Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

How Consistent is your Club Leadership?

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

Strong, stable, and consistent leadership is the single most important requirement for successful club operations.  While there are many styles of leadership suited to any industry or endeavor, experience over many years in the club business makes it clear to this writer that a service-based approach to leadership works best in the service industry with its often young, mixed gender, and multi-ethnic workforce.  This style of leadership has as its primary motivation service to others – to members, to the owners of the club, and to the employees.

ed-jpeg-4This leadership style differs from others in its focus on serving the needs of employees to provide them with the proper tools, training, resources, motivation, and empowerment to serve the club’s members.  In simplest terms, when a club’s employees are served by their leaders, they will serve the members, who by their continuing patronage serve the club’s bottom line.  An understanding of the importance of this style of leadership can be inferred from the simple question,

“How can employees provide quality service if they are not properly served by the leadership and example of their managers?”

While it is recognized that the General Manager must be a strong leader, it is also critical that the club’s subordinate managers and supervisors are also trained to be strong service-based leaders.  While some degree of a leader’s skill-set seems to be inborn, such as personality and an analytic mind, and others, such as confidence, judgment, and basic communication abilities, are developed early in life, the great majority of a leader’s skills are attitudinal and can be learned.

But to expect that your managers with varying backgrounds, education, and experiences will have a common understanding of what constitutes effective leadership is naive in the extreme.  Unless junior managers are systematically trained to develop the skills which have to do with building and sustaining meaningful work relationships with their constituencies, particularly employees, their leadership development will be hindered and haphazard.  This results in the General Manager’s vision and message of service not being communicated consistently or faithfully to line employees.  Instead of having a cohesive team dedicated to a common purpose and acting in a concerted way to further the aims of the enterprise, the club is a collection of tribes who don’t necessarily approach the mission or their jobs in the same way or with the same attitude.

Without leadership consistency, employees get a mixed service message, and their morale, engagement, and commitment will vary from manager to manager and department to department.  It’s really quite simple – if your management team does not provide consistent:

  • Vision, values, and example,
  • Communication and engagement,
  • Training, resources, and support,
  • Regard for and treatment of employees,

You’ll never gain consistency of employee commitment, contribution, and performance.

But the good news is that successful leadership skills can be taught and learned.  Warren G. Bennis, widely regarded as a pioneer in the field of contemporary leadership studies, has said,

“The most dangerous myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership.  This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not.  That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true.  Leaders are made rather than born.”

So the solution to fragmented leadership is to promote a consistent style and application of leadership club-wide.  This can only be done by providing consistent leadership training to the entire management team.  But how does the General Manager teach leadership when you have so much else to do and possibly haven’t given a lot of thought to the issue?

theworkbook_cover-4Over the years while serving as general manager in hotels, resorts, and clubs, I searched a number of times and read a number of books – most extolling the successful leadership techniques of Fortune 500 or celebrity CEOs, or written by Academics with a lot of theory but little practical advice for those toiling in hospitality management.  My frustration in trying to find something useful finally led me to write my own leadership guidance for my team, and this ultimately became Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners, and Emerging Leaders, first published in 2002 and now in its 2nd edition.

This past year, in response to frequent requests to prepare a more “hands on” learning tool, I wrote and published Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, a companion piece to the original book that builds on the themes of Service-Based Leadership from the book by offering self-study sections on Leadership Basics, Values, Lessons, Applications, and Assessments.  Taken together the book and the workbook provide an effective way to teach and to learn a consistent, service-based approach to leadership.

Given the primary importance of leadership in any successful venture, it should never be left to chance.  Even if confident of your own leadership abilities, do yourself and your managers a favor by promoting a consistent, club-wide conception and application of leadership.  When consistently reinforced by your leadership and example, it will have a dramatic impact on their performance, as well as the club’s.

The book ($19.95) and workbook ($19.95) may be purchased at Amazon.com or on the Hospitality Resources International website (never a shipping charge).

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Attending to the Basics in an Organized and Disciplined Way

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

I received a phone call a couple of weeks back from an industry colleague who belongs to a private club.  He said he was serving on a committee to look for ways to increase membership and revenues, while cutting costs.  While I mentioned a couple of ideas, I launched into my familiar pitch that almost any club could benefit from attending to the basics of the business in an organized and disciplined way.

