Archive for November, 2014

The Profound and Powerful Persuasion of Principles

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Over the years numerous authors have stated and reinforced the notion that leadership is the foundation of organizational excellence.  Examples abound in the world of business, in sports arenas, in warfare and battle that sound leadership is the first and foremost requirement of success.  Even in hospitality and service, leadership plays that essential role.  As Tony Hyde, Senior Executive Vice President of East West Partners Club Management, said, “The longer I’m in this business, the more I realize it’s all about leadership.”

Yet most successful club managers will tell you that no matter the individual skills and talents they possess, there is much more in the way of organization, structure, and management disciplines that must be brought to bear to create and sustain a high-performing operation.  First and foremost of these are well-defined organizational values and a continually reinforced culture of service.  Why is this so?

  • A leader’s values are those bedrock principles that govern the actions by which she gains the trust and loyalty of her followers.  A recent ad for Notre Dame University said it best, “The value of a leader is directly proportional to a leader’s values.”  Dr. Bob Nelson, founder of a company specializing in management practices improvement, has said, “You get the best efforts from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.”  Leadership is not so much what you do.  It’s what you inspire others to do; and nothing inspires like principled action.
  • As we have often stressed, a leader must spell out his or her expectations for followers.  While these expectations must cover the standards, policies, and procedures of performance and execution, there is nothing so basic, yet so important, as ensuring that all employees, especially managers and supervisors, have a firm grounding in the values of the organization.

This indoctrination in best accomplished by continuing exposure, ongoing example, and constant reminder of the underlying principles by which the club conducts itself in relation to the board, the members, employees, vendors, and the community at large.  Without the effort to spell these out in detail, an organization has little hope of modeling and teaching employees what is expected of them in their dealings with others.  Yet how many clubs have made the effort to define their organizational values?  Some have, others have not.

To assist clubs who may want help in this area, Hospitality Resources International has prepared a wide variety of organizational values covering mission, vision, guiding principles, operating standards, managers’ code of ethics, principles of employee relations, and standards of management professionalism.  To further assist organizations in teaching these essential principles, HRI has created Values on the Go, a program designed to present organizational values in brief formats for ongoing training and reminder.

The material in Values on the Go is intended for the management staff, including all employees who supervise the work of others and may be used in any appropriate group setting, but most particularly in the general manager’s weekly staff meeting.  By spending a few minutes at each meeting discussing these topics, a general manager can be assured that subordinate managers understand and continually reinforce values and culture.  It can also be used to train new management hires in the details of the club’s organizational values.

As Mac Anderson, founder of Simple Truths, author of more than 22 books, and inspirational corporate speaker, has said, “The three keys to inspiring . . .  service – Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce.”

Without an effort to reinforce to employees the basic values of the club, the general manager is failing to value one of the most invaluable of all leadership qualities – the profound and powerful persuasion of principles.

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!

Detailing Your Club Operations

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

At root our business is about details – the specifics of the products and services we provide and the manner in which we provide them to meet the expectations of our members.  Given that private clubs entail a variety of distinct businesses based on the amenities provided, the tally of daily details easily runs into the thousands across the full spectrum of club operations.  And it’s the way a large number of employees consistently attend to and execute those details that create and sustain members’ perceptions of the value of their club experience.  So while it’s the big picture of strategy that sets the course and trajectory of the operation, it’s the daily attention to detail that creates the expected level of quality and service.

So who is responsible for delivering that quality and service?  Ultimately it’s the general manager, though for practicality sake, the authority to do so is delegated through the club’s department heads and managers to the employees who deliver the service.  But delivering a consistent level of service and quality requires that a vast amount of knowledge, information, guidance, and ongoing training be provided to employees by perhaps 15 to 20 supervisors and managers.  This can only happen if all employees are immersed in a well-defined and continually reinforced culture of service.

