Archive for June, 2012

Guest Blog: 13 Characteristics of Bad Bosses

Monday, June 25th, 2012

If you’re a manager, you’ve probably experienced the sensation of people not liking you–but does that mean you are a bad boss? Not necessarily.

Your goal, after all, is to implement the company’s vision on the front-lines of the battle. If you’re going to be, as one famous manager once quipped, “The Decider,” people will resent you, no doubt. But as a boss you also have to do your job, and we all know that sometimes means doing things your subordinates don’t like.

So let us help you out. Here are 13 ways of knowing whether you’re a bad boss:

1.      People are afraid of you. In some workplaces, managers are feared even by employees who don’t know them-because their reputations precede them. If this is you, there’s a high probability that you suck: no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

2.      You micromanage.  Good managers manage, bad managers micromanage. If you’re not able to persuade or convince people of a vision and instead regularly have to crack a whip to achieve results, either the team is rotten to the core or you have failed to properly motivate. (These ideas are not necessarily mutually exclusive).

True discipline, as the saying goes, must come through liberty. If you fear that your team doesn’t function without you looking over their shoulders, the problem may not be them: Maybe it’s you.

3.      Stress controls you; you don’t control stress. There is some truth to the saying that there are no stressful situations, only stressful reactions to situations. Nevertheless, it’s normal for all of us to react somehow to stress and for our emotions to manifest themselves.

The difference between a good manager and a bad manager, however, is that a bad manager sends signals that the stressful circumstances are controlling him or her and not the inverse. This isn’t to say that a good manager need exude the emotional output of a Scandinavian fisherman; instead, good managers maintain control and don’t allow stress to dictate their behavior. Bad managers do the opposite.

4.      You create real and perceived distance between yourself and your team. Humans detest hierarchies and those at the bottom resent being reminded of their place within them. The best managers sit with their teams in a symbolic gesture of solidarity and their behavior demonstrates genuine solidarity. The worst managers sit in solitary offices, usually with doors closed, and behave accordingly.

5.      You’re unavailable. A celebrated CEO once told me, “A good manager does his work at home. (S)he should never bring his/her work to the office.” What he was getting at was that good managers are available to their reports at a moment’s notice. If you’re unavailable and inaccessible to your reports then you suck, regardless of how much you are appreciated by your superiors.

6.      You don’t know your reports. A good proxy question to ask yourself about a report is: “If he/she could have any job in the world, what would it be?” Knowing this answer means you understand the person’s passions, dreams and ambitions. If you can’t answer that, in England they’d call you a “hoover.”

7.      You have no investment your reports’ futures. Even if your report isn’t working out and you have to remove him/her from the position, your primary concern should be for the person’s well-being. If someone is unhappy, it’s usually bad for the team and bad for the individual; letting the individual go is likely in his or her best interest.

If you find yourself simply wishing someone off your team because they’re an obstacle to achieving your goals, you should probably question whether or not what the problem is a result of a skill-set mismatch, personality conflict or proper motivation. Only two of those three are solvable.

8.      You manage down more than you manage up. Front-line managers often have the unfortunate task of mediating the tension between senior management’s wishes and the demands of the front-line employees. Senior level managers operate on the assumption that they know better because they have access to more information. Front-line employees often feel they know better because they deal with the products and clients on a regular basis and receive feedback in real-time.

Average managers simply take what’s passed down to them and implement at all cost. Good managers collect data, build arguments and attempt to influence the decision makers. In addition, good managers find clever means by which to represent their team’s interests as the best interests of the senior managers. If you find yourself as a facilitator of one-way communication, it may be that you’re not stepping up to the challenge.

9.      You don’t deliver tough messages. One way to avoid being a bad boss is to try to be loved, but being loved is not the same as being respected. Good managers deliver tough messages–but they do so within the context of a relationship built on trust.

Without trust, tough messages are in the worst case misinterpreted as open hostility and in the best case, simply ignored. When delivered with trust, tough messages have a higher likelihood of hitting the mark.

10.  You throw others under the bus. If you’re a manager, the buck must stop with you. Whether you’re explaining why your sales team didn’t hit its targets, or you’re justifying a decision by upper-management to change an incentive plan, the best managers accept responsibility for what happens on their watch.

In the short term, it may bring relief to blame people or circumstances for your shortcomings, but in the long run, avoiding responsibility will hurt your credibility on both ends of the totem pole. If the idea of accepting responsibility terrifies you, remember that how you react to a crisis is often more telling than the fact that the crisis occurred. Reacting to mishaps is the good manager’s chance to shine.

11.  You don’t read about management. Your MBA is not a black-belt, and your education is never finished. Good management is an art in which a teacher never stops being a student. No matter how long you’ve been in the game, your skill-set still needs to be constantly refined and your assumptions need to be questioned.

