Archive for February, 2010

How Consistent is Your Club Leadership?

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Strong, stable, and consistent leadership is the single most important requirement for successful club operations.  While there are many styles of leadership suited to any industry or endeavor, experience over many years in the club business makes it clear to this writer that a service-based approach to leadership works best in the service industry with its often young, mixed gender, and multi-ethnic workforce.  This style of leadership has as its primary motivation service to others — to members, to the owners of the club, and to the employees.

ed-jpeg-4This leadership style differs from others in its focus on serving the needs of employees to provide them with the proper tools, training, resources, motivation, and empowerment to serve the club’s members.  In simplest terms, when a club’s employees are served by their leaders, they will serve the members, who by their continuing patronage serve the club’s bottom line.  An understanding of the importance of this style of leadership can be inferred from the simple question,

“How can employees provide quality service if they are not properly served by the leadership and example of their managers?”

While it is recognized that the General Manager must be a strong leader, it is also critical that the club’s subordinate managers and supervisors are also trained to be strong service-based leaders.  While some degree of a leader’s skill-set seems to be inborn, such as personality and an analytic mind, and others, such as confidence, judgment, and basic communication abilities, are developed early in life, the great majority of a leader’s skills are attitudinal and can be learned.

But to expect that your managers with varying backgrounds, education, and experiences will have a common understanding of what constitutes effective leadership is naïve in the extreme.  Unless junior managers are systematically trained to develop the skills which have to do with building and sustaining meaningful work relationships with their constituencies, particularly employees, their leadership development will be hindered and haphazard.  This results in the General Manager’s vision and message of service not being communicated consistently or faithfully to line employees.  Instead of having a cohesive team dedicated to a common purpose and acting in a concerted way to further the aims of the enterprise, the club is a collection of tribes who don’t necessarily approach the mission or their jobs in the same way or with the same attitude.

Without leadership consistency, employees get a mixed service message, and their morale, engagement, and commitment will vary from manager to manager and department to department.  It’s really quite simple — if your management team does not provide consistent:

  • Vision, values, and example,
  • Communication and engagement,
  • Training, resources, and support,
  • Regard for and treatment of employees,

You’ll never gain consistency of employee commitment, contribution, and performance.

But the good news is that successful leadership skills can be taught and learned.  Warren G. Bennis, widely regarded as a pioneer in the field of contemporary leadership studies, has said,

“The most dangerous myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership.  This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not.  That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true.  Leaders are made rather than born.”

So the solution to fragmented leadership is to promote a consistent style and application of leadership club-wide.  This can only be done by providing consistent leadership training to the entire management team.  But how does the General Manager teach leadership when you have so much else to do and possibly haven’t given a lot of thought to the issue?

theworkbook_cover-4Over the years while serving as general manager in hotels, resorts, and clubs, I searched a number of times and read a number of books — most extolling the successful leadership techniques of Fortune 500 or celebrity CEOs, or written by Academics with a lot of theory but little practical advice for those toiling in hospitality management.  My frustration in trying to find something useful finally led me to write my own leadership guidance for my team, and this ultimately became Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners, and Emerging Leaders, first published in 2002 and now in its 2nd edition.

This past year, in response to frequent requests to prepare a more “hands on” learning tool, I wrote and published Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, a companion piece to the original book that builds on the themes of Service-Based Leadership from the book by offering self-study sections on Leadership Basics, Values, Lessons, Applications, and Assessments.  Taken together the book and the workbook provide an effective way to teach and to learn a consistent, service-based approach to leadership.

Given the primary importance of leadership in any successful venture, it should never be left to chance.  Even if confident of your own leadership abilities, do yourself and your managers a favor by promoting a consistent, club-wide conception and application of leadership.  When consistently reinforced by your leadership and example, it will have a dramatic impact on their performance, as well as the club’s.

The book ($19.95) and workbook ($19.95) may be purchased at Amazon.com or on the Club Resources International website (never a shipping charge).

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!

Add to Technorati Favorites

 

Creating Measurable Accountabilities

Monday, February 15th, 2010

I have spent a good deal of time over the course of a career trying to establish a basis for meaningful work plans with measurable accountabilities for club department heads.  Looking back on a long career, I would reluctantly admit that I spent too much time doing and not enough time planning and appropriately delegating.

Sure, work planning takes time, particularly if you put enough effort into it to be of value . . . and finding measurable accountabilities for department head performance seems an elusive goal.  Now, though, on the tail end of my career, I have finally found the time to give the whole matter some serious thought.

