Archive for April, 2015

Freedom and Responsibility within a Framework

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Throughout my career I have struggled to balance the competing needs for entrepreneurial thinking, innovation, and initiative and the necessities of organization, structure, consistency, and control.  How does one create and sustain a nimble organization that can quickly respond to new technologies, changing member wants and desires, and the competition of the marketplace while maintaining an efficient operation and conscientiously meeting regulatory requirements?

No thinking business person wants to saddle their operation with a bureaucratic mindset, yet efficient operations need systems to function properly and avoid risk, liability, and regulatory problems.  The very word “bureaucracy” carries the negative connotation of inefficiency and stultifying processes where crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s become an organization’s reason for being.

In examining this never ending challenge for businesses, Jim Collins and his research team at Stanford University found that the good to great companies they examined gave people the freedom to do whatever was necessary to succeed within a highly developed system or framework.  Then their people were held strictly accountable for their results.

The analogy that he gave was a commercial airline pilot who works within rigid air traffic control and safety systems on the ground and in the air, but who has the ultimate responsibility for success – that is, the safe delivery of plane and passengers from location to location.  That singular responsibility allows a pilot, at his or her discretion, to remove unruly passengers, abort landings, fly to alternate airports, and take any other action deemed necessary for the safety of the flight.

But essential to bestowing such freedom and responsibility is the necessity of defining the system and clearly identifying constraints.  In the airline industry the Federal Aviation Administration establishes all standards, policies, and procedures for both commercial and private pilots and ensures their ongoing understanding of the system through licensure, certifications, simulator and cockpit training, as well as continual flight and safety bulletins.  To quote from the book:

“The good to great companies build a consistent system with clear constraints, but they also gave people the freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system.  They hired self-disciplined people who didn’t need to be managed, and then managed the system, not the people.”

As a club manager at any level of the organization, you cannot do it all yourself.  Holding the reins tightly creates a bottleneck where all decisions have to come through you, thereby stifling the initiative and creativity of your subordinates.  It also puts a tremendous burden on you to perform, requires you to be on property at all hours, and leads to burnout.

The only way to be truly successful in any complex enterprise is to empower those under you and give them the freedom and responsibility to succeed in their portion of the operation.  But to do this successfully you need to fully develop the framework for their empowerment and a means to hold them accountable.  This means you have to have well-defined organizational values and written standards, policies, and procedures.  Lastly, you need measurable accountabilities for performance.

With these in place you have started on the path to greatness in your enterprise, but it’s only the start – Collins offers much more proven guidance for those willing to invest the time in this well-researched and written, as well as entertaining, book.

The book is Good to Great – Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, Harper Business, New York, NY, 2001.

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!

 

Make Any Day a Special Occasion at Your Club

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Most people don’t need much of an excuse to go out to eat, especially if they have a little jingle in their pockets – as we hope your club members do.  The reason to go out doesn’t even have to be particularly important because who doesn’t like a little celebratory occasion?

While ever club recognizes and celebrates the standard holidays for its country and locale – as in the U.S. we celebrate New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Easter Sunday, Mothers’ Day, etc. – every day of the year is celebrated somewhere for some reason; and in many cases there are multiple occasions for each day.  Some are wild and crazy; others are traditional, national, and even local to their state, county, and town.

By using any one of a number of websites listing celebratory occasions, you can create your own reason for bringing members to the club to dine.  Many international holidays can be tied to a specific cuisine as in Cinco de Mayo, which has now become a commonly-celebrated holiday in the U.S. with Mexican food, beverages, décor, music, and traditional costumes.  Such holidays present a perfect opportunity to market your food service to your membership.  You just have to do a little research and get creative.

Even the weird, wacky, and unusual commemoration can be made into a fun, celebratory occasion that members will enjoy.  Consider that in 1968, students at the University of Colorado at Boulder named their new cafeteria grill the “Alferd G. Packer Memorial Grill” in commemoration of the prospector’s conviction for cannibalism with the slogan “Have a friend for lunch!”  Today students can enjoy the meat-filled “El Canibal” underneath a giant wall map outlining his travels through Colorado.  Even the National Press Club in Washington D.C. offers an Alferd G. Packer burger on its menu.

For starters here are three websites that list holidays (and this was just on the first page of the Google search return):

Holiday Insights

Holidays and Observances around the world

Brownie locks

So get busy and have some fun creating special occasions for any occasion.  Not only will you make some money doing so, but you may create a new club tradition.  With a little research, creativity, and effort you can create your own special celebrations at the club.  Well-conceived, marketed, and executed, these occasions can grow your food and beverage revenues during traditionally slow periods.

