Archive for October, 2011

Conducting Meaningful Meetings

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Meetings are often thought of as the bane of a business person’s existence, but meetings are an important means to communicate information and serve a useful role in any business enterprise.  The reason that meetings often get a bad rap is that they can seem endlessly boring when the person calling the meeting has not taken the time to define its purpose or established ground rules for its conduct.

Meetings can serve a number of useful purposes.  They can be used to disseminate information and keep different areas of the business informed about projects, progress, decisions, changes, or new initiatives.  They can be used to brainstorm and solve problems.  They can be used to coordinate the activities and efforts of different parts of the organization.  They can also foster good two-way communications between managers and staff.  But in all cases it’s up to the person who called the meeting to define its purpose and rules of conduct and to control the meeting.

In our business there are four basic types of meetings that serve the need of improved communications:

  • The Update Meeting – this meeting is used by management to allow managers to update their peers on their initiatives and progress.  The primary example of an update meeting is the General Manager’s weekly meeting.  Its purpose is to allow the club department heads and the GM to bring other members of the management team up to speed on various projects, issues, and efforts of general importance.  Its purpose is general in nature and it should not to be used to solve complex problems or address controversial issues that cannot be resolved quickly or easily.  Each department head should take a few minutes to tell the other managers what is going on in his or her area.  It’s an excellent opportunity for the Controller and Personnel Administrator to cover any issues of concern with accounting or human resources.  The GM will usually use the opportunity to bring up issues of general concern that affect multiple departments.  Should discussion lead to disagreement or controversy on any subject, the matter should be tabled for discussion at another meeting called solely to resolve the issue.  The central elements of the update meeting are brevity and generality.  The valuable time of a lot of very busy people is being used in this meeting and everyone has a responsibility to arrive on time, be brief in their presentation, and cover information that is general and broad-based in nature.
  • The Employee Meeting – this meeting is used by managers to communicate information of importance to his or her staff. Such information can include new or changed policies and procedures, discussion of new initiatives, ongoing or refresher training material, and anything else of importance to the department.  As with the Update Meeting, should controversial issues or issues affecting only a small number of employees come up, the matter should be tabled and dealt with in another meeting called solely to deal with that issue or with the few employees involved.  Ideally, department heads should call employee meetings on a monthly basis.  The meeting time should be set when the greatest number of employees are available to attend.  Off duty employees are expected to attend, but may be excused by the department head.  Every employee meeting should include ample time for employee questions.  Allowing employees this opportunity will allow the manager to get the pulse of his or her department’s attitude and morale, may uncover previously unknown issues, defuse potential blowups, and foster better understanding and teamwork in the department.
  • Issue Resolution Meeting – this type of meeting is called specifically to resolve an issue.  Only those individuals who have a direct bearing on the issue are invited to the meeting and its sole purpose is to solve the problem.  In some cases the problem cannot be solved in one session and may have to be continued to a further meeting with the possibility of others being included.
  • Coordination Meeting – this type of meeting should be held whenever there is the need for close coordination between various club departments.  A good example of a coordination meeting would be a weekly food and beverage meeting with the front and back of house supervisors that covers all catering events for the coming period.  Another example would be a meeting called to cover the particulars of a large or important club event such as the member-member tournament or a wedding.

As with anything else in business, the quality and efficiency of the meeting is only as good as the effort put into it by the person leading the meeting.  As mentioned before, the success of any meeting can be attributed to the prior preparation of the person responsible for calling or running the meeting.  Various methods for running effective meetings are discussed below.

Establishing the Purpose of a Meeting

When calling a meeting, the person responsible should, in addition to setting the date, time and place, make it clear what the meeting is about, who will be attending, and the type of meeting to be held (update, informational, issue resolution, or coordination).  Participants should also be told of any information, research, presentation, or materials they are responsible for bringing to the meeting.

For example, a meeting called by the general manager with the kitchen and dining room managers to address slow food service would be described as an issue resolution meeting including the executive chef and the food service manager.  The food service manager may be asked to bring member comment cards complaining of slow service and the chef might be asked to bring an analysis of printed guest orders to confirm actual prep times.

