Archive for August, 2014

What You Owe Your Boss – Loyalty and Support

Monday, August 25th, 2014

In Leadership on the Line, we talked about managing your boss with a “State of the Union” report, timely and accurate information about your plans and projects, as well as the progress of your initiatives.  In doing these things you keep your boss informed and assured that you are properly attending to the needs and requirements of your position.  The ultimate purpose of managing your boss is to make her job easier, allowing her to focus on the other pressing issues of her position.  Beyond this, what do you “owe” your boss?  Most importantly you owe her your undivided loyalty and complete support.

Hopefully your boss is an active and engaged leader who has a plan of improvement and works diligently toward its implementation.  In the process of implementing her agenda she will develop plans and programs and issue directives for their accomplishment.  It is your responsibility and duty, then, to wholeheartedly support her agenda in its thorough implementation within your area of the operation.

theworkbook_cover-4But what if you have doubts about the wisdom or efficacy of her program?  In this case you as a leader have a duty to fully and frankly express your reservations to her.  However, this should always be done in private in a calm and deliberate way.  Your purpose here is to convince, not attack or criticize.  Clearly, rationally, and with suggestions for alternative courses of action, you must express your reservations and persuade your boss of other means to her desired ends.

If, after exhausting your powers of persuasion, your boss is unmoved and insists upon her original instructions, you have but two choices—to completely support and devote yourself 100% to accomplishing her directives or, if sufficiently opposed, to resign your position since you are unable to fully support her initiatives.

Why is the choice so stark?  Is there no alternative between these two extremes?  No!  Either you fully support and implement her program without grumbling, complaining, or hesitation—as if the initiative was your own—or you step aside because you can’t.

The most damaging thing you can do is to undermine your boss’ efforts by publicly criticizing her plan or by failing to actively and aggressively implement it.  Both send a clear message to your employees that you neither agree with nor support the plan.  This will quickly set up divided loyalties in the workforce.  Its impact on employees will be similar to the well-known phenomenon of parents sending mixed behavioral messages to their children.

Even worse is to pretend to support your boss’ agenda while secretly acting to sabotage it.  This passive-aggressive behavior is unfair to the person who hired you and is damaging to the organization.  Your employees will readily understand your lack of commitment and ultimately your boss will recognize it too.  In this instance, your boss’ only recourse is to discharge you—and you will certainly deserve it.

The bottom line is that you have a responsibility to fully support and show loyalty to your boss.  If, for whatever reason, you have come to lack respect for your boss, it’s time for you to move on.

Still unconvinced?  For one moment put yourself in the position of the boss—how long could you tolerate a subordinate manager who, either actively or passively, worked at cross purposes to your plans?

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, Clarity Publications, 2009

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality 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 hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Guest Blog: Getting the Training Wheels Turning

Monday, August 18th, 2014
Don Vance, CCM, CPC Chief Operating Officer General Manager Hound Ears Club

Don Vance, CCM, CPC Chief Operating Officer General Manager Hound Ears Club

A recent Gallup survey reported that less than one-third of U.S. employees are “actively and genuinely engaged” in their jobs, while 17% are “actively disengaged.”  That means that the remainder—over 50%—are just going through the motions of their jobs and flying under the radar, basically trying not to get noticed.

As front-line managers, it’s up to us to create and maintain the relationships that stimulate employee engagement, while reducing physical and psychological turnover.  The worst employee is the one who quits mentally, but stays in your employ and has no inclination to leave.

One of the primary goals of all training programs, then, should be as much to generate enthusiasm and staff involvement— and ignite commitment—as to impart the needed knowledge and skills required for the specific duties of particular job responsibilities.  Making sure that our training programs include components for these critical motivational purposes will prove to be just as important factors in how successfully we can improve employee retention and service consistency, create customer loyalty, and drive business results.

Ready for the Call

This all becomes especially critical in industries like hospitality, where there has always been a traditional emphasis on promoting from within.  If you’re going to first look to fill positions by advancing people who are already on your staff, you certainly want to have confidence that those who are sitting “on the bench” and waiting for their chance are eager and motivated, not disgruntled and disengaged.  If we only have people on board who are not only not ready, but also not willing (or even just one of the two), we are only setting them up to fail.  As one of my favorite sayings holds, “You can’t send a Duck to Eagle School.”  And if our training programs fail to recognize this, we will be forever trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

A friend and colleague of mine and I recently had a conversation about this very subject.  He recently accepted the position of General Manager at a very fine city club in Florida.  Prior to his appointment to this position, the member-owned club’s Board of Directors had to terminate the previous General Manager, who had been promoted from within, simply because he was not capable of fulfilling the responsibilities of this role.  To get the opportunity, this manager must have done a good job in his former position.  But it sounds like this may have been another case of someone failing largely because they hadn’t been trained effectively for the next step in their career.