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!

The Golf Course Superintendent

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Maintaining a championship quality golf course may cost a million dollars a year or more depending upon location and the owner’s desired quality.  This coupled with the fact that much of the work of grooming, setting up, and maintaining a golf course is labor intensive makes the Golf Course Maintenance staff one of the larger staffs in a golf operation.  Managing this large, highly specialized operation requires a professional turf management expert as well as a sound business manager.

Modern Golf Course Superintendents are typically graduates of collegiate level turf management schools.  Before ascending to the Superintendent position, they typically work a number of years at golf courses learning the practical skills of their trade and working their way up to Assistant Golf Course Superintendent.  They are typically compensated with a base salary commensurate with their education, background, and experience.  On top of that they may be offered a bonus opportunity for meeting budget or other specified goals.

Their challenge in the golf business is unique—how to maintain an artificially created playing environment with specialized grasses in various regions of the country with a host of micro-climates and conditions at the highest possible level while meeting the desires of the owners and players.  A superintendent’s knowledge base includes agronomy, pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers), soil composition, irrigation techniques, turf care equipment and techniques, equipment maintenance, tree and shrubbery care, and a deep knowledge and love of the game of golf.

Every golf course is different; in fact, every hole on every golf course is different.  Combinations of soil, water, grass, sunlight, weather, temperature, and the knowledgeable application of chemicals make each area of the course a microcosm of nature.  This, the Superintendent is responsible for knowing, tending, and nurturing throughout the year.  Ironically, the end of all his efforts—the players for whom he is trying to provide ideal playing conditions on the course—are the very ones that damage and degrade the course with every round played.  All this requires the Superintendent to monitor conditions on the course very carefully day by day.

The Superintendent and the Head Golf Professional need to work closely on a number of important issues —course set up, pin placements, tournament and event schedule, major turf treatment schedules, and playability.  Like the Head Golf Professional, the Superintendent in a private club setting reports to a committee of members—the Greens Committee.  Often his greatest challenge will come from individual members with an uninformed opinion and vision for the golf course.

The Superintendent hires, trains, and supervises a large staff of specialists and laborers to set up and maintain the course.  In larger operations he will usually be assisted by an Assistant Professional, an Equipment Mechanic, a Chemical Applicator, an Irrigation Technician, Crew Leaders, Equipment Operators, and Greenskeepers.  Throughout the year there are different tasks confronting the GC Maintenance staff.  Various applications of fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides, mowing the fairways, roughs, collars, and greens during the growing season, setting up the course each day with pin placements, leaf blowing in the fall, repairs from storm damage, and constant repairs to course equipment.  During the slower winter months there is a large effort to service the specialized course equipment—including fairway mowers, greens mowers, aerators, utility carts, and other equipment.

In many parts of the country, golf courses need to be irrigated to maintain the growth and vitality of the grasses.  Modern golf courses used computerized irrigation systems that allow the Superintendent to adjust the amount and cycles of course irrigation with pop-up sprinkler heads, all controlled from the Superintendent’s office by a computer.  The downside to irrigation systems are the inevitable breaks and washouts on the course caused by pressurized water.

Most Golf Course Maintenance staffs are made up of a core staff of year-round, full time employees.  During the busy season this staff is augmented with seasonal workers.  While most private clubs close their courses one day a week, very often that day is reserved for golf outings—a great way to increase overall club revenues.  Naturally these outings come during the busier, more popular times of the year for golf play.  As a result, the Golf Course Maintenance staff must frequently work long hours and long weeks to maintain the course.  In other operations such as resorts, golf is played 7 days a week, thereby increasing the wear and tear on the course and challenge to maintain the course in optimum condition.

While the Superintendent makes every effort to give players optimum playing conditions on a daily basis, he also adjusts fertilizer applications and water schedules in the weeks before major events and tournaments to give the course the fast and firm conditions that are difficult to achieve all the time.  This necessitates the Head Golf Professional and Superintendent working closely together to schedule major course maintenance at times that won’t impact major events.

In addition to the ongoing maintenance of the course, the Superintendent is responsible for the daily set up of the course.  This requires a team of employees to change the pin placement, mow the greens and collars, replenish the on-course water, refill and service the ball washers, empty the course trash containers—all before the first players tees off.