12.  You don’t seek feedback. And you don’t create a culture where giving that feedback to you is acceptable, even encouraged. A senior Google executive once said, “Feedback is a gift: sometimes it is a gift we’re fortunate to give, and other times it’s a gift we’re fortunate to receive.”

You don’t have to accept all feedback at face value, but if you haven’t been made to feel uncomfortable through introspection lately, you may be a Hootie and the Blowfish Album away from being pure suckage.

13.  You eschew vulnerability. Managers send signals about how willing they are to connect, and they are most open when they allow themselves to be vulnerable. Vulnerability, it should be noted, does not equate to self-doubt or a lack of confidence. Instead, vulnerability is exposing the most basic elements of the human condition.

If you’re not allowing yourself to be vulnerable, then you’re preventing the formation of connections with those who work closest to you. Bad managers abhor vulnerability for fear of appearing weak, while good managers use vulnerability as a tool to build trust and meaningful relationships.

Managing a sales team is not the same as managing a boiler room; good management is necessarily context dependent. Nevertheless, one final truism is that bad managers (enforcers) have reports who work for them, while good managers (enablers) work for their reports.

The question now becomes what type of manager are you?

About the Author: Matthew Carpenter-Arevalo works for an international organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He blogs at carpenterarevalo.com. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/mca_at_wef.

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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Personal Productivity

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Club management is a demanding and time-consuming profession.  Managers and supervisors at all levels too often find themselves reacting to events and constantly responding to the crisis of the moment.

What all this means is that in order to stay ahead of this never-ending press of daily operations and to attend to the many important issues of member service, organization and operating efficiencies, special events and activity programming, planning and review, staff development and training, and continual process improvement, not to mention personal sanity, a manager must be well-organized and highly productive.  Below are some of the strategies and habits that can improve your personal productivity.

Annual Planning.  Have an annual plan and timelines for your department or section.  Put it in writing to commit to its accomplishment and review it on a monthly basis.

Work Planning.  Your personal work plan will include what steps need to be accomplished to meet your departmental goals, but will also have personal goals, such as developing yourself and your skill set.

Use a Day-Timer to better organize yourself, your schedule, and your daily tasks.  Use it to look and plan ahead.

Make Lists and Prioritize.  Priorities change frequently-even on a daily basis-but keep a list of priorities (1.  Critical-must be accomplished as soon as possible; 2.  Priority-must be accomplished; 3.  Routine-may be accomplished as time and resources permit).

Develop and Use Checklists.  These pre-prepared lists for project work, such as organizing storage areas or deep cleaning work spaces, can be used to assign your employees recurring tasks when business is slow, but you are not yet prepared to send anyone home.

Plan Ahead.  The planning horizons may vary from department to department, but you should always be looking ahead at least one month (and often 2 to 3 months) for special events, seasonal activities, increasing or decreasing business levels, vacation scheduling, and any other events or activities that require advance planning.

Use a Personal Computer.  The PC is a great productivity tool and standard business word processing, spreadsheet, and graphics software, such as MS-Office, will allow you to create professional-looking documents that can be stored for future use or modification, such as written standards, policies, and procedures; training materials; budgets and benchmarks; and room diagrams.  Having these skills will not only make you more productive and help you communicate more professionally, but will significantly enhance your career opportunities and progression.

Organize and Save Your Work.  As you produce written standards, policies, and procedures; training materials; various communications; specialized spreadsheets; and any other intellectual material on the computer, save them for future use.  Most of what you spend time to create you’ll use again as you progress through your career, but you must be able to find it.

Benchmark Your Operation and Forecast Business Levels.  Benchmarking will give you a deeper understanding of your business and its seasonality and will help you budget more accurately for future years.  It will also allow you to formally forecast upcoming business levels, allowing more efficient staffing.  Both of these disciplines will help take some of the guesswork out of your business decisions.

Master and Delegate Routine Tasks.   Routine tasks such as setting schedules, ordering consumable supplies, benchmarking, formal forecasting, and others can and should be delegated to competent and conscientious employees.  You must still supervise the work and check its accuracy on a regular basis, but you’ll save your own time while helping develop the confidence and abilities of one or more of your employees.  Be sure the selected employees are also benefiting by the arrangement through genuine learning opportunity or possibly additional compensation for the tasks.

But before you delegate any task to another, make sure you have mastered the task yourself, have a complete understanding of any and all issues involved, and train the selected employee thoroughly – not just by showing him how, but by explaining why at the same time.

Establish Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Seasonal, and Annual Habits.  The above disciplines will be far easier to implement if you establish regular schedules to do some of the following:

  • Daily – Benchmarking, forecasting, staff communication, continual ongoing reviews of your operation, monitoring payroll hours.
  • Weekly – Payroll verification, staff scheduling, reviewing and planning for upcoming events, Tools to Beat Budget, coding invoices, ordering supplies and inventories, ongoing staff training.
  • Monthly – Inventories, Tools to Beat Budget, monthly review of operating statements and work plans.
  • Seasonal – Event and activity programming, seasonal hiring and terminations, ordering seasonal supplies and inventories.
  • Annual – Annual planning, budgeting, asset inventory.