Yes, it could certainly have also been a case of the old “Peter Principle,” which held that many people will eventually be promoted beyond their capabilities.  But I think that’s a principle that has largely gone by the wayside, especially in the hospitality business.  In this day and age, we’ve become much better about identifying the people who “have what it takes” to move up in the managerial ranks, versus those who are also valuable contributors, but clearly have limits.  But that doesn’t mean we have also become much better about making sure those people who “have it” will be properly prepared when we do move them up.

Firing Up the Floaters

Effective training programs can only occur when we have gained the trust, loyalty and commitment of our employees—and a big part of gaining this trust and commitment is making sure they don’t see, or know about, examples like the one at the Florida city club.

Our employees aren’t stupid.  If they sense situations where they, or others, are being set up to fail, or feel that training programs are largely self-serving and designed only for the organization to feel good about itself or show that it has met an “obligation,” they will understandably do all they can to settle in as part of that 50-plus percent segment of the workforce identified by the Gallup study: People who just try to keep their heads low, get through the day, and float through their careers.

If we are to energize and excite our employees and maximize the talents and strengths of our entire workforce, we must do more to align all employees with their own individual needs along with our organization’s strategic plans.  The first key step to accomplishing this is to recognize that we shouldn’t “force feed” everyone into the same standard training programs.  Rather, we should do more to shape and customize our training efforts around three key initiatives;

  1. identify special training needs for individuals or groups through “skills assessments” of our employees;
  2. focus on continuous employee development, rather than ramming everyone through upfront training and then assuming that will be enough to carry them through forever, no matter how long they stay with us or what roles they advance to;
  3. create an overall “learning culture” within our organizations that requires more of a partnership with our employees.

Coaching ‘Em Up

In my experience (both as an employer/trainer and employee/ trainee), a key to pursuing these initiatives is to shift from the Boss to the Coach mentality.  As managers, we need to find ways to interact and identify with each individual employee in a way that give us better insights into their desires and aspirations.  Through a conversational process, we need to probe into not only their strengths but their weaknesses, so we can help to coach them beyond where many of them may ever see themselves going.

This is a real transformational process that requires time and patience—but the results can speak for themselves.  We have to base our approaches as managers in the belief that if an employee has a learning attitude, desire, passion, and the willingness to commit to something greater than themselves, we can teach them to achieve levels of success that they have never imagined on their own.

This notion of unearthing and nurturing hidden abilities, as a coach or talent scout would do, is especially apt in the hospitality business.  In fact, I have always believed that we are entertainers in this business, and that our workplace is the stage.  There is nothing more beautiful to me then to see a server on the dining room floor executing what they know how to do flawlessly (and instinctively) in the heat of the action on a busy night.  It is like watching and listening to a ballet of the highest caliber.

But if our training programs don’t touch the inside of our employees individually, they will not change on the outside, and then instead only go through the motions.  And when that happens, they will be depriving us (as managers), themselves (as employees) and most importantly and sadly, our members and guests (as customers) of their best performances.

Employees must also know, and believe, that they can benefit from whatever training we require of them.  We must have strong recognition and benefit systems in place that reward growth and performance.  In addition, we must continually reexamine the effectiveness of our current training programs, to monitor their success.

Group Dynamics

We must also not forget the importance of group training.  At The Club at Longview, we recently developed a program we call our Employee Member Experience Team.  Using an individual employee from every department of our club, this group learning experience is designed to identify and develop “Moment of Truth” opportunities that can define and enhance our members’ experiences, every time they come to the club.

We make sure that this group training program is interactive and engaging for the employees who participate in it, and it has led to significant contributions to our programs for members.  We have also found that this type of training encourages a spirit of team-building that is critical to our organization’s success.  Too many properties have disconnects among their employee groups, because they just don’t have enough chances to get to know or work with each other.  When you work out on the golf course, it is difficult to get to know the cook in the kitchen.  But with this type of group training program, we are also building effective interrelationships among our various employee groups.  It’s true: Working together works!

You should also encourage your employees to take full advantage of the amazing array of valuable free or low-cost training resources that are now available to them on the Internet or through local or national organizations.  And, if your club or resort hasn’t yet considered “Webinars” (Web-based training programs), you’re missing out on an approach that can be very cost-effective for supervisors, as well as more time-effective for entry-level management employees.

Rather than discourage or restrict computer use among your staff during “work hours,” in fact, you will find that one of the most productive aspects of your training regimen these days can be to encourage everyone to take a specified amount of time each day or week to research specific topics that you’ve assigned to them, and then report back to your group on what they’ve found.