Setting an Agenda for a Meeting

Given that every meeting should have a purpose, the person calling the meeting will prepare an outline of the discussion points to serve as an agenda for the meeting.  The agenda should then be provided to each participant so they may better prepare for the meeting.  The format for an agenda is simply a listing of the topics to be covered or addressed.

Regularly scheduled update meetings of standard format usually do not need an agenda so long as all participants are familiar with the format and requirements of the meeting.  If in doubt, prepare an agenda.  It never hurts to make participants aware of matters to be discussed.

Meeting Time Management

Long, pointless meetings are detested by everyone.  Setting an agenda will hopefully focus the meeting on a particular topic or issue, but unless the person calling the meeting exercises leadership and control, the meeting can easily be sidetracked into ancillary or tangential issues.  This is where a strong leader is required to keep the meeting on track and on topic.

While always sensitive to participant’s input and feelings, the leader should intervene when discussions get off topic or wander into the wasteland of irrelevancy.  By gently urging the participants back to topic or to quickly get to the point, the leader manages the meeting.  In some cases such as update meetings, participants should be given time limits to update their areas.  Time limits may inhibit issue resolution meetings and should be used with care in that setting.

Preparing Meeting Minutes

Minutes are required anytime an important meeting is held where committee decisions are made.  The prime example of this would be in member-owned clubs where various committee meetings make decisions regarding how the club operates.  The minutes serve as a record of discussion and voting and may be used to inform the membership of important decisions.

Meetings are not usually required in managers’ update meetings, employee meetings, coordination meetings, and issue resolution meetings unless a higher authority desires that minutes be prepared.  For instance, a general manager planning a vacation may direct subordinate managers to solve a particular issue while he or she is gone and provide a record of the meeting.

In the absence of minutes, all participants are expected to bring pen and paper and to take notes on any important matters covered.  For instance, all department heads attending the GM’s weekly update meeting are expected to brief their staffs on any important issues or information discussed in the meeting.  Without keeping notes they are unable to fulfill this requirement.

Summarizing Decisions and Action Items

In any type of meeting where decisions are made, the meeting leader should summarize what decisions have been made.  This is important because often the discussions leading to a decision are far-ranging.  Without a clear statement of what course of action has been determined, some participants may leave without an understanding of what was decided.

Similarly, if participants are assigned action items (that is, are assigned specific tasks to complete), they also must have a clear understanding of what they are to do and when it must be accomplished.

Summary

Most of the foregoing material regarding meetings is plain common sense.  Once again, the most important factor in productive meetings is the preparation and leadership of the person calling and running the meeting.  While preparing an agenda and setting the ground rules for the meeting may seem like a nuisance, the productivity of a large number of very busy people can be enhanced dramatically by this simple discipline.

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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The Simple Checklist

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Airline pilots have long recognized the importance of using checklists to ensure that all steps in preparing to fly or land a plane have been properly attended to.  For pilots the issue is a critical one – safety.  But checklists can also be used to train employees in the proper steps for any important process or event.  A quick list of the things to be done with a place to check off that it was completed is a simple, yet effective way to make sure employees understand and do what is required.

The checklist is also important for establishing accountability for any important action – say securing the club at the end of the day, properly completing opening duties, ensuring the cleanliness of kitchens and bathrooms, and completion of any action with safety implications.  The responsible employee checks off each step as it’s completed, then signs and dates the checklist indicating that all steps were completed.  The manager or supervisor can then spot check to ensure that the work was properly done.  If not, she knows who is responsible for the failure.

Solutions don’t have to be complicated; they just have to work.  Using checklists is an effective way of handling many recurring responsibilities within the club.

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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Focusing on Solutions

Monday, October 17th, 2011

“Never complain – always occupy yourself with solutions.”

This simple yet important maxim was brought home to me with stunning force years ago while working at a California resort.  Here’s the story:

Marjorie was the friendly head cashier at the resort and reported to the controller, who, as can be expected from someone in that profession, was a stickler for detail and accuracy.  Among Marjorie’s duties was the task of safeguarding the resort’s large cash reserve bank and making change for the many cashiers.  Her small office located in the administration building was frequently crowded with employees seeking change.  Quite naturally, it was also a scene of noise and confusion.

