Archive for May, 2011

Passively Creating a Hostile Work Environment

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Most leaders readily understand the negative impact of a hostile work environment on employees.  Employees who aren’t properly trained, who aren’t given the tools and resources to do their jobs, and who are demeaned by the abusive actions of supervisors or other employees, cannot contribute effectively to the team effort and the success of their organization.

Often the hostile work environment is created by bullying, teasing, or insensitive remarks or actions that center on:

  • Gender – sexually suggestive remarks, posting inappropriate pictures in the workplace
  • Race or ethnicity – “Polish” jokes, making fun of accents or racial and ethnic stereotypes
  • Religious beliefs – not respecting a person’s religious or moral values by telling “dirty” jokes or making fun of another’s religious symbols or practices
  • Age – “over the hill” comments or pranks centered on the young, inexperienced “rookie”
  • Sexual orientation – using disparaging words to characterize someone with a different orientation
  • Disabilities – mimicking a person’s stutter or limp
  • Differentiation – drawing attention in a demeaning way to anything that isolates and mocks someone who is different from the norm in any way

When an enterprise is trying to build a team focused on a common vision and shared goals it cannot afford for any team member to be demeaned, handicapped, or marginalized by words or actions that exclude.  Leaders at all levels are expected to intervene to ensure that this does not happen.  If they don’t get actively involved to stop such behavior, they are abetting it and allowing a hostile work environment.

A more subtle factor in creating a hostile work environment is the supervisor who does not communicate well or often with his or her team or who doesn’t pay attention to what is going on in his or her section or department.  Consider that:

  • Individuals in any group setting rarely have neutral feelings toward or about the others in the group.  They like some and dislike others, usually for their own, sometimes hard to discern, reasons.
  • People are naturally attracted to and spend time with those they like and avoid those they don’t.  This results in cliques of the included and, outside the cliques – the excluded.
  • The excluded often feel jealous, resentful, and fearful because of their exclusion.
  • In the absence of ongoing timely and accurate information, fearful people assume the worst.  Fearful people can be paranoid and perceive discrimination and favoritism where it may not exist.
  • A fragmented work team cannot perform effectively.

When a supervisor does not engage daily with team members, give specific directions regarding who is to do what, and communicate thoroughly about all matters affecting the team, the fragmented team will gossip, backbite, and bicker among themselves.  Seldom will they work together and often their antagonisms affect members, guests, and co-workers.  Sometimes their behavior is passive-aggressive – trying to sabotage the efforts of others, all the while acting helpful and friendly.

If all this seems outlandish or too much like Psych 101, let me say that a number of times in my career I have taken jobs in dysfunctional organizations – operations that were failing for a host of obvious reasons, but underlying every one was a previous manager who did not communicate with his or her staff.  In the absence of communication employees vying for advantage or position continually fought and intrigued among themselves, even to the exclusion of doing their jobs.  In every case, the problems went away quickly by building trust based upon daily direction, constant communication, and forcefully putting an immediate stop to inappropriate behavior.

If a manager doesn’t understand this important point and fails to communicate and interact daily with all employees, he or she may be responsible for passively creating a hostile work environment.  Such inattention to the daily functioning of the organization is just as destructive as a supervisor who actively engages in demeaning, disparaging, and abusive behaviors.

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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What I Expect from My Head Golf Professional

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

The club’s golf course is the most significant amenity and the reason most members join the club.  As a result the head golf professional is a highly visible and respected member of the club’s management team.  But as a number of authors have pointed out, there is a critical distinction between the game of golf and the business of golf.  To be successful the head golf professional must be a master of both.