Throughout the year the Superintendent must monitor weather and course conditions and make daily decisions about whether carts must remain on the cart paths or whether the ninety degree rule will permit carts on the course.  Whenever inclement weather occurs, the Superintendent must quickly mobilize his staff to repair any damage on the course.  This can include rebuilding bunker walls, storm debris cleanup, tree removal, marking any parts of the course under repair, noting drainage problems for scheduled repair work, and ensuring that all sprinkler heads are operating properly.

Though Superintendents operate from a golf course maintenance facility, they are usually on the course and can best be reached by cell phone or radio, especially during the busy season.  While most Superintendents will tell you that theirs is a tough job, most wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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!

 

Conducting Employee Counseling/Disciplinary Sessions

Monday, April 6th, 2015

How you conduct counseling and disciplinary sessions has a lot to do with their success.

First, the meeting must be held in private, in a quiet, uninterrupted setting.  You may wish to include a witness, such as a trusted associate or the Personnel Administrator.  Do not use a departmental peer of the employee being counseled.

Second, the tone of the session should match the purpose.

  • If the session is for counseling, the meeting should be less formal, more comfortable, and supportive.  The conversation should focus on constructive criticism, problem discovery, and proposed solutions.  While this should be done in a supportive way, it is also necessary to communicate to the employee the negative consequences of continued problems.
  • When the purpose of the meeting is disciplinary, the session should be formal and the tone serious.  The idea is to impress upon the employee the serious nature his actions, the impending consequences if he does not improve his behavior or performance, and the issuance of the disciplinary report, suspension, or discharge, as the case may warrant.

Third, your investigation of any incident or your documentation of a series of problems must be thorough and detailed.  Do not go off half-cocked to write somebody up before investigating.  You may have an incomplete picture of what happened and be embarrassed when the full story comes out.

Fourth, after telling the employee the reason for the meeting and relating the incident or allegations as you know them, give him a chance to tell his side of the story.  He may have mitigating circumstances or give a very different version of what happened.

His story may require further investigation.  You may need to call other people in as witnesses or to corroborate or contradict his version.

Fifth, after hearing his side of the story, decide what action you will take and prepare the Record of Employee Counseling, CRI Form 103, describing the incident or problem, allowing him to offer any response, and providing your summary of the counseling or disciplinary action.

Last, present him with the Report.  Ask for his signature.  If he chooses not to sign, so note it.  Make sure the Report is complete.  Provide the employee with a copy, send the original to the Personnel Administrator for inclusion in the employee’s Personnel File, and save a copy for your departmental files.

Documenting the Session

The key to successful disciplinary actions is good documentation.  Supervisors have two documentary tools at their disposal – Staff Notes and the Records of Employee Counseling.

As previously mentioned, Staff Notes are daily or weekly notes made about employees’ performance.  They should contain instances of tardiness, absences, failure to follow instructions and procedures, complaints, arguments or disputes with other employees, instances of outstanding performance, etc.  These brief notes are invaluable in helping you reconstruct circumstances, give details in review sessions, or document continuing disciplinary problems of a minor nature.

Records of Employee Counseling are to be used for formal documentation of problems when you wish to give the employee a copy.  These reports must be filled out completely and accurately.  If you fail to enter a date, fail to sign it, fail to present it to the employee, or fail to get his signature or note “chose not to sign,” the record may be useless as documentary evidence.

Right to Respond       

Each employee subject to a disciplinary action has a right to respond.  Such response should come within 7 days of the disciplinary action, i.e., the meeting when he was informed of the action.

You should consider the response, amend the report if warranted, and attach the response without alteration to all copies of the Record of Employee Counseling (personnel file copy and departmental copy).

Choosing Not to Sign 

Employees are requested to sign all Records of Employee Counseling, but have an absolute right not to sign.

The absence of the employee’s signature will not affect the validity of the document, so long as it is noted that it was presented to him.

If an employee chooses not to sign, do this by writing “chose not to sign” and the date on the signature line.  Please do not use the words “refused to sign” as this connotes coercion or lack of choice.

Summary

Developing employees to their fullest potential and establishing and maintaining discipline are two of the core responsibilities of a supervisor.  Ultimately your success and our success as an organization depends upon how well supervisors train, lead, motivate, and develop their employees.

Establishing and maintaining discipline in a reasonable, fair, and consistent way contributes to good morale and improved departmental performance.  It will also protect you and the club from wrongful discharge and discrimination lawsuits.

Excerpted from the Managers Handbook

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!