One day on my walkabouts I stopped in to chat with Marjorie and was surprised to find her crying at her desk.  When asked what was wrong, she responded tearfully that she was in danger of losing her job.  Unaware that this was so, I asked why.  She then related to me that, on multiple occasions during the past month, the resort bank came up short.  Each time she was counseled by the controller, but at the last counseling her exasperated superior warned her that further shortages could result in termination.  She went on to say that no matter how careful she tried to be, her bank was once again short.  Through her tears she said she was sure she’d be fired this time.

As I sat across the desk from the distraught woman, I tried to calm her, but nothing I said could reassure her.  Finally, in a sharp voice I said, “Marjorie, are you stealing from us?”  Shocked, she looked at me incredulously and said quietly, “No!  I could never do that.”  Having gotten her attention, I said, “OK, then, let’s try to find out where the problem is.”  I then listened carefully as she described her daily routine for me.

Slowly, in response to my questions, she began to realize that counting errors were the natural consequence of the confusion of multiple employees engaging her in conversations while getting their change.  Marjorie’s native friendliness and outgoing personality were making it difficult for her to concentrate.  I suggested that rather than going meekly to the controller to report yet another shortage, she should confidently go with a carefully thought out analysis of what was wrong and what steps she would take to overcome the problem.

As the two of us sat there reviewing the current procedures, Marjorie drew up a short list of how she could avoid future shortages.

  1. Replace the door to her office with a Dutch door that would remain closed and locked, thereby keeping employees out of her office.
  2. Require employees seeking change to line up outside the door.  This way she would deal with only one person and one transaction at a time.
  3. Keep the large safe closed and locked while maintaining a smaller “par” change fund in a locked drawer at her desk.  This way only a smaller amount of money had to be monitored and counted with each transaction.
  4. Keep a log of all the change needs by each employee.  Over time this record would allow her to establish the par fund at the appropriate level – neither too large nor too small.
  5. Establish a policy that change for the largest cashier banks would only be made by appointment.  This would allow her to be prepared for and deal with the largest transactions in a methodical way.
  6. Establish set procedures for counting out change.  Employees seeking change would use a change request form that itemized their needs.  She also would establish a specific routine for multiple counts of tender and change while keeping tender separate from the par bank until all counts verified the transaction.

By the time I left her office, Marjorie had calmed down, galvanized by her plan to eliminate future problems.  The next day she stopped me in the lobby to tell me that the controller was thrilled by her proposed “solutions” to an ongoing problem.  He didn’t want to fire her; he just wanted the problem solved.

Buoyed by the sense that she was now in control and that her job was no longer in jeopardy, Marjorie confessed that her preoccupation with the potential consequences of the shortages blinded her to a solution.  She said it was a hard lesson learned, but one she would never forget.

It also made a great impression on me – one that I too still remember.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners and Emerging Leaders, Ed Rehkopf, Clarity Publications, 2006

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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My Favorite Service Quotes

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Quotations from successful people on any number of topics can be an excellent way to inform yourself of those things that can make you successful in life.  I like to use selected quotes as a quick and easy way to remind employees of those essential elements of business success.  First among those elements is providing service to customers.  Here are some of my favorite service quotes:

  • “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it.  It is what the client or customer gets out of it.” – Pete Drucker
  • “If you don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.” – Unknown
  • “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect.  They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.” – Donald Porter
  • “The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.” – Sam Walton
  • “Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you in the game.  Service wins the game.” – Tony Alessandra
  • “Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more than what they expect to get.” – Nelson Boswell
  • “In business you get what you want by giving other people what they want.” – Alice MacDougall
  • “Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.” – Kate Zabriskie
  • “A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits.  They will be embarrassingly large.” – Henry Ford
  • “If you’re not serving the customer, you’d better be serving someone who is.” – Karl Albrecht
  • “You’ll never have a product or price advantage again.  They can easily be duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied.” – Jerry Fritz
  • “I can’t guarantee you a job and a union steward can’t guarantee you a job, only a customer can.” – Michael Hammer