While the Professional Golfers’ Association does a great job of preparing the golf professional for golf operations management, related business principles and practices, and how to interact with members and golf committees, there are a number of business disciplines that I expect the head golf professional to carry out to meet my expectations:

  1. Establish, interpret, and enforce all club policies, rules, and regulations relating to the golf operations.  These include the pro shop, practice facilities, golf course, cart storage facility, lessons and golf programming, guest policies, club storage and repair, locker rooms, and other areas and issues relating to the game.
  2. Establish and maintain a robust schedule of golf programming and events to meet the needs and desires of golfing members.
  3. Create written standards, policies, and procedures (SPPs) for all aspects of the golf operation.  These foster organization, consistency, and continuity.  They also form the basis for the department’s training material.
  4. Benchmark rounds, revenues, and payroll.  This information provides the power to support decisions, demonstrates knowledge and competency to all (particularly to members and the golf committees), allows analysis and better organized efforts, and supports requests for resources.
  5. Institute the discipline of Tools to Beat Budget.  It makes the head golf professional far more knowledgeable about the operation, ensures budgets are met, and makes future year budgeting far easier and more accurate.
  6. Ensure close coordination with the golf course superintendent regarding marking the golf course, daily set up, seasonal playing conditions, schedule of annual cultural practices, and preparation for major golf events.  The better the cooperation and working relationship between the head golf professional and the superintendent, the better the golfing experience for members.
  7. Participate in the Golf Operations Committee made up of the superintendent, head golf professional, and the general manager.  The purpose of this committee is to give formal structure to monthly meetings and decisions impacting the club’s golfing experience and ensures that the operational stakeholders are fully aware of golf plans and issues in a timely manner.
  8. Serve as the club’s representative on the club’s golf committees, attending meetings, providing information as requested, making professional recommendations regarding the golf operations and golf programming, and keeping the general manager fully informed on all significant matters addressed by the committee.
  9. Establish and execute a structured calling program for infrequent golfers and, conversely, a rewards program for those who play frequently.  The golf professional should always try to discover the reasons for low usage by golf members – as they may be at risk of leaving the club.  At the same time, the club should find ways of saying “thanks” to those who play regularly.  Coordinate results of both programs with the membership director.
  10. Prepare and keep current a golf cart storage facility handbook detailing the standards of storing and maintaining golf carts and properly cleaning and maintaining the cart storage facility.  Standards should include listing all supplies to stock the carts, daily cart operation procedures and checks, and all cleaning equipment and supplies to properly maintain the golf carts.  Ensure the organization, order, cleanliness, repair, and security of the golf cart storage facility.
  11. Play golf with members on a regular basis.  The professional golf staff must play golf with a wide variety of members, from core golfers to newly-joined members to those who are new to the game.  There is no greater way to encourage golf participation among the membership.  The professional staff should avoid playing regularly with a small group of favored members as this may cause resentment among others.
  12. Develop a detailed departmental training plan with major emphasis on the club’s service culture, member service, and golf etiquette; course management and tee time reservations; golf programming and event preparation; pro shop policies and procedures; retail merchandising and sales; point of sale procedures; practice facility set up; golf cart cleaning, set-up, and storage; and personal and equipment safety.
  13. Establish procedures for a daily tee sheet reconciliation as an audit to verify the capture of all green fees, guest fees, and cart fees.  Given the club’s immense investment in its golf course, accurately accounting for all rounds and revenues is a required discipline.
  14. Develop, implement, and enforce a ready-play program to ensure appropriate speed of play on the golf course.  Slow play is one of the most frequent complaints relating to golf.  Being pro-active by identifying and working with slow-playing golfers will go a long way in relieving complaints and maximizing course utilization.
  15. Establish and maintain a robust schedule of free clinics, demonstrations, and practice facility activities to promote the game, encourage lessons, and interact with members.
  16. If responsible for the golf pro shop operation, meet all the requirements spelled out in What I Expect from My Retail Manager.
  17. Coordinate golf activities and events schedule with the activities director who is responsible for the club’s master event and activities schedule.

It is recognized that the Head Golf Professional may need some support and assistance in developing organizational materials and establishing certain disciplines such as benchmarking and Tools to Beat Budget, but experience has shown that these disciplines help better organize and operate the golf department.  As with other club departments, the general manager’s requirements for the golf operations take some time and effort to set up, but once the heavy lifting is done, the overall functioning of the department is smoother and easier.

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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Freedom to Fail

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Pete Dawkins (West Point class of 1959, Heisman Trophy winner, First Captain of the Corps of Cadets, in the top of his class in academics, with a distinguished military career) as a Captain wrote a seminal article entitled “Freedom to Fail” which was published in Infantry Magazine.