This is easily said, but far more difficult to create and sustain in the dynamic and fast-paced environment of club operations.  Clearly the solution is to build as much of the details of service as possible into the structure and routine of the organization.  Here are the necessities:

  • Understand the expectations of your members.  Without a basic understand of what they want and desire, you may miss the mark and all your efforts will be for naught.
  • Ensure consistent and unimpeded communication of organizational values and culture of service.  There is so much for service employees to know and understand that any impediments to the open flow of information will defeat your efforts from the get-go.
  • Identify, prioritize, and focus on the details of departmental touch points.  These are the logical starting point for all your efforts to improve quality and service.  As these are mastered, continue to uncover and address deeper levels of organizational detail.
  • Provide thorough and consistent training of all employees.  Understanding the touch points of your operation does little good if that understanding is not passed on consistently to each new employee and generations of employees.
  • Foster employee empowerment to deal with the unscripted moments and challenges of service.  Management can never foresee all the contingencies of service.  Employees, with the full backing and support of their supervisors, must be encouraged within the parameters of their training to use individual initiative to overcome any service challenges.
  • Utilize organizational structure to institutionalize consistent service delivery.  What we do ain’t easy!  Help yourself and your employees by structuring the routine to happen routinely.  This takes both the will and the organizational discipline to make it happen.  When 80% of the details happen routinely, everyone can focus on the 20% that will wow your members.
  • Institute a robust process of continual improvement to analyze and enhance service and service delivery, detail by detail, department by department.  As we say in Continual Process Improvement, “Given the many details associated with managing a quality club operation it is imperative that management commit to and promote a process of continual improvement in all areas of the operation.  This requires a positive emphasis on problem discovery, a discipline of constant review, and an understanding that in quality service operations, the devil is in the details.  As more and more areas of the operation become systematized and routine, management at all levels, with the commitment and assistance of their empowered employees, must continually ‘peel the onion’ to deeper and deeper layers of detail.  Further, no detail must be seen as too trivial to warrant management’s attention and the establishment of standards and procedures to ensure it is attended to by the staff.”

While many owners and managers will say their business success is dependent on location, location, location, in the demanding world of the private clubs, it’s how we handle the details that determine our level of service and success.

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: Top Leadership Skills for Club Managers

Monday, November 10th, 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

In today’s private Clubs, our Board of Directors expect us to have exceptional leadership skills. If we are to succeed we must learn to “hone” our leadership skills in order to deal with the present and future of our Clubs. Whether you are the General Manager and Chief Operating Officer of your Club, if you own the Club, you are a department manager, or you are an employee of the Club looking to make his or her way up the proverbial corporate ladder, the right leadership style and skills is essential in order to reach your personal and professional goals, the goals of your Club, and the individual goals of your team. It can be said without argument that well-honed leadership skills are the most important component of being a successful manager, providing you with the ability to lead your Club into the future and beyond, regardless of what’s up ahead.

Below are seven leadership skills that you can further develop that that will help you manage and lead your Club into the future of these uncertain economic times:

Adaptability:  As a leader, adaptability means reacting in an effective manner to shifting circumstances in your Club business environment, not only with what’s going on at your Club, but also having foresight with what’s going on in the business world, both locally and globally. Everybody experiences adaptive challenges, but leaders who are keen to resolve these issues with a carefully thought-out plan of action before they happen are what our Board of Directors is looking for. If there is one trait that every business leader needs most in today’s business environment, it is adaptability. I have always enjoyed the quote; “Better Bend than Break!”

Just as in an “outdoor survival situation” you must learn to improvise, adapt and overcome, if you are going to survive a situation. If adaptability is not your strongest skill set, then you can learn to accept your difference as just that and accept it is what it is. The key however, is anticipating potential problems at your Club, before they happen, so that you do not have to deal with putting out fires. Always plan and prepare a backup or contingency plan, just in case your preferred plan fails. A friend of mine was a Navy Seal. One of their mottos was; “One is none and two is one.” What this means is that if you have one of something in a survival situation and it breaks, you have nothing. But, if you have two of something, and one breaks, you will have the ability to replace parts or use the backup item in your survival kit in order to accomplish your mission. It’s a part of a well-thought out contingency plan, along with having foresight.

Remember that if you design your work style around a plan that provides plenty of adaptability, you will be able to provide better support and leadership to your team. You’ll also be the person that others turn to for guidance when things change or an unexpected crisis arises. Lead by example – if you show them that you are adaptable, open-minded and flexible you’ll discover more opportunities opening up for you.

People skills:  We all know that we are in the “people business.” If we do not have a tolerance and ability to deal with people, then we don’t need to be in the business of private club management.

We must learn the ability to observe people in the workplace. This will provide us with the insight that we will need in order to take appropriate action for the right results.

The ability to communicate effectively is one of our skill sets that we need to perfect. It is not easy to get ideas across to your team when attempting to make the right decision or reach a solution at your Club. As leaders we should be able to communicate effectively to everyone, not just your management team, but also to your line-level employees, along with your Club Committees, Membership and Board of Directors.