Most of us recognize that our business is not rocket science.  The basics of what we do are well-known to any club professional.  What makes our jobs so challenging is the sheer volume of things that must be attended to daily in a detail and people-intensive business.  Unless a club operation is well-organized and its managers highly disciplined, it operates in a state of barely-controlled chaos interspersed with periods of downtime.  The challenge for all is to transition quickly from storm to calm back to storm while remaining focused on long term goals, ongoing projects, and continual process improvement.  The solution is to organize the club so that most things happen routinely and that managers at all levels be highly disciplined in approaching their duties and efforts to improve the operation.

The great majority of private clubs suffer from similar problems rooted in the same underlying causes:

  1. Standalone operations with limited resources and few economies of scale.
  2. Clubs operate multiple businesses – food and beverage, golf, tennis, aquatics, retail, recreation, and the major maintenance effort involved in golf course operations.  The knowledge and skill set to operate clubs efficiently is large and complex, and especially challenging for lean management teams working long hours and weeks.
  3. The club business is both labor and detail-intensive requiring significant ongoing training, yet without the necessary resources to adequately provide it.  As a result most clubs operate from oral tradition and service complaints are a continuing issue.
  4. Most clubs operate without a written operations plan made up of detailed standards, policies, and procedures which, as Jim Muehlhausen says in his book, The 51 Fatal Business Errors, requires managers to reinvent the wheel every day.
  5. The hospitality industry as a whole and clubs in particularly offer relatively low wage jobs, limited benefits, and challenging working conditions.  As a result high levels of staff turnover are common, particularly among line employees.
  6. Older clubs with aging memberships and outdated facilities find it challenging to find the right mix of facilities and activities to attract new members.
  7. In most markets, there is ample competition for the members’ discretionary spending – and often from operations that offer limited well-designed and executed products or services; whereas clubs must be all things to all members.
  8. In a sense, club members are a “captive” audience and can quickly grow bored or dissatisfied with the same old events and activities.  A club staff, without the ability or resources to provide frequently changing “wow” factor events, will often hear the comment, “What have you done for me lately?”
  9. In some clubs ever-changing boards offer little continuity of direction.

Given these and other specific challenges that vary from club to club, it is absolutely imperative that club managers organize their operations in detail.  My own list of requirements includes:

  1. Leadership and management training for all managers and supervisors with an aim of having consistent and disciplined, service-based leaders taking disciplined actions (the benefits of which are discussed by Jim Collins in Good to Great, Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t).
  2. Well-defined and consistently reinforced organizational values and culture of service.
  3. A written operations plan made up of standards, policies, and procedures – absolutely critical for human resources and accounting, and fostering organization and discipline in club departments.
  4. Communicate thoroughly with members through a variety of tools and techniques, including newsletter, members only website, management calling programs, and General Manager’s letters.  Understand members’ wants and preferences by taking the pulse of the membership with an annual online survey and monthly surveys of smaller subsets of members.  Analyze member spending habits and purchases to determine individual likes and dislikes, as well as popular and unpopular club initiatives and offerings.
  5. Provide ongoing, thorough training of managers and employees.  This coupled with service-based leadership and a constantly reinforced culture of service will foster employee empowerment, and as John Tschohl, President of the Service Quality Institute says, “Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader.  Empowerment is the most critical skill an employee can master and a company can drive in order to lure and keep customers.”
  6. Use Real Time Accounting of revenues, payroll, and other expenses to quickly spot and intervene to correct operational under-performance.
  7. Benchmarking of all areas of the operation to establish the norms of the operation.  The value of benchmarks tracked over time is immense and includes establishing realistic goals for future periods, establishing measurable accountabilities for managers, and easing the preparation and improving the accuracy of future budgets.
  8. Detailed planning, both strategic and tactical, at all levels of the operation and a habit of Continual Process Improvement.
  9. Thorough work planning and performance reviews, coupled with a policy of strict accountability for performance.  This requires developing measurable performance criteria for all managerial positions.
  10. A membership marketing plan based upon the realities of the marketplace and requiring weekly call and action reports from the membership director.  Recognizing that satisfied members are the best recruiters of new members, involve hand-picked members in the membership sales effort.