Summary.  Your department’s or section’s organization and efficiency starts and ends with you.  The efficiency of your operational area and your employee work habits will reflect your personal productivity.  To the extent you are disorganized, undisciplined, and work without a plan, your area of the operation will follow suit.

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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Monthly Review of Financial Performance

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Club department heads have bottom line responsibility for the financial performance of their departments, but the General Manager has overall responsibility for the performance of the club and is accountable to the Board for that performance.  Therefore, a basic management discipline for the General manager should be to conduct monthly reviews of operating statements with each department head.

In order to ensure that the club meets the financial objectives of its annual operating budget, it is imperative that all department heads monitor their monthly performance closely and be prepared to answer questions about their department’s performance and give reasons for any significant variance from budgeted amounts.

The Program.  On a monthly basis after the final statement is prepared and distributed, the Controller will set up a schedule of meetings for department heads to meet with the General Manager and Controller to review their department’s performance.

Department heads will bring their individual copies of the Tools to Beat Budget binder to the meetings.

Department heads must also be prepared to present plans to remedy significant or ongoing shortfalls in revenue or overages in expense categories.

Preparing for the Meeting.  Managers can best prepare for their monthly meeting by ensuring that their Tools to Beat Budget binder is accurate and up-to-date.

They must also review their financial statements in detail, noting any under budget revenue and over budget expense categories.  Items with significant deviations from budget must be investigated so that these anomalies can be explained to the General Manager.

Significant shortfalls in revenue should be analyzed and a plan drawn up to address the shortages.  Such a plan would normally include marketing efforts to increase member traffic, special events or sales to increase revenues, or price increases to generate more revenue from the same volume of business (though managers must always keep in mind that volume may decrease with any price increase).

Often a particular expense category will be over budget due to timing issues – this happens when a budgeted expense is incurred earlier in the fiscal year than originally anticipated.  Such an “over budget” occurrence will come back in line with budget in future months at the time when the expenditure was actually planned.  Sometimes, the increased expenses may be the result of an unanticipated event, such as equipment breakdown and repair or an arising opportunity necessitating the purchase of new equipment or materials.

In any case the department head must be prepared to explain discrepancies and answer the General Manager’s questions about budget variances and what actions will be taken to remedy the situation.

Take Away.  A monthly review of operating performance gives department heads the opportunity to brief the General Manager on the operating results of their individual “businesses” while keeping the General Manager fully informed of those factors impacting their bottom line.  I also like to use these monthly meetings to review department heads progress on meeting their annual work plan.  In both cases, this basic business discipline keeps the General Manager fully informed with the least investment of his or her time while reinforcing to department heads their accountability for results.

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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How to Get the Best from Your Service Team

Monday, June 4th, 2012

There has been much discussion in the business and popular press about the work ethic, attitudes, and commitment of younger employees and the challenges faced by employers in getting the best efforts from these workers.  While there are certainly some markedly different societal and cultural trends in today’s workforce, leadership skills are still the primary means of positively influencing employees to better performance.

W. Edwards Deming, American statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and consultant who made significant contributions to Japan’s reputation for innovation and quality, famously said, “The worker is not the problem.  The problem is at the top!  Management is the problem!”  So when you look for the reasons why you seem to be forever dealing with people problems and service issues, look to your management team’s leadership and the manner in which they interact with staff.  Here are some of the basic things that can make all the difference in getting the best from your employees:

  • The manner in which you hire and onboard them.
  • The organizational values you define for them.
  • The culture of service you immerse them in – service not only to members, but to each other.
  • The consistency of leadership provided to them throughout all departments of the club.
  • The example their leaders set for them in all they do and that all leaders are equally dedicated to the club’s mission and focus on service.
  • The way you establish and communicate your expectations to them.
  • The quality of training you provide them.
  • The fact that their leaders are continually engaged with them; that management is accessible, listens to their issues, concerns, and suggestions.
  • The way that their leaders do not tolerate problem employees or bad attitudes that degrade the efforts of others.
  • The ongoing recognition and positive reinforcement given them for superior performance.
  • The fact that their leaders see them as integral to the success of the club and all it does.

Not one of the above requirements is anything more than common sense and represents the way all people would like to be treated in their jobs.  But to ignore these basic needs condemns you, your management team, and your workplace to constant issues and problems, not the least of which is ongoing high levels of turnover and poor service execution.

Given all the downsides inherent in poor leadership, why wouldn’t you make the effort to provide a consistent application and example of leadership at your 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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