget pressures, these are not the root problem.

In examining this challenge that never seems to go away, I believe I have discovered the most significant source of the problem – the lack of well developed and consistent leadership skills among subordinate managers, those who direct the day-to-day activities of the operation’s line employees.  While the general manager may clearly understand and articulate the requirements of service, unless that “gospel” is communicated faithfully, consistently, and continuously to line employees by their immediate supervisors, there is a breakdown in the service message.

Throughout my career I have inherited or hired front line supervisors whose background, experience, and education should have prepared them for the challenges they would face daily in our business.  While most had more than adequate technical skills to execute their responsibilities, they were often lacking in a critical aspect of leadership – how to direct and motivate employees to achieve high levels of quality and excellence.

While some front line supervisors demonstrated exceptional leadership skills, many did not.  Often my biggest problems were created by supervisors who did not treat their employees properly, who did not communicate expectations, and who did not seem to understand or follow the most basic requirements of leading or managing people.  These profound failings were crippling to the organization and required many hours of counseling, training, and, in some cases, terminations to remedy.

Over time I realized that any focus on training of line employees to smile and be friendly was a waste of time until I could be assured that supervisors developed basic leadership skills.  From that point on, I focused my efforts on training supervisors.  Regardless of background or education, I wanted them to learn to be effective leaders, to paint and preach a vision of excellence for their staff, establish goals, communicate expectations, provide support and training to their employees, and solve the inevitable problems that arise when people work in a service context.

The training called for a clear vision for hospitality operations and guiding principles that would shape our efforts.  I made it clear to supervisors that our employees were truly our most important resource, and they must be treated with dignity and respect.  Supervisors were told that their primary job was to provide direction, support, and training for their employees and that, based on their experience or education; I held them to a higher standard.  I also provided detailed guidance on how to develop line employees and correctly counsel and discipline when necessary.  Finally, I put a positive emphasis on communication and problem discovery.  In time these concepts were formalized into a leaders’ handbook which was issued to newly-hired supervisors.

How successful was I in achieving my ends?  I would frankly admit that the results were mixed.  While some supervisors responded positively, others seemed incapable or unwilling to grasp basic leadership principles.  These, typically, after much invested time and effort, were encouraged to take their talents elsewhere.  But on the whole, the effort yielded improved employee morale, lower turnover, better two-way communication, and a more upbeat team spirit among all staff.  We still struggled with budget and time constraints on training, but we were far better off than we would have been without the effort.

Consistency and high levels of service will always be a challenge in business.  Without competent and committed leaders at all levels, general managers will always be trying to “do it all.”  In time they will burn out or be forced to compromise their standards.   In either case the result is service breakdown.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – where membership and all resources are FREE!

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Service-Based Leadership

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Service-Based Leadership is the foundation for Remarkable Service.

Given that leading ultimately involves guiding, influencing, and directing people, I posit the following working definition for “Leadership”:

Leadership is the sum of those individual traits, skills, and abilities that allow one person to commit and direct the efforts of others toward the accomplishment of a particular objective.

Central to this definition is the understanding that exercising leadership involves building and sustaining relationships between leader and followers. Without this bond or connection, there are no willing followers and, therefore, no true leader. Given that no leader operates in a vacuum, it also requires that the leader establish relationships with other relevant constituencies.

With Service-Based Leadership, the attitude and primary motivation of the leader is service to others – to members, to employees, to shareholders. This approach to leadership naturally creates relationships – the deep and abiding bonds that sustain the efforts of the organization. This outward focus of the leader sets up a dynamic where:

  • Employees are continually recognized.
  • There is an open flow of ideas, opinions, and information.
  • Initiative and risk are highly regarded.
  • Problem discovery and solution is a focus while placing blame is unimportant.
  • Every employee feels energized and part of the team and is valued for his or her contribution.
  • Prestige is derived from performance and contribution, not title or position.
  • Members are treated well because employees are treated well.
  • The energy and initiative of all employees is focused on the common effort.

With Service-Based Leadership, you will find that service to both internal and external customers is effortless. Less energy is expended in processing complaints, grievances, and conflicts. Work is more fun and everyone’s job is easier.