Each of these necessities, while challenging, will improve the organization and discipline of the club while fostering consistently higher levels of service.  The resulting efficiency and service of a well-run club will make it easier to attract members, which improves dues and revenues and ultimately better positions the club in the marketplace.

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

The Hierarchy of Service

Monday, June 25th, 2018

While Service-Based Leadership stresses that the leader must serve the needs of his or her constituencies, not all constituent needs have equal weight or importance.

Owners or shareholders are usually the smallest constituent group in numbers, but their needs are paramount.  Why?  Because it is their capital that has been invested in the enterprise and their need for return on investment that permits the continuation of the business.  If it is not making a profit, if it cannot gain credit based on a potential for future profit, if it cannot meet its cash needs for payroll or to pay vendors, it will quickly go out of business and the needs of all other constituencies will become irrelevant.

Obviously, a return on investment is important.  Consider why an owner would want to earn 2% in a business when he could invest his money in a less risky investment and earn a better return.  While there may be other reasons for continuing to own a business such as prestige; a sense of obligation to family, community, or employees; or the expectation of improved future performance over the long haul owners will not be willing to risk their capital on a poor-performing venture.

Next in order of importance are the needs of customers.  Without sufficient customers  patronizing the business, it will not be profitable or viable.  If not viable, it will not last long-and all constituencies lose.

Ultimately, customers are attracted by price and the quality of products and services.  Taken together, quality and price create a sense of value the value perceived by customers.  If enough customers perceive value, they will frequent the enterprise to spend their money and will make it successful.  If not, the business will ultimately fail.

This statement brings us to our third constituency the employees.  They are the ones who execute the owners’ vision for quality of product and service.  They are the ones whose daily interaction with customers creates the value customers seek.  Properly led, valued, and supported, employees will enthusiastically commit to serving the business’ customers thereby fostering levels of business that enable it to thrive.

Organizational Models

org-chrt-traditional-41The basis for the traditional hierarchical organizational model is the military concept of “chain of command.”  In this model, management is represented as the sequence of authority in executing the will of the owners and certainly management plays that essential role.  But in addition to not representing the importance of customers, it also places the employees at the bottom of the chain thereby visually relegating them to the position of least consequence.

pyramid3-2The Service-Based Organizational model depicts the importance of satisfying customers, as well as the important role of employees.  The organization’s leaders are placed at the bottom, clearly emphasizing their role in serving the needs of all constituencies.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook.

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Employee Empowerment

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

The aim of Service-Based Leadership is to empower employees at all levels to think and act in alignment with your club’s values as they serve the needs of all constituencies — boards, members, and other employees.  Ultimately, employee empowerment is the end result of Service-Based Leadership.

Instead of the traditional view that employees are easily replaceable elements in an organization, people who must be trained to do narrow, well-defined tasks and who must be closely watched and supervised at all times, the concept of empowerment says that today’s more educated and sometimes more sophisticated employees need and want to contribute more to their employer and workplace.  Yet many clubs marginalize their employees by refusing to listen to them and by failing to let them contribute to the enterprise in any meaningful way.

Further, highly successful clubs who engage their employees in developing work processes and continual process improvement have discovered that these empowered employees make indispensable partners in delivering service.  Not only do they have a greater stake in the enterprise and are more fully committed to and responsible for their work, they actually equate their purpose and success with that of their club.

What is Employee Empowerment?

So what are empowered employees and how can they help your club meet its Mission and Vision?  In the simplest terms empowered employees are viewed as full-fledged partners in your quest for high levels of quality and service.  They are encouraged to think, act, and make decisions on their own based on guidelines defined by the club.

Leaders must understand that empowerment is not something bestowed on employees like some magical gift from management.  The leaders’ role is to establish both the environment and atmosphere where employees feel their empowerment and are emboldened to make decisions, knowing they have the support and backing of their leaders.

The major role that leaders make in empowering their employees is to create a culture where employees are valued and recognized as vital resources of the enterprise.  They must also understand that to be successful with employee empowerment, employees must fully sense the club’s commitment to such empowerment; simply saying that employees are empowered, does not make it so.  Leaders at all levels must do more than talk the talk.

