Archive for January, 2013

Leadership Growth and Adaptation

Monday, January 28th, 2013

As any individual grows in leadership, her ideas about what leadership entails will mature and, in that maturation, one constant will stand out—change.  Adaptation to insistently changing circumstances is a hallmark of success.  One must approach life as a continual learning experience.

What attitudes and approaches lend themselves to this continual learning experience?

  • Always keep an open mind.  Try not to pre-judge situations or people.
  • Never assume you know it all.  The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.
  • Be open and accessible to constituents—particularly followers.
  • Remember that each follower and each constituent is unique and may require different motivators.
  • Take time to stop and listen to your constituents.  In your rush to accomplish, do not forget that you need their input, feedback, and support.  Knowing their needs is essential.
  • Don’t cast others as adversaries.  Find out their legitimate concerns about your agenda.  Accept the challenge of winning over your most difficult constituents.
  • Take constituent concerns seriously and adjust your agenda as necessary.  Their buy-in to your program is essential to your success.  Judicious compromise is a sign of intelligence and flexibility, not defeat.  It should never be “my way or the highway.”
  • Stay informed.  Know what’s going on in your organization, community, and the world at large.  To be effective, you must be relevant to your time and place.  To speak with authority and win people over, you must be knowledgeable about more than just your job.
  • Nurture and care for your constituents.  While never on a quid pro quo basis, you will find that the care you give will be returned many times over in loyalty, support, and advancement of your goals.
  • Be aware and alert to what goes on around you.  Learn by observing others, by witnessing their successes and failures.  Most knowledge comes not from education, but from your life experiences.  When you go through life in a fog of your own making—too consumed with real and imaginary dramas—you are inert, like a rock, to the wealth of learning opportunities around you.  As one leading hospitality company puts it, “keep your antennas up and your radar on” at all times—you’ll learn a lot by doing so!
  • When you’re stressed or something has you ill-at-ease or on edge, it is a sure sign that something is wrong somewhere.  Analyze your situation.  Discovering the source is the first step in finding out what’s wrong and where you need to act.
  • Once you’ve discovered the problem, contemplate how your leadership can overcome the issue.  Like any other learned ability, this continual “puzzling” over leadership challenges will enhance your skills and usually bring you to a better resolution.  If things turn out badly, figure out what went wrong and learn from the mistake.

Darwin was right on many levels when he said that creatures have to adapt to survive.  Leaders must adapt, not just to survive, but to thrive.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, Ed Rehkopf, Clarity Publications, 2009
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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Lists of Tens – Uncovering Your Issues and Opportunities

Monday, January 21st, 2013

David Letterman is famous for the Late Show Top Ten, a humorous compilation of 10 items usually relating to some prominent topic of the day.

Club managers can also use lists of ten to uncover issues and opportunities as part of a process of continual improvement in club operations.  It’s a simple matter of asking employees to list their top ten “whatevers.”  Recognizing that employees are often the people most familiar with a club’s challenges due to their intensive laboring in the details of the operation, I have found that asking for anonymous submissions will yield the most truthful and helpful information about what needs fixing or improved.

Managers must make it clear that it’s not required to list 10 items.  The purpose is not quantity, it’s to get answers regarding what’s troubling staff or members.  Here are some list of ten examples:

  • Ask dining room servers for a list of their top ten complaints from members.
  • Ask housekeeping and maintenance staff for their top ten obstacles to completing their tasks efficiently.
  • Ask the bag, range, and cart attendants for their top ten ideas to provide better or higher levels of service to golfing members and guests.
  • Ask all employees for their top ten frustrations about working at the club.
  • Ask employees for their top ten ideas to wow members.
  • Ask turn house and beverage cart attendants for the top ten snack items requested by golfers that aren’t carried in inventory.
  • Ask the accounting and HR staffs for their top ten frustrations with employee work and departmental submissions.