The ability to motivate your team gives you the leadership edge in order to get the best out of those who report directly to you. If you are not mentoring your team, listening to them and training them, then your people skills are greatly lacking. In order to develop these skills, you must learn how to listen and work closely with your team, taking into consideration what they have to say and contribute. Be “authentic” and listen and learn from your team. When you connect with your team, you develop trust, which provides a sense of integrity in the team. If they trust you, they will be more productive and they will follow your leadership. If your team loses trust in you, you have lost everything. Learn to listen more and adapt and overcome.

Self-Awareness:  Leaders who are aware of how they are perceived by others or how they impact the behavior of others are more likely to succeed than those who aren’t self-aware, or those who don’t seem to care. Most of us are guilty of believing that we are better than we really are, because of our honest intent. However, none of us are as good as we believe we are or as good as we can become.

Others can only judge us based on our behaviors, actions and what we talk about, which can often lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication. Remember; “We become what we think about.” You cannot, as a leader, assume that everyone around you instinctively understands the “how and why” behind what you do. You need to practice self-awareness in order to establish a more positive working relationship with your management team and employees. Identify your personal strengths and weaknesses and then determine what you need to do to overcome them, whether it is explaining things more clearly, being more willing to compromise or developing better team-building skills. Remember, even if you don’t see your flaws, those around you do. If you are self-aware, people will see that you are making the effort to overcome your faults – a very important trait of a great leader.

Decisiveness:   Let your “Yes be yes and your No be No.” Decisiveness is a critical skill set as a great General Manager. Decisiveness is an exercise in good judgment that produces well-informed, fast and sound decisions from decisive leaders. However, decisiveness is not to be confused with inflexibility. While leaders must be decisive, they must also be flexible, and understand when they need to respond to a well-thought out plan that isn’t working. The opposite of decisiveness is indecisiveness. Don’t let indecisiveness be a killer in your leadership style. Just remember no decision is often misinterpreted as a decision.

Purposefulness:   Every private club needs a well thought out vision, along with established mission and values to set its direction. Every successful leader can tune into that vision to achieve success. Without a vision, the people will perish. Your staff needs to have purpose. It is our responsibility to provide that purpose, through a defined leadership plan.

What may be more advantageous today is the ability to own a strong sense of purpose and the ability to convey this purposefulness to your employees and coworkers. Purposefulness can be more powerful than a vision because it shares the ambition of growing your Club with others. Understanding what the real purpose behind the vision is will inspire others. A vision, on the other hand, may make sense only to a few.

Collaborative Skills:  Technology has opened up new avenues for communicating and working with our members and employees. The idea behind collaborating is about idea exchange and sharing of ideas. I have often seen line level employees come up with some of the most brilliant ideas. We must never underestimate the brilliance of our employees. We should always provide a forum for every group in our Clubs, internally and externally, which includes inviting members and employees, to share in this form of idea exchange.

Innovation:  Another advantage of inspiring a culture of collaboration is the constant exchange of innovative ideas within your team. To be a great leader, become the person that everyone approaches when they have a new idea or innovative approach to a problem. Leadership means understanding that you don’t always have to come up with ideas by yourself – you can also nurture growth and innovation in others that will benefit everyone.

Too often we look outside of the box, referring to the quote: “Think Outside of the Box” as opposed to “Looking Inside of the Box.” I have found over the years that the solution is often right there before me, waiting to be discovered, right there inside of the box. Be innovative, be an idea generator. A great way to approach innovation that I have learned is to write down all of the ideas that the team can come up with and then when you have no more ideas flowing from the team, it’s there after that when most great ideas begin to surge. I say innovate until your brain hurts, because that’s where the real ideas are!

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!

10 Essential Human Resource Best Practices

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

The liabilities associated with failing to properly follow federal and state labor, compensation, and discrimination laws can be significant and are not something any small business should take lightly.  This is particularly so for hospitality operations that are labor-intensive and often standalone, independent entities with few economies of scale and limited resources.

Often such operations have no dedicated Human Resource manager, instead assigning these important responsibilities to the controller or administrative staff as additional duties.  While not questioning the competency or conscientiousness of these employees, such an approach to HR administration makes it all the more critical that all aspects of the organization’s HR function are spelled out in detail and all managers have a thorough understanding of related issues and best practices.  This is certainly not an area to fly by the seat of one’s pants and hope for the best; doing so is too much like playing Russian roulette – sooner or later the results will be catastrophic!