While employee empowerment may be seen as a desirable practice by management, it ultimately comes about only with the recognition by employees that they are empowered.  This means that the focus of leaders must not be on what employees are doing to achieve empowerment, but on what they themselves are doing to promote and enable it.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook.

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Leadership Growth and Adaptation

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

As any individual grows in leadership, his 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?

theworkbook_cover-41.  Always keep an open mind.  Try not to pre-judge situations or people.

2.  Never assume you know it all.  The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.

3.  Be open and accessible to constituents-particularly followers.

4.  Remember that each follower and each constituent is unique and may require different motivators.

5.  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.

6.  Don’t cast others as adversaries.  Find out their legitimate concerns about your agenda.  Accept the challenge of winning over your most difficult constituents.

7.  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.”

8.  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.

9.  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.

10.  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!

11.  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.

12.  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.

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Personal Responsibility and the Will to Lead

Monday, May 14th, 2018

The Freedom of Taking Personal Responsibility

Personal freedom is often thought of as the absence of responsibility.  In this respect, no one is free.  Everyone is responsible for and to someone else.  There is, however, a freedom that comes from accepting personal responsibility for oneself and one’s sphere of influence.

When you blame no one else for the challenges you face, when you realize that where you stand today is the result of all your past decisions and indecision, you look to the true source of any difficulties.  It is never the undefined “they.”  It is always the ever present “I.”

Realizing this is the true source of your freedom.  Instead of being buffeted to and fro by uncontrollable forces, you accept the power of your own authority.  For good or ill, you are the one in charge of your life.

For the supervisor, this means that, as you seek opportunity, you also take responsibility for all aspects of your duties.  Size up those around you, your superiors, peers, and employees.  If they demonstrate responsibility, learn to depend upon them.  If they don’t, find ways to compensate for their inadequacies.  In the case of your employees, take action as necessary.

In the end, you are the only one responsible for your success or failure.  If something goes wrong, there is always more you could have done.  In the case of the truly unexpected event, it’s not so much what went wrong as how you respond to it.  Instead of blaming circumstances or others, take responsibility to make things right.  By accepting this degree of personal responsibility, you free yourself from the unpredictability of life and those around you.

The Will to Lead

Taking personal responsibility equips you to assume a leadership role.  But the will to lead is a far cry from being willing to lead.  A good number of people are willing to accept positions of leadership.  But accepting and exercising leadership are two very different matters.

Having the will to lead implies a commitment to face whatever challenges may present themselves.  Simply put, it’s the will to make things happen.  Consider this example.

Bob was the front desk manager of an older hotel.  Hospitality was his profession, but running was his passion.  Each day at lunchtime, regardless of the weather, he took a five-mile run.  After running he used the employee locker room to change and shower before returning to work.

The poor sanitation and maintenance of the locker rooms disgusted Bob, but for a long time he said nothing.  Finally, he had had enough and announced at a staff meeting that the employees deserved better and that he was going to petition the General Manager to clean and fix up the locker rooms.

One of the other supervisors commented that it would be a waste of time and that they would quickly return to their former condition.  He said that the employees didn’t care and wouldn’t keep them up.  Bob responded that it didn’t matter whether the employees cared or not – he did!

Over the next few weeks with the General Manager’s blessing, Bob organized the maintenance and housekeeping staffs to scrape and repaint walls, strip and refinish the floor, replace broken and unserviceable lockers, and improve the lighting.  Then he got the General Manager to assign different departments the rotating duty of keeping the locker rooms clean.  Finally, he checked them daily for several months to ensure that they were being properly maintained.

The end result was improved employee morale and a changed attitude about their locker rooms.  Employees did care – they just needed someone to lead the way and to overcome the erroneous notion that they didn’t.  They needed Bob’s “will to make things happen.”

Excerpted 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 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.

Guiding Principles and Operating Standards

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Some time ago I blogged about a Culture of Service and the need for constantly reinforced organizational values.  Among those values I suggested the need for principles and standards to guide the enterprise.  Here’s one attempt to define the underlying values of an organization:

GUIDING PRINCIPLES: Principles that guide the conduct of our business!