In this article Dawkins said that the Army’s Officer Efficiency Report (OER) system that demanded perfection of officers who wished to advance their careers, was actually damaging the effectiveness of the officer corps.  Any officer who did not repeatedly score either 98 or 99 out of 100 on his OER could not expect choice assignments or rapid promotion.  This commonly known fact, he argued, ran the danger of creating a system that favored the advancement of timid officers whose fear of failure kept them from bold, innovative actions and decisions – just the opposite of what the Army would want in combat leaders.

As Dawkins aptly pointed out, failure can be the greatest teacher we have.  It fosters critical review of the actions leading to the failure, while success breeds complacency and acceptance of the status quo.

Another military example:  in July 1863, Confederate General James Longstreet watched two of his divisions severely repulsed in the disastrous Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg.  Longstreet had opposed Lee’s plan for a multi-division assault on a broad front, but was overruled by his superior.

Several months later, Longstreet used the lesson learned from that defeat to launch a successful attack against Union lines at Chickamauga.  This time he formed his attacking force into columns of divisions to deal a sharp and irresistible blow that shattered the Union line and routed nearly a third of Rosecran’s Army of the Cumberland.

So what does this lesson from military history have to do with hospitality management?  Plenty!  Leadership is leadership no matter what the enterprise or situation.  Any leader who creates an organization where leaders are not given the freedom to fail, risks the larger failure of mediocrity.

Leaders should give their subordinates plenty of latitude to figure out how to solve problems or plan projects without being micro-managed by their bosses.  Subordinates should be encouraged to formulate and execute bold and innovative ideas.  Certainly failure will occur, but rather than blaming those responsible, encourage subordinates to conduct rigorous in-depth reviews of what went wrong and how things might have been done differently.  The critical review process is the opportunity to learn and grow.  Serious and sincere soul-searching for answers will inevitably lead to understandings that will improve future performance.

Having extolled the upside of mistakes let me also add that some errors are so egregious and obviously foolish that they call into question the subordinate’s judgment.  While no leader can ensure that all his subordinates have basic common sense and good judgment, he can monitor their work to avoid the worst mistakes.

Such monitoring is made much easier when there is good, open communication between the leader and subordinates.  Conversely, an uncommunicative leader helps create the environment where subordinates acting on their own are afraid to approach the leader to seek advice and guidance.  In this situation the failure is the leader’s.

Things every leader/manager should do:

  • Do not micro-manage. Give subordinates broad directions and desired outcomes, but allow them to formulate and execute the details.
  • Foster good two-way communications so that subordinates keep you informed of progress and are unafraid to seek advice.
  • When giving guidance, explain the why’s as well as the how’s so that subordinates gain a broader understanding of your thought processes.
  • When mistakes are inevitably made, do not get angry. Instead, be supportive and require subordinates to conduct a rigorous post mortem to determine what went wrong and what might have been done differently.
  • Don’t be afraid to give the failing subordinate new opportunities to prove his or her abilities. In other words, when he gets thrown from his horse, make sure he gets back up on it again.

Failing is an inherent and useful part of human growth.  Make sure your subordinates have the “freedom to fail.”

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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Guest Blog: You Don’t Know . . . What You Don’t Know!

Monday, May 9th, 2011

blake_ashdownNote:  This week’s guest blog is by Blake Ashdown.  Blake is CEO of Club Insights by SureVista.  You can learn more about their services by clicking on the link at the end of the blog.

As a professor at the business school at Michigan State University, I was frequently asked by my students, “What do I have to do to be successful in business?”  It’s a simple question, but one without a definitive answer.  Over the years, I have started and run many successful businesses and each one taught me something different.

But after reflecting on this question, I realized that there was one success principle that stood out; one that, if I hadn’t followed, would not have led me to the successes I eventually achieved –  here it is, “Successful people have an insatiable appetite to pursue what they do not know, and then apply it to their business and life.”

There are two key concepts in this principle:

  1. You must have an appetite to pursue what you do not know.
  2. After you discover or learn something you did not know you must apply it to your business and life.  If you never apply it, it is of no value.