As far as work planning goes, what I expect from subordinate managers is to meet goals and budgets and to help measure their progress toward specific objectives.  To do this I find it important to establish monthly reviews of financial performance, as well as timelines and milestones toward non-monetary goals, such as developing departmental operation plans and effective training programs.

On the other side of the coin, measurable accountabilities have continued to be a challenge.  Over the years I’ve developed and deployed several versions of managers’ performance evaluation criteria.  Each ultimately proved unsatisfactory though they included a number of meaningful and worthwhile objectives such as “builds teamwork and morale,” “directs work effectively,” and “follows through and implements well.”  As good as these criteria may look on paper; they turned out to be practically meaningless as I attempted to do reviews because I had no hard evidence or objective means of measuring them.  Once again my reviews degenerated to my “gut feel” or “overall sense of things.”  Clearly measurable accountabilities continued to prove elusive.

In recent months I’ve taken another stab at finding performance criteria for which I could establish specific measurable goals.  Here’s what I’ve come up with.

On the big picture scale, I’ve broken down performance expectations for department heads into 6 major categories — leadership, management, training, performance, compliance, and member satisfaction.  These can be weighted based upon changing emphases, but must equal 100%.  Within each major category are sub-categories that can in some way be measured.  These are also weighted, again totaling 100%.  The following chart lays out the major and sub- categories, as well as the means to evaluate and who is responsible for creating the measurements.

measurable-accountabilities-3

This whole process presupposes that the club has already instituted certain disciplines such as holding monthly reviews of financials and departmental plans with each department head; measurements such as departmental and personnel benchmarks; and both member and employee surveys.

I’m sure that there may be other worthwhile things to measure and for which subordinates should be responsible, and I’m equally sure that there will be some challenges in implementing such a system.  But ultimately I believe the benefits of holding subordinate managers strictly accountable for their performance outweighs any and all challenges encountered.

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!

Add to Technorati Favorites

Attending to the Basics in an Organized and Disciplined Way

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I received a phone call a couple of weeks back from an industry colleague who belongs to a private club.  He said he was serving on a committee to look for ways to increase membership and revenues, while cutting costs.  While I mentioned a couple of ideas, I launched into my familiar pitch that almost any club could benefit from attending to the basics of the business in an organized and disciplined way.

Most of us recognize that our business is not rocket science.  The basics of what we do are well-known to any club professional.  What makes our jobs so challenging is the sheer volume of things that must be attended to daily in a detail and people-intensive business.  Unless a club operation is well-organized and its managers highly disciplined, it operates in a state of barely-controlled chaos interspersed with periods of downtime.  The challenge for all is to transition quickly from storm to calm back to storm while remaining focused on long term goals, ongoing projects, and continual process improvement.  The solution is to organize the club so that most things happen routinely and that managers at all levels be highly disciplined in approaching their duties and efforts to improve the operation.

The great majority of private clubs suffer from similar problems rooted in the same underlying causes:

  1. Standalone operations with limited resources and few economies of scale.
  2. Clubs operate multiple businesses — food and beverage, golf, tennis, aquatics, retail, recreation, and the major maintenance effort involved in golf course operations.  The knowledge and skill set to operate clubs efficiently is large and complex, and especially challenging for lean management teams working long hours and weeks.
  3. The club business is both labor and detail-intensive requiring significant ongoing training, yet without the necessary resources to adequately provide it.  As a result most clubs operate from oral tradition and service complaints are a continuing issue.
  4. Most clubs operate without a written operations plan made up of detailed standards, policies, and procedures which, as Jim Muehlhausen says in his book, The 51 Fatal Business Errors, requires managers to reinvent the wheel every day.
  5. The hospitality industry as a whole and clubs in particularly offer relatively low wage jobs, limited benefits, and challenging working conditions.  As a result high levels of staff turnover are common, particularly among line employees.
  6. Older clubs with aging memberships and outdated facilities find it challenging to find the right mix of facilities and activities to attract new members.
  7. In most markets, there is ample competition for the members’ discretionary spending — and often from operations that offer limited well-designed and executed products or services; whereas clubs must be all things to all members.
  8. In a sense, club members are a “captive” audience and can quickly grow bored or dissatisfied with the same old events and activities.  A club staff, without the ability or resources to provide frequently changing “wow” factor events, will often hear the comment, “What have you done for me lately?”
  9. In some clubs ever-changing boards offer little continuity of direction.