  • Proactive leadership with service-based philosophy. Our leadership is active and engaged, while strictly adhering to service-based leadership principles (per Leadership on the Line).
  • Forward-thinking, professional expertise. Our professional knowledge should not only be up-to-date, but should be constantly looking ahead for cutting edge concepts and practices.
  • Proven management and operating systems. We utilize proven management practices and operating systems to efficiently organize and operate our club.
  • Sound planning and effective implementation. All of our projects and tasks must be planned thoroughly and implemented completely.
  • Innovative programs, continually reviewed. We offer innovative programs and we continually review them to make improvements.
  • A commitment to staff development and empowerment through formal, ongoing training. We operate in a detail intensive business and can only achieve excellence by thorough training and retraining.  Employees must be empowered to succeed and to solve member/guest issues whenever encountered.

OPERATING STANDARDS: Standards that form the basis for our operations!

  • Our vision and goals are articulated.  Our Club Strategic Plan lays out the long term goals for the operation.  Club Annual Goals are prepared as guides and targets for accomplishment.  We put them in writing to formally commit ourselves to their accomplishment.
  • We are uncompromising in our commitment to excellence, quality, and service.  To serve the highest echelons of our community, we have to set and commit to the highest standards.
  • Authority and responsibility are assigned and accountability assured.  Managers are assigned both the authority and the responsibility to direct their areas of the operation according to our highest standards.  These individuals are held accountable for their results.
  • We embrace innovation, initiative, and change while rejecting the status quo.  We seek continual improvement in all aspects of our operations.
  • Standards are defined, operations are detailed in written policy and procedure, and we seek continual improvement of products, services, programs, and operating systems.  Written standards (or the expected outcome of our “moments of truth”) for our products and services are detailed in written policies and procedures.  We seek continual improvement in these.
  • Member/guest issues are resolved politely and promptly to their complete satisfaction by our empowered employees.  No explanation needed.
  • Constant communications and feedback enhances operations and service, while problems and complaints are viewed as opportunities to improve.  We can never communicate too much or too well.  Informed employees are better employees.  Problems brought to our attention allow us to focus on solutions.
  • We benchmark revenues and sales mixes to evaluate members’ response to products, services, and programs, and we benchmark expenses, inventories, and processes to ensure efficiency and cost effectiveness.  We must pay close attention to what our members are telling us by their spending habits.  Benchmarking and analyzing expenses, inventories, and processes help us be more efficient.
  • We ensure clean, safe, well-maintained facilities and equipment while safeguarding club assets.  A good bottom line is only one measure of our effectiveness; we must also take care of all club facilities and safeguard their assets.
  • We acknowledge each operation as a team of dedicated individuals working toward common goals and we recognize the ultimate value of people in everything we do.  While each employee has his or her own duties and responsibilities, every member of our staff is important and works toward the common goal of understanding and exceeding the expectations of our members and guests.  Ultimately our business is about people and they must be valued and respected wherever and whenever encountered.

By themselves such statements have little value.  But by the  consistent example of management and the constant reinforcement to all employees these values are elevated to an animating spirit that permeates the organization.

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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Service-Based Leadership – It’s Just Common Sense

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

I recently read an Internet-posted news article entitled, “Disney Offers Customer Service Training.”  Written by Adrian Sainz, the article talked about Miami International Airport employees taking customer service training from the Disney Institute, a division of Walt Disney Company set up to teach its principles and practices to other companies.  Let’s pick up on the story.

“Now the Institute has taken another client: Miami International Airport, which many travelers will tell you needs customer service training like an airplane needs wings. Surveys rank its service among the nation’s worst. The airport’s terminal operations employees are taking classes taught by Institute instructors, learning leadership practices, team building, staff relations and communication skills-many formulated by Walt Disney himself.

“Disney takes great pride in ensuring a fun time and repeat business, mainly by emphasizing customer service and attention to detail while trying not to appear too sterile or robotic.

“Early in the training, a handful of Miami airport managers visited the Magic Kingdom, where they were shown examples on how paying attention to detail and removing barriers were integral in making guests happy and keeping them informed.”

