Archive for October, 2009

Good Leadership – It’s Just Common Sense

Monday, October 26th, 2009

I recently read an Internet-posted news article entitled, “Disney Offers Customer Service Training.”  Written by Adrian Sainz, the article talked about Miami International Airport employees taking customer service training from the Disney Institute, a division of Walt Disney Company set up to teach its principles and practices to other companies.  Let’s pick up on the story.

“Now the Institute has taken another client: Miami International Airport, which many travelers will tell you needs customer service training like an airplane needs wings. Surveys rank its service among the nation’s worst. The airport’s terminal operations employees are taking classes taught by Institute instructors, learning leadership practices, team building, staff relations and communication skills-many formulated by Walt Disney himself.

“Disney takes great pride in ensuring a fun time and repeat business, mainly by emphasizing customer service and attention to detail while trying not to appear too sterile or robotic.

“Early in the training, a handful of Miami airport managers visited the Magic Kingdom, where they were shown examples on how paying attention to detail and removing barriers were integral in making guests happy and keeping them informed.”

The article went on discussing various techniques used by Disney to enhance customer service.  While I found this discussion somewhat interesting, it was the reader comments posted below the article that caught my attention.  Here they are (emphasis added is mine):

1st Posted Comment:  “I work for a medical practice in Georgia that sends a few of their employees to Disney for training each year. Our patients (guests) really responded well to our new customer service guidelines. However, management really needed to attend the training as well as the regular employees. They became complacent in their ‘ivory tower’ and expected all of us to treat the patients well (and of course we did); however, management needed to extend the same courtesy and good manners to their employees. In the past 3 months the company has had record turnover and still harbors a large disgruntled employee pool. No idle words …. ‘Treat others the way you would want to be treated.'”

2nd Posted Comment:  “When we returned, all 1st level management (the ones dealing with the customers) were asked to implement the Disney experience in our daily activities. To this day we have weekly meetings with our senior management to report how our teams are embracing the changes. Unfortunately many of the associates treat it as ‘the flavor of the month’ program to improve customer satisfaction. We are still trying to make a culture change with our staff.  The most unfortunate part of the Disney experience was that although our senior management went along on the trip, I am yet to witness the impact it had on them when dealing with us 1st level managers.”

ed-jpeg-43rd Posted Comment:  “I agree with the posters who feel that senior management should lead by example and treat their subordinates with dignity and respect. It just seems like common sense, that when employees are happy and feel well treated, this will filter down to the way they treat the customers. Everyone in an organization deserves to be treated well and this makes for optimum performance.”

Three of the four postings by readers made the same point about management.  This suggests the obvious:  that without the active involvement and example of leadership (and Service-Based Leadership at that), improvements in employee morale, dedication, empowerment, and ultimately in customer service will not happen.

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 – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Morale Matters

Monday, October 19th, 2009

In 1951 General Dwight David Eisenhower was tasked with the nearly overwhelming challenge of rallying the European democracies to the need for a common defense force – NATO – to counter the threat of the Soviet Union and its 175-Division Red Army.  The mood in the European capitals was one of deep pessimism.  Having seen two world wars on their continent in a span of thirty years, having suffered death and destruction on a massive scale, facing home populations with deep distrust and antagonisms toward their neighbors-especially Germany-the situation was not promising for the necessary cooperation and effort to counter the Soviet menace.

While Eisenhower knew that the rearmament of Europe would be costly and take time, he saw as his greatest challenge the need to rebuild European morale and confidence.  At the time he told diplomat Averell Harriman, “The last thing that a leader may be is pessimistic if he is to achieve success.”  In his diary he wrote, “Civilian leaders talk about the state of morale in a given country as if it were a sort of uncontrollable event or phenomenon, like a thunderstorm or a cold winter . . . (while) the soldier leader looks on morale as the greatest of all his problems, but also as one about which he can and must do something.”

Morale has always been, and will always be, an important concern for military leaders.  The effectiveness of their fighting force demands it.  But it is not just in armies that morale is important.  Athletic coaches know that dissension, bad attitudes, and pessimism will destroy all chances for victory, and they work hard to build the confidence and morale of their teams.  The same is true in business or any group endeavor.  Morale matters!

Attitude and morale are also important ingredients in hospitality and service operations where friendliness, good cheer, and enthusiasm are necessary requirements for success.  While hiring the right people with the right personal qualities has always been a safe bet when building service teams, the very act of creating teams brings its own challenges.  As pointed out in Passively Creating a Hostile Work Environment, the group dynamic often creates problems and can interfere with the smooth functioning of the work team.