Recognizing that, as Nia Long, American actress, philanthropist, and music video director, says, “We’re all in the service business,” Club Resources International has created a number of Notable Quotables on Service, as well as Leadership, Values, and Management Disciplines.  These tools can be printed out (at no cost) and placed on bulletin boards, put in pay envelopes, or used for discussion purposes at weekly managers’ meeting or departmental staff meetings.  They are great reminders – and simple to use.  Check them out 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: What I Learned About Business Leadership from John Wooden

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

I have been a leadership coach for the past two decades for Fortune 500 CEOs and other senior leaders.  Much of my success, or more accurately the success of my clients, is due to the wisdom of John Wooden, the great former UCLA basketball coach, who passed away at age 99 on June 4th, 2010.  Mr. Wooden won 10 national championships, a record unlikely to ever be equaled.  Many have called him a national treasure. I concur, and would add that he was a treasure chest of great wisdom in many domains of life beyond basketball, including business.

Twenty-one years ago (1989), just before I became an executive coach, I had the good fortune to spend a few hours with Mr. Wooden during one of his Chicago visits.  He was willing to see me because of his relationship with two of my former coaches.  After the normal pleasantries, I asked Mr. Wooden this question: “What is the one thing you did that made you such a masterful leader and coach?”

His answer changed my life, and shortly thereafter began to change the lives of my clients.  His answer: “Most coaches have one commitment, and that is to winning.  I had a dual commitment-to winning, and also to relationships-and I was equally committed to both.”

I was astounded by his answer because as a corporate business leader earlier in my career, I had certainly fulfilled on his first commitment, but had not even given much thought to the second.  Mr. Wooden then elaborated on how he fulfilled on those two commitments, never compromising one for the other.  That definition of leadership, and other leadership principles I learned that day, have played a major role in my business coaching practice the last 20 years.  Here are some of the most important principles Mr. Wooden spoke about and how they apply to business leadership.

1.   Live the Dual Commitment-to Both Results and Relationships.

As Mr. Wooden said years ago, “The drive to win is a good thing, but when that drive becomes single-minded, it often leads to insensitivity to people.  The coach, by relentlessly focusing on winning, can, over time, damage the team’s performance.”

Most of my corporate clients, when they begin working with me, mirror the way I used to be in my corporate career-a strong commitment to Results and a relatively weak commitment to Relationships.  However, when those same business leaders learn how to fulfill on both commitments, key performance measures including sales and earnings typically reach unprecedented, sustainable levels.  I have seen that happen with thousands of my business clients the last twenty years.

2.   Implement the Discipline of Execution.

Mr. Wooden insisted his players and coaches, including himself, be on time, and keep their word about everything, big and small.   He expressed this axiom: “Powerful results require disciplined actions, where everyone can be counted on.”

To generate the results they want, business leaders need to cause powerful actions to be implemented in a coordinated, clear manner, where each person’s word is their bond.

3.   Be Transparent.

This means admitting you’re not perfect, that as a leader you can learn from anyone.  One of Mr. Wooden’s favorite expressions was “It’s what you learn after you think you know it all that really counts.”

In business, the most effective leaders realize the first person to lead is themselves.  In other words, they have self-awareness.  This requires the counter-intuitive practice of leaders asking for feedback from the people around them on what’s working and not working.  That kind of vulnerability is actually a sign of strength, not weakness, and creates great value for the business and the people in it.

4.   Slow Down in Order to Speed Up.

One of John Wooden’s favorite phrases was “Be quick, but never be in a hurry,” meaning be alert, be diligent, think, but don’t be in a rush, don’t be careless, don’t take things for granted.

Of course, this principle relates to business in a big way, if one looks no further than the oil crisis in the Gulf.   Effective leaders must overcome the many characteristics of our times that push leaders to react, rather than reflect and think.

MR. WOODEN, ON BEHALF OF BUSINESS LEADERS EVERYWHERE, THANK YOU!

Al Ritter, President, Ritter Consulting Group, ahritter@ritterconsultinggroup.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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