As can be seen, the list of ten questions can be far-ranging and cover any aspect of employees’ jobs and the challenges of service and service delivery.  The real benefit in posing such periodic questions to employees is that they often reveal unspoken issues and obstacles that make their jobs more frustrating.  It’s a simple matter to take the submitted lists, collate the results, and review for any consensus of opinions.  Often some of the issues raised are easily solved by a change in policy and procedures or some minor purchase.

Managers must always thank employees for their input and get back to them about any proposed action to address issues raised or ideas given.  It’s also important to let employees know if any of the issues will not or cannot be resolved and give the reasons why.

The ultimate purpose of the list of tens is to discover issues and opportunities in the operation.  Using periodic lists of ten and acting on the responses sends a powerful message to employees that their ideas and concerns will be listened to and, if possible, addressed.

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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Handshakes and High Fives

Monday, January 14th, 2013

In reviewing a career, what often stands out are not your accomplishments, their luster having diminished with distance, rather it is the meaningful relationships you forged with employees, coworkers, customers, and bosses that will remain bright in your memory.

Thinking about this points directly and dramatically to where you should focus your attention, not inwardly on yourself and your ambitions, but outwardly on the quality of your interactions with others.  This is the crux of service-based leadership.

A simple yet effective way of cementing work relationships is to shake hands.  Politicians understand the value of “pressing the flesh.”  A variation on this traditional practice is the “high five” used by athletes.  Psychologically, this touching of others establishes contact and rapport.  While gratuitously touching employees is inappropriate, the handshake is an accepted sign of recognition and respect.

A hearty handshake of greeting each day, as well as using the opportunity at the end of the work shift to thank employees for their efforts, is a marvelously simple way of establishing a bond with your employees.  As with any other symbol of relationship, the handshake must be sincere, open, and direct.  There can be no question of ulterior motive, only good fellowship and cheer.  Phoniness is evident to everyone.

So say thank you to your employees on a regular basis.  Nothing could be simpler or more profound in its impact on staff morale because so few managers do it.

“Thanks for your help today,” “I really appreciate your efforts on this project,” “I realize how difficult this assignment was, and am most appreciative of your help,” “I couldn’t have done it without you,” “You did a great job” – any of these expressions of appreciation, when sincerely given, will have a stunning impact on your service team.

Adapted from Leadership on the Line: A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners, and Emerging Leaders

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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MBWA: A New Twist on an Old Habit

Monday, January 7th, 2013

I don’t know about you, but as a manager in hotels, resorts, and private clubs, I could only stand so much time in my office reviewing the daily numbers, working on various initiatives, talking to vendors, making and returning phone calls.  To me these were the tedious part of the job.  So every few hours I was up and out the door, announcing over my shoulder to my secretary (yes, we had secretaries in those days) that I was going “out and about.”

At some point in my career I came across the term “Management by Walking About” and was surprised and pleased to know that my 5 or 6 times a day habit was an approved discipline to stay close to the operation and staff.  Thus validated, I continued this habit throughout my career and saw it as a key part of my leadership style.

Recently I have been reading a book – Hardwiring Excellence by Quint Studer – that details proven principles, leadership habits, and management disciplines that have transformed the field of hospital administration.  Many of Studer’s ideas and practices have application to the club industry, but one that particularly caught my eye was his practice of “rounding for outcomes.

When I first came across the term “rounding” I couldn’t imagine what he meant, but soon realized that rounding comes from the traditional hospital practice of doctors making their rounds of patients.  In that context, he was advocating the practice of MBWA to hospital administrators at all levels of the organization.

But in addition to the typical benefits of MBWA – getting to know employees, being open and approachable, answering questions, monitoring work practices, checking and double checking important procedures and requirements, spreading the “gospel” of organizational culture, etc., he established the discipline of asking specific questions in every department and setting.