So . . .  just how does a leader go about ensuring good morale within his or her team.  First and foremost, are the requirements of Service-Based Leadership – of the need to communicate well; of engaging daily with team members; listening to and addressing their concerns; providing the tools, resources, training, and support for employees to do their jobs well.

Beyond that is the need to recognize the ultimate value of people and act on that principle; to treat all employees with common decency; to lead by example and address concerns and problems promptly; and to be open and approachable for employees.

When all these things are done conscientiously and consistently by the leader, good morale is a natural by-product.  By focusing on being the best Service-Based Leader you can be, morale and its attendant esprit will come naturally.

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 – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Operating Standards

Monday, October 12th, 2009

As anyone who has ever read my writings knows, I am a firm believer in written standards, policies, and procedures as the basis for a well-organized hospitality operation.  Here are some of the reasons why:

Written standards (or the expected outcome of our “moments of truth”) for our products and services must be detailed in written policies and procedures.

We cannot begin in any meaningful way to train our employees until we have defined for them the standards which we wish to achieve.  These must be in writing to allow the General Manager and owners to evaluate and concur with the standards we contemplate.  When written they allow us to consistently pass on the standards to succeeding generations of employees.

Policies and procedures are the “what and how” of the way we do things.  Employees should not be allowed to freelance.  “Discretion [on the part of employees] is the enemy of quality.”  Again, policies and procedures must be written for consistency sake.  Taken together they form the basis for most training material.

Standards, policies, and procedures must be continually reviewed and updated as necessary.  Continual process improvement is the discipline that will not permit us to rest on our laurels, but instead be constantly working to make all aspects of the operation better.

What are some of the reasons that managers do not prepare written standards, policies, and procedures?

  • It takes too much time (so they don’t mind wasting immense amounts of time dealing with untrained staff and a disorganized operation)
  • No one told them to do it (in other words, they don’t have any initiative; they’re not, as Jim Collins described in Good to Great,  “disciplined people taking disciplined action”)
  • Their writing skills are not up to it (so they’ve given up instead of looking for creative ways to make it happen)
  • They don’t know what standards, policies, or procedures to prepare (then why are they a manager? – somewhere in their heads must be an idea of how they want to organize and run their operation)
  • They don’t know what format to use (could copying Club Resources International’s already designed format be any easier?)
  • They have no excuse.  Which is exactly right!

Having faced these issues in job after job in both hotels and clubs, I have over the years prepared an immense amount of written standards, policies, and procedures which are available on the Club Resources International website.  You can join the site for free and begin downloading these resources and customizing them for use at your club.  So honestly, there is no longer any excuse!

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 – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Implementation of Remarkable Service

Monday, October 5th, 2009

While many think that it costs more to provide Remarkable Service levels, this is not necessarily so.  At the end of the day it’s more about organization and discipline than it is about higher costs.

It does, however, require commitment on the part of the owners or board, buy-in from the club’s membership, and a long-term, focused effort from the General Manager and management staff.  The end result of Remarkable Service, of an organized and efficient operation, and a focused staff working in unison toward a common goal, comes from Jim Collins’ Flywheel effect.  To quote from Good to Great,

What do the right people want more than anything else?  They want to be part of a winning team.  They want to contribute to producing visible, tangible results.  They want to feel the excitement of being involved in something that just flat-out works.  When the right people see a simple plan born of confronting the brutal facts – a plan developed from understanding, not bravado – they are likely to say, ‘That’ll work.  Count me in.’ When they see the monolithic unity of the executive team behind the simple plan and the selfless, dedicated qualities of Level 5 leadership, they’ll drop their cynicism.  When people begin to feel the magic of momentum – when they begin to see tangible results, when they can feel the flywheel beginning to build speed – that’s when the bulk of people line up to throw their shoulders against the wheel and push.”

Realistically, the process may take three to five years . . . or longer.  But the benefits to the club are as remarkable as the level of service achieved, including:

  • Accountable, service-based leaders
  • Willing, committed, and empowered staff
  • Lower staff turnover; improved morale and motivation
  • Greater operational efficiencies
  • Improved operating performance
  • Less liability exposure
  • Better planning and execution
  • Less turmoil and chaos in the operation
  • Improved member sales, member satisfaction and retention

The important thing for management, staff, and members to recognize is that they are working on a plan to revitalize their club.  And as legendary Dallas Cowboy coach Tom Landry said,

Setting a goal is not the main thing.  It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.”

Click here to read the entire Quest for Remarkable Service white paper.

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 – Management Resources for Clubs!

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