Recognizing the potential consequences of a slap-dash approach to HR management, there are essential best practices that should be at the heart of every enterprise’s HR function.  Here’s my list of top ten:

1.  Written Human Resources Standards, Policies, and Procedures (SPPs).  As we say in The Quest for Remarkable Service:

“While hospitality operations should avoid becoming overly bureaucratic, there are clearly areas where the repercussions of not following set policies and procedures present a significant risk.  Two of these are Human Resources and Accounting.  In the former, there are federal and state laws that dictate how employment and personnel matters must be handled and, if not scrupulously followed, they can create significant legal and liability exposure for the organization.”

Written Personnel Standards, Policies, and Procedures also cover a wide area of enterprise work rules and promote better organization and efficiency, while reducing costs due to error and rework.

2.  Detailed Hiring Policies and Procedures.  Advertising for vacant positions, screening and interviewing applicants, as well as properly and consistently in-processing new hires requires well-established policies and procedures and managers who are properly trained to follow all hiring requirements.  This will only happen if hiring practices are spelled out in detail and followed consistently

3.  Standardized Personnel Files.  Those operations with paper personnel filing systems must design standardized personnel files, as well as the standards, policies, and procedures that ensure the consistent and correct gathering, storing, and protecting of all pertinent employee information related to hiring, compensating, assigning, evaluating, promoting, counseling, disciplining, and terminating employees.  This is not an area for a catch-as-catch-can approach to recordkeeping.

4.  Formal Onboarding Process.  Recognizing that first impressions are powerful determinants in establishing any person’s attitudes about, and commitment to, a new job, it is imperative that the enterprise make an effort to welcome and impress the new hire.  But the consequences of not providing a warm, welcoming, and informative onboarding process go far beyond first impressions.  Given that there is much basic information for employees to know, a formal onboarding process will ensure that new hires receive a formal orientation for both the enterprise as a whole and their individual department, as well as initial training in organizational values, culture of service, position skills, safety, and security.

5.  Detailed Performance Expectations and Review Process.  All employees deserve to know what is expected of them in their jobs and the criteria by which their performance will be evaluated.  This is especially true for management positions as their work has a significant bearing on the success or failure of the organization.  But unless expectations and performance criteria are spelled out in a formal and consistent way, much is left to chance or individual initiative.

6.  Written Counseling and Disciplinary Procedures.  Many grievances and formal complaints of wrongful termination and discrimination stem from a failure of managers to formally and properly document counseling or disciplinary sessions.  Having a clearly defined disciplinary process and standards for applying disciplinary procedures will go a long way to eliminate such complaints.  Employee Development and Disciplinary Guides provide an excellent framework for hospitality managers.

7.  Departmental Staffing Guides.  Each department head, by creating a staffing guide of core and seasonal positions, determines optimal year-round staffing.  These core positions, then, are “protected” from seasonal adjustments in all but extreme situations.  Once Departmental Staffing Guides are established, no new hires should be made for core positions without an existing vacancy or the express approval of the general manager.

8.  Benchmarked Personnel Actions.  Most managers recognize the importance of benchmarking payroll information on a pay period basis as a means of better understanding and controlling their pay cost.  But it’s also important to benchmark major personnel actions by department and for the enterprise as a whole.  Such benchmarking can highlight excessive departmental turnover or disciplinary actions that may be a sign of poor leadership, faulty screening and hiring, or lack of departmental training or communication.  Spotting these troublesome signs early can prevent larger problems from arising.

9.  Standardized Discharge Procedures.  Discharging an employee for performance or cause is fraught with liability issues.  Having well defined procedures is an important step in avoiding wrongful termination or discrimination charges.  See Discharging without Repercussions for more information.

10.  Ongoing HR Training for Managers and Supervisors.  Given the breadth and depth of HR requirements and best practices, it is essential that all managers and supervisor have a thorough understanding of these in all their detail.  This can only happen through consistent, ongoing HR training.  Human Resources on the Go is an excellent example of such training.

Bottom Line:  There is much to be concerned about in HR management.  Without formal HR Standards, Policies, and Procedures and the ongoing effort to educate and train enterprise leaders in HR issues and best practices, there will be ongoing personnel issues in the operation.  Sooner or later, these will result in a significant and costly problem for the enterprise.

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!