1.      Tell me what is working well today?

2.      Are there any employees or co-workers whom I should be recognizing?

3.      Is there anything we can do better?

4.      Do you have the tools and equipment to do your job?

But before we consider these seemingly prosaic questions and how they can have a transformational effect on any organization, let’s lay out some basic context.  First among these is – “What does any person want for their work effort?”  Studer proposes the following:

  • They want their work and the organization they work for to have a purpose.  This sense of purpose is fostered by a carefully crafted set of values defining how and why they do what they do and a consistently reinforced culture of service.  For most people, and certainly for those who work in a service industry, providing service to others is the necessary purpose.
  • They want to know that their job is worthwhile and contributes in a meaningful way to the organization’s purpose.
  • They want to know that their efforts make a difference.

Second, a major element in letting employees know that their job is important and that they make a difference is to change the normal organizational dynamic from focusing on problems and issues to focusing on the positives.  Studer advocates doing this by:

  • “Harvesting wins” – managers seeking out and acknowledging what’s working well in the organization and making the recognition of these “wins” a top focus at all levels.
  • “Rounding for positives” – managers on their walkabouts (MBWA) seeking out those who are going above and beyond or demonstrating consistent performance in the face of challenges.
  • “Harvest and share examples” – managers recognizing and sharing stories of employees who make a difference on a daily basis.  Not only should individual employees receive the face-to-face recognition and appreciation, but their supervisors should be told so they can also acknowledge the employee’s efforts.  Ideally, the shared success stories would be widely disseminated throughout the organization so that all employees hear of it and by constant reminder understand that what they do well makes a difference.  As anybody who regularly does this knows, positive reinforcement of desired behaviors is a far greater motivator than constant harping and criticism.

Lastly, Studer asks, “What are employees looking for from their leaders?” and provides the following seven basic requirements:

  • A good relationship
  • Approachability
  • Willingness to work side by side
  • Efficient systems
  • Training and development
  • Tools and equipment to do the job
  • Appreciation

So with the stage now set, let’s revisit Studer’s “rounding” questions and why they have such impact.

1.   Tell me what is working well today? Asking and getting answers to this question puts the emphasis on the positive and invites countless opportunities to seek out and recognize employees, even whole departments, for doing well.  Given that every day many more things are done right than are problematic, wouldn’t it be nice, even helpful, if everyone in the organization was more aware of all the good things that are happening routinely and gave credit where it was due.

2.   Are there any employees or co-workers whom I should be recognizing? Again, this question opens the door for recognition for those that give the extra measure or go out of their way to be helpful.  Like the proverbial ripples on a pond when a stone is thrown in, these swells of recognition and appreciation spread throughout the organization lifting not only individuals but the organization as a whole.

3.   Is there anything we can do better? This question emphasizes a focus on solving problems and continual improvement, but does so in a way that is neither demeaning nor disparaging to employees.  The focus is on solutions, not criticism.  It also demonstrates unequivocally that management wants to improve the operation.  With this example employees will willingly join the effort.

4.   Do you have the tools and equipment to do your job? As we have often stated, service-based leadership is focused on serving the needs of employees by providing them with the proper tools, training, resources, motivation, and empowerment to serve their constituencies.  What better way to emphasize this focus than by constantly asking them if they have everything they need to do their jobs better or more efficiently.  Further, your willingness to ensure they have everything within reason to complete their tasks demonstrates your recognition of the importance of their job.

Some employees may find the constant asking of the same four questions off-putting, but managers can vary the process by using a little humor or a different phraseology in asking the questions – for instance:

  • Who are your heroes today?
  • You seem to spend a lot of time doing that.  Any ideas to make it easier?
  • What obstacles do you face in doing your job?

When you and your fellow managers follow up on the responses you get, when you routinely commend and recognize employees for their contributions, when you act on suggestions for improvement and remove obstacles, your engagement and example will transform the attitudes, motivation, morale, performance, and job satisfaction of your staff.

You will also find your employees to be a wellspring of ideas to improve your operation.  They just have to be encouraged to come forward and be appreciated for doing so.  Lastly, they will see you and your management team as a group of caring individuals who want high levels of performance, but also as leaders who value and recognize their essential contribution to the effort involved.

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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