Morale Matters

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.

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