Imagine a club operation where all the employees think like the General Manager.Â Imagine what the operation would be like when 100% of the staff is focused on the details of the operation.Â Imagine the impact on the bottom line if the entire management and service team are dedicated to maximizing revenues and controlling costs.
Most club managers would scoff and say that such an operation can never exist â€“ that it’s as unlikely as Mideast peace.Â Yet the path to that dream is based on one simple premise â€“ getting all employees to view their club through the eyes of the General Manager â€“ that is to think and act like the General Manager in all they do.
Since the “dream” is to get employees to think and act like the General Manager, they must be trained intensively to understand the full dimensions of their jobs, including the nuances of service as well as the techniques of their position.Â They must understand how their daily functioning impacts and impresses members; that they must think outside the limits of their job descriptions to recognize that service entails an all-encompassing responsibility regardless of position or function.Â They must know that they can take the initiative to solve problems knowing that they’ll have the support of their leaders.
The military has long recognized the importance of soldiers taking the initiative to exploit battlefield opportunities.Â In the flux of combat, commanders know that their initial orders cannot cover all possibilities.Â To overcome this deficiency and to imbue their fighters with the confidence to act as the situation dictates, the military includes a statement of “the commander’s intent” in its field orders.
Professor Milan Vego of the U.S. Naval War College says, “The main purpose of the intent is to provide a framework for freedom to act.”Â He goes on to say, “The intent should allow the subordinate . . . to exercise the highest degree of initiative in case the original order no longer applies or unexpected opportunities arise.”
In the highly fluid world of club operations, managers can take a lesson from the military and ensure that their employees fully understand their “intent” â€“ the desired outcome in all service situations.Â The way to do it is to empower your employees.Â Willing, committed, and empowered employees will make a world of difference in delivering remarkable service levels to your members.Â Recalling the words of John Tschohl, founder of the Service Quality Institute, “Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader. Â Empowerment is the most critical skill an employee can master and a company can drive in order to lure and keep customers.”
But just how do you go about empowering employees?Â Management consultant Susan M. Heathfield in an article on the principles of employee empowerment listed the following:
- Value your people
- Share your vision
- Share your goals
- Trust you people
- Provide guidelines and information for empowered behavior
- Provide frequent feedback
- Focus on problem solution; not placing blame
- Recognize and reward empowered behavior
In a white paper entitled Employee Empowerment this author laid out the necessities for empowerment:
First and foremost, strong leadership is an absolute necessity.Â Leaders must:
- Be open with their employees.
- Be trusting and trusted.
- Be secure in themselves, their position, and their knowledge; not threatened by knowledgeable employees or those who show initiative.
- Be willing to share praise and shoulder blame.
- Be good communicators.
- Place a positive emphasis on problem discovery and solution.
- Allow their employees to demonstrate initiative and innovation, while giving them the “freedom to fail” without repercussions.
Secondly, the necessary disciplines and systems must be established to continually review work processes while involving employees.Â It’s also important that procedures be in place to keep the General Manager and other department heads fully informed of any resulting changes.
Next, the club must be committed to and deliver extensive, ongoing training to its employees.Â Untrained employees cause confusion and the resulting chaos will drive good employees away.Â Employees must also be recognized for their accomplishments and contributions.Â This recognition will further cement the partnership.
Lastly, employees must respect their leaders and willingly follow them.Â They will only do this when they see their leaders’ passion for excellence and personal commitment to success.Â There can be no substitute for this example.
The dream of employees thinking and acting like the General Manager is one that can be realized, but only through a commitment to employee empowerment and all that it entails.Â When employees understand their “manager’s intent” in all situations and know that the exercise of initiative will be valued and supported, the dream can become a reality.
Thanks and have a great day!
This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers â€” 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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