Article written by: Don E. Vance, CCM, CPC, Chief Operating Officer/General Manager, Hound Ears Club

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality 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 hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Structure for “the Groove” and Avoid “the Rut”

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Every new General Manager has tackled the challenges of their position with vision, vigor, and enthusiasm to address the expressed concerns of the board or owners and the perceived needs of customers/guests/members.  It’s something we’ve all experienced – analyzing the operation, discovering the problems, formulating a plan of action, winning the support of employees for the new agenda, and executing to completion.

While there are few things as satisfying as overcoming obstacles to improve a hospitality operation, the larger challenge that never goes away is how to keep the spirit of renewal alive over time.  This is so because it seems that despite whatever progress is made, things still fall apart, old habits die hard and new initiatives, no matter how exciting, grow stale and uninspiring in short order.  It is just too easy for your “in-the-groove” operation to backslide into that same ol’, same ol’ rut.

So what is the conscientious manager to do to break through the seemingly endless cycle of groove and rut?  The simple answer is to instill a strong sense of constant renewal in the enterprise’s culture.  While this is easily said, the reality of making it happen is far more complex and challenging, requiring a significant degree of organizational structure and focus.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Make ongoing renewal a priority in departmental expectations and departmental plans, ensuring that department heads spell out goals and specific steps to keep each operation’s events and activities fresh and compelling.  Tools:  Annual club planning, individual work plans, measureable accountabilities, and accountability for performance.
  • Focus on the fundamentals of service and service delivery with ongoing reminders to managers and employees alike.  As Mac Anderson says, “The three keys to inspiring . . . service – Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce.”  Tools:  On the Go Training, Daily Huddles, Notable Quotables
  • In each department encourage employee feedback on what works and what doesn’t.  As prominent technology and entrepreneur blogger Bill Robinson says, “To be able to regularly solicit, capture and execute upon the strong ideas of those on the front lines who really know what the customers want will be the panacea for the 21st century business world.”  Act on the information your employees bring you to continually improve all aspects of the operation – organization, planning, execution, training, service, and service delivery.  Tools:  Continual Process Improvement
  • Using the principles of Service-Based Leadership, work continually toward the power of employee empowerment.  An entire staff that understands what must be done, how to do it, and acts without fear of making mistakes and repercussions will bring far more to bear on success and renewal than the efforts of a handful of managers and supervisors.  Tools:  Leadership on the Line, The Power of Employee Empowerment
  • Use every opportunity of interaction with employees to reinforce organizational values and the culture of service.  Whether it’s pre-shift meetings, the habit of daily huddles, or casual conversations and direction throughout the workday, managers must constantly “spread the gospel” by word AND deed.  While the message is important, there is no substitute for example – not only in how leaders interact with customers/guests/members, but more importantly how they interact with their employees.  There is no substitute for the example of leadership.  “A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.”  Tools:  The Bully Pulpit, Daily Huddles, Notable Quotables, Service-Based Leadership
  • Seek the feedback of your customers/guests/members.  Ultimately it’s their perception of your operation that guarantees success.  Feedback comes in many forms – formal surveys, departmental comment cards, personal interactions, AND benchmarking customer spending habits within each department.  All of these will clearly point to customer boredom or dissatisfaction with your operation.  Tools:  Surveys, scored and benchmarked comment cards, daily interactions, monitoring and analyzing spending habits.
  • Take time for analysis, exploration, and reflection.  Most managers stay busy all the time.  Many simply react to daily and weekly crises.  Some only give infrequent and passing thought to the strategic direction of their operations as if everything runs well enough on auto-pilot.  Without blocks of time set aside on a regular basis to consider their operations and the ongoing or dominant issues that impact their business; to analyze the ebb and flow of their business; to read, research, and reflect on operational ideas and best practices; and to work continually to improve all aspects of what they do, the enterprise will reflect in systemic ways their disinterest and neglect.  Ongoing reflection, analysis, and engagement are essential.  Tools:  Benchmarking and review; structured set-aside time; professional reading lists; ongoing review of trade journals and other publications; adequate time off property for perspective; relationships developed with other managers to discuss, compare, and brainstorm issues and solutions.
  • Make wow factors a significant part of your team’s effort.  It stimulates the creative juices, breaks the tedium of habit, and can be fun for your staff while thrilling to your customers.  Tools:  Wow Factors – read What Have You Done for Me Lately?
  • Make time for constant renewal – Arrange and organize your operation to handle the fundamentals routinely.  The less effort you and your staff have to spend to execute the basics, the more time and focus you’ll have to conceive and execute the extraordinary.  Follow the Pareto Principle to organize your operation so that 80% (the fundamentals) happens routinely, allowing you and your staff to focus on the critical 20% of customer service and satisfaction.  Tools:  read The Quest for Remarkable Service

Bottom Line:  Get your operation “in the groove” with organization and structure.  Then focus on ongoing renewal with continual process improvement and wow factors to avoid being “in the rut” of stale, uninspired programming, service, and service delivery.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality 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 hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!