The Service-Based Leader understands that the key to serving the needs of those he or she serves lies in ensuring that strong relationships are established with individuals. How does one do this? Begin by:

  • Treating everyone you meet with courtesy, respect, and good cheer.
  • Focusing on each person you deal with as if he or she were the most important person in the world.
  • Taking the time to get to know people; sharing your time and attention with them.
  • Learning about other people’s jobs and the challenges and difficulties they face.
  • Keeping promises and following through on commitments.
  • Being principled, showing fairness, and demonstrating integrity.
  • Recognizing the ultimate value of people in all you do.

Relationships depend upon how you view yourself in relation to others. If you see yourself as separate and apart from your constituencies, if you view others as the means to your end, if your vision and goals lack a broader purpose than your own needs and ambitions, establishing meaningful relationships will be impossible. On the other hand, when you see yourself as part of a team with a shared mission, then a sense of service will be an intrinsic part of your service team relationships.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – where membership and all resources are FREE!

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A Culture of Service

Monday, June 1st, 2009

We frequently talk about the importance of developing an organizational  culture of service.  What exactly do we mean by an organizational culture?

The dictionary defines “culture” as the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.  With a slight modification of this definition we come up with the following working definition of organizational culture.  The sum total ways of working and interacting built up by a group of people within an organization and transmitted from one generation of employees to another.

The major benefit of establishing an organizational culture is that once adopted by the majority of people in an organization the culture takes on a life of its own and permeates the workplace.  As normal turnover takes place, new hires quickly learn that to be accepted in their new surroundings, they must embrace the culture and make it their own.  In the absence of a culture developed and disseminated by the organization’s leadership, a culture will arise on its own, usually fostered by a vocal few and often cynical and at odds with the purpose of the organization.

So how do you create a culture in your organization?  First, you have to define clearly and succinctly the aims of your organization and what it aspires to be.  These are most often found in Mission and Vision Statements.  Beyond these basic statements of intent, one must clearly spell out standards of behavior and performance.  These can be in the form of Guiding Principles, Operating Standards, Leadership Principles, Service Ethic, Principles of Employee Relations, Organizational Values, Service Pocket Cards, a Code of Professional Ethics, or any other formal statements describing the “What, How’s, and Why’s” of how organizational business should be conducted.

Yet publishing such principles and statements, no matter how inspirational and well-written, will only foster employee cynicism if the values are not enthusiastically embraced by the organization’s leadership.  On the other hand, when leadership demonstrates their commitment to the organization’s values by their daily example, employees will do likewise.

With well-defined values and the enthusiastic example of leaders, the ground has been prepared for the fruits of organizational culture, but just as in growing a garden, preparing the soil is only the first step.  The real work for a successful harvest is the daily tending – watering, fertilizing, pruning, weeding, and pest control.  In the case of an organizational culture, it is daily reinforcement at every opportunity with all employees that continues to focus individual attention on the values that underlie everyone’s efforts.  In some cases, it’s publicly recognizing an employee for embracing and utilizing the values in their work relationships or service rendered to members.  In other cases, it’s privately correcting an employee who has ignored or transgressed the culture.  In extreme cases, it’s terminating the employee who refuses to accept the group norm.  The key is to continually remind employees of the organization’s values and elevate them from words on a page to an animating spirit that permeates every aspect of the organization and its work.

From the process of continually accentuating and reminding one achieves a breakthrough similar to that described in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great.

Sustainable transformations follow a predictable pattern of buildup and breakthrough.  Like pushing on a giant, heavy flywheel, it takes a lot of effort to get the thing moving at all, but with persistent pushing in a consistent direction over a long period of time, the flywheel builds momentum, eventually hitting a point of breakthrough.”

This breakthrough is reached when the organization achieves a critical mass of employee buy-in.  Though the process of establishing an organizational culture requires patience and persistence as well as leadership and example, when breakthrough is achieved, the culture takes over and is self-sustaining – with the employees holding the bar high and policing their own ranks.

In such an organization, employees understand what must be done and how.  Motivation and morale are sky-high as employees are empowered by their participation and contribution.  The leader, relieved of the burden of constantly following behind employees to ensure they are doing the right things, can focus on strategic issues and the future of the organization.

The importance of a well-defined and promoted organizational culture cannot be overemphasized or underestimated in its impact on quality, performance, and member service.  The only thing that can screw it up is for the leader to fail to show an ongoing interest or set an uncompromising example of the organizational culture and its values.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – where membership and all resources are FREE!

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