This principle seems simple, and yet very few successfully execute it.  Here is why:

You don’t know what you don’t know!  You probably think you know, but you don’t!  How do you know what you don’t know?  If this seems confusing, let me try to bring some clarity.  Have you ever thought or said something like this, “If only I had known two years ago what I know today, I never would have…

  • hired that person.”
  • bought that car.”
  • used that vendor.”
  • taken that job.”
  • gone out with that person!”

At the time, you made a decision based on the information you had available to you.  You thought you knew what you were doing and you thought you were making a wise decision.  But later, you discovered that there were some things you didn’t know and, had you known them, you would have made a different decision.

This is called the Law of Unintended Consequences.  You made a decision, thinking it was the right decision, only later to learn that it was not the right choice.  As a result, you suffered an unintended consequence.  In fact, most problems you encounter as a Club Leader are the result of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Now, sometimes unintended consequences are unavoidable.  But too often, they could have been avoided if you would have had the desire to learn things you did not know.

You see, studies show that most people would rather talk about what they know, rather than pursue what they don’t know.  Do you know anyone like that?  Someone who is always talking about what they know, or telling you why something cannot be done.  They make excuses as to why something cannot be done, when it may be they don’t know anything about it.

In fact, through his research at the University of Georgia, Paul Schempp has found that most people think they know much more than they really do.  In his book 5 Steps to Expert, Schempp identified 5 steps to becoming an expert in your field.  The 5 steps are:

  1. Beginner
  2. Capable
  3. Competent
  4. Proficient
  5. Expert

Experts are the highest skilled professional in their field with exceptional amounts of both experience and education.  Shempp’s research found something interesting.  He asked the participants, “How much of what you need to know to be successful in your profession, do you know?”

  • The average response from Beginners and Capables…90%.
  • The average response from true Experts…60%.

Here’s the point, most of us know much less than we think, and the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.

You don’t know what you don’t know.  Your board members don’t know what they don’t know.  The only way you, as a Club Leader, can achieve success is to realize you don’t know what you don’t know and actively seek out what you do not know.

You cannot eliminate the law of unintended consequences, but you can minimize it.  This is why research is so important.  Data is just information.  Information when it is understood in its context becomes knowledge.  Knowledge that becomes actionable is wisdom.  When you have wisdom, you make wise choices, and wise choices lead to success.

Blake Ashdown, CEO Club Insights by SureVista.  See Blake’s insightful video blogs 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 – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Guest Blog: Crabgrass Control

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Note:  This week’s guest blog is from Global Turf Network – an initiative to provide scientifically-based educational information and expertise to the turfgrass industry globally in native languages.  You can learn more about their services by clicking on the link at the end of the blog.

Crabgrass (Digitaria spp) is a major problem in both cool-season and warm-season turfgrasses.   As a general rule, crabgrass tends to be more of a problem in temperate climates and less of a problem in tropical regions.  In temperate regions the most important and likely the first weed control practice of the year is the proper timing of a pre-emergent herbicide application for crabgrass.

The ideal situation is to apply a pre-emergent herbicide just prior to crabgrass germination.  At this point in time your herbicide will prevent germination and last longer through the growing season.  Besides the traditional calendar date for application, soil temperatures and flowering ornamentals can be used to predict crabgrass germination.  Below are some of those keys. It should be noted factors like turf cover, and soil moisture for example can influence crabgrass germination and emergence.

  • Soil Temperature (pre-emergent herbicide applications should be made prior to these occurrences (~ 3 C below the threshold))
  1. Minimum soil temperatures of ~13 – 15 C) at the 2.5 cm depth at daybreak for 4-5 days are required for germination.
  2. Mean soil temperature of ~16 – 19 C at the 2.5 cm soil depth are required for germination.
  3. Soil temperatures greater than 23 C are required for significant crabgrass emergence
  • Phenotypic Keys for crabgrass germination (pre-emergent herbicide applications should be made 14-days prior to these events:
  1. Forsythia bloom withering (more applicable in northern temperate regions)
  2. Daffodil (Narcissus spp.) bloom withering
  3. Dogwood (Cornus spp.) bloom withering (more applicable in warmer regions)

Dr. Karl Danneberger, Turfgrass Science Professor, and Ed Nangle, PhD Candidate.  They can be reached through the Global Turf Network website – www.globalturfnetwork.com.

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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