Given these and other specific challenges that vary from club to club, it is absolutely imperative that club managers organize their operations in detail.  My own list of requirements includes:

  1. Leadership and management training for all managers and supervisors with an aim of having consistent and disciplined, service-based leaders taking disciplined actions (the benefits of which are discussed by Jim Collins in Good to Great, Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t).
  2. Well-defined and consistently reinforced organizational values and culture of service.
  3. A written operations plan made up of standards, policies, and procedures — absolutely critical for human resources and accounting, and fostering organization and discipline in club departments.
  4. Communicate thoroughly with members through a variety of tools and techniques, including newsletter, members only website, management calling programs, and General Manager’s letters.  Understand members’ wants and preferences by taking the pulse of the membership with an annual online survey and monthly surveys of smaller subsets of members.  Analyze member spending habits and purchases to determine individual likes and dislikes, as well as popular and unpopular club initiatives and offerings.
  5. Provide ongoing, thorough training of managers and employees.  This coupled with service-based leadership and a constantly reinforced culture of service will foster employee empowerment — and as John Tschohl, President of the Service Quality Institute says, “Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader.  Empowerment is the most critical skill an employee can master and a company can drive in order to lure and keep customers.”
  6. Use Tools to Beat Budget or some other means of real time tracking of revenues, payroll, and other expenses to quickly spot and intervene to correct operational under-performance.
  7. Benchmarking of all areas of the operation to establish the norms of the operation.  The value of benchmarks tracked over time is immense and includes establishing realistic goals for future periods, establishing measurable accountabilities for managers, and easing the preparation and improving the accuracy of future budgets.
  8. Detailed planning, both strategic and tactical, at all levels of the operation and a habit of Continual Process Improvement.
  9. Thorough work planning and performance reviews, coupled with a policy of strict accountability for performance.  This requires developing measurable performance criteria for all managerial positions.
  10. A membership marketing plan based upon the realities of the marketplace and requiring weekly call and action reports from the membership director.  Recognizing that satisfied members are the best recruiters of new members, involve hand-picked members in the membership sales effort.

Each of these necessities, while challenging, will improve the organization and discipline of the club while fostering consistently higher levels of service.  The resulting efficiency and service of a well-run club will make it easier to attract members, which improves dues and revenues and ultimately better positions the club in the marketplace.

Many of the tools and resources to implement the initiatives mentioned here are available on the Club Resources International website — most at no charge.  Currently the website has 1,550 high quality, fully integrated resources available — and more being added all the time.  Come explore the site and see for yourself!

Next Week:  Creating Measurable Accountabilities

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!

Add to Technorati Favorites

Training Strategies: Tools and Implementation

Monday, February 1st, 2010

By following the strategies discussed last week, clubs will have developed the following training tools for onboarding new employees – both management and staff:employee-handbook-2

After onboarding, the club will use the following tools to train managers:

  • Leadership training – Leadership on the Line and The Workbook
  • Organizational Values and Service Ethic Training; Values Pocket Card
  • Legal and Liability Issues Training
  • Club Systems Training – Personnel Standards, Policies, and Procedures; Accounting Standards, Policies and Procedures
  • Departmental Standards, Policies, and Procedures for their individual club department
  • accounting-manual1-2Basic Accounting and Financial Management for Managers
  • HR on the Go Training
  • Values on the Go Training
  • Safety on the Go Training
  • Ongoing Daily Huddles
  • DVDs and videos as necessary.  These should be reviewed at the highest level (General Manager and HR Manager or other Subject Matter Expert) to ensure they meet training quality needs and then purchased for the club’s education library.

Ongoing training for line employees will consist of:

  • values1-2Organizational Values and Service Ethic Training; Values Pocket Card
  • Departmental organization and systems training
  • Duties and expectations
  • Service techniques training
  • Training manual for their position
  • On the Go Training
  • Ongoing Daily Huddles
  • Departmental safety training
  • Purchase departmental specific DVDs and videos as necessary

To ensure all the necessary training is given, the General Manager will require all department heads to:

  • Establish a departmental training plan and schedule,
  • Benchmark and report their training on a monthly basis,
  • Make training development and execution part of each department head’s performance review, and
  • Make continual process improvement of training part of their annual departmental plan.

The end result of a formal approach to training should be to make training in all areas of the club part of the daily operational habit, as routine as punching in and out for work, wearing the proper uniform, ordering supplies, conducting inventories, and cleaning the facilities.  When this level of habit is achieved, all manner of benefits are realized by the club – from improved organization and efficiency to greater member satisfaction, retention, and sales, and finally, to a vastly improved bottom line.

Note:  Recognizing the sheer size of the formal training undertaking, start small because any improvements you make are better than no training.  Over time continue to add more training initiatives until you finally have a full-blown, club-wide training program and discipline.  I guarantee your work life will be much easier when you do.

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!

Add to Technorati Favorites