The article went on discussing various techniques used by Disney to enhance customer service.  While I found this discussion somewhat interesting, it was the reader comments posted below the article that caught my attention.  Here they are (emphasis added is mine):

1st Posted Comment:  “I work for a medical practice in Georgia that sends a few of their employees to Disney for training each year. Our patients (guests) really responded well to our new customer service guidelines. However, management really needed to attend the training as well as the regular employees. They became complacent in their ‘ivory tower’ and expected all of us to treat the patients well (and of course we did); however, management needed to extend the same courtesy and good manners to their employees. In the past 3 months the company has had record turnover and still harbors a large disgruntled employee pool. No idle words …. ‘Treat others the way you would want to be treated.'”

2nd Posted Comment:  “When we returned, all 1st level management (the ones dealing with the customers) were asked to implement the Disney experience in our daily activities. To this day we have weekly meetings with our senior management to report how our teams are embracing the changes. Unfortunately many of the associates treat it as ‘the flavor of the month’ program to improve customer satisfaction. We are still trying to make a culture change with our staff.  The most unfortunate part of the Disney experience was that although our senior management went along on the trip, I am yet to witness the impact it had on them when dealing with us 1st level managers.”

ed-jpeg-43rd Posted Comment:  “I agree with the posters who feel that senior management should lead by example and treat their subordinates with dignity and respect. It just seems like common sense, that when employees are happy and feel well treated, this will filter down to the way they treat the customers. Everyone in an organization deserves to be treated well and this makes for optimum performance.”

Three of the four postings by readers made the same point about management.  This suggests the obvious:  that without the active involvement and example of leadership (and Service-Based Leadership at that), improvements in employee morale, dedication, empowerment, and ultimately in customer service will not happen.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This 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 managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Leadership

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

What does it mean to be a leader?  Much has been written to define what constitutes leadership, the role of the leader, the essential traits of leadership, and the habits of successful leaders.  Though the exercise of leadership is situational, the following traits are essential to any successful leader.

Leadership with vision:  Moving large and complex organizations in a particular direction requires the ability to formulate and articulate a vision of what the organization should be.

Ability to inspire others with a sense of purpose and excitement:  “Selling” the vision requires constant hammering home of easy-to-grasp themes.  Without the “big picture” sense of direction, employees become lost in the day-to-day detail of their jobs.  Leaders must engage with employees on all levels and view such interaction as an opportunity to “spread the gospel.”

Ability to transform vision into day-to-day action:  Long range vision must be broken down into a concrete plan of action for managers and supervisors at all levels.  Performance reviews and goal setting sessions play an important part in establishing and communicating near and long term objectives.

Communication and feedback:  Most organizational failures result from faulty or inadequate communication.  Informed employees are better employees.  Leaders should strive to create an environment that facilitates communication flow; where superiors and subordinates keep each other informed, quality and performance standards are communicated, feedback is constantly given and every employee knows where the organization is going and how it will get there.

Dedicated to needs and desires of members and guests:  The bottom line for any business is customer satisfaction.  Shortsighted policies that have a negative impact on this satisfaction will eventually show up on the bottom line.  The surest way to keep customers satisfied is to know what they want.  Employees at all levels should be required to constantly seek the feedback and input of members and guests.  Further, they should be instilled with a complete dedication to member satisfaction.

Proactive in finding problems:  Every organization has problems and some managers try to hide their problems.  A sure sign that there are problems in an organization is that no one ever talks about them.  Everything goes too smoothly and no one rocks the boat.  It is a simple task to ask questions, to dig a little wherever one goes. Inevitably problems turn up.  Often those most familiar with and vocal about problems are the line employees who deal with them every day.  A significant step in solving problems is to place a major and positive emphasis on problem discovery.  It’s the first step in problem solution.

Every problem has a solution:  Every problem can be solved.  It’s merely a matter of priorities.  Even the most complex problem can be broken down into its smaller solvable components.  Sometimes a solution is the result of compromise or many little steps that contribute to an improvement in the overall situation.  As much as possible, one should look for systems solutions to problems.

Bias toward action:  Accomplish something every day.  There is an insistent time factor in management.  New problems crop up every day.  When problems are not solved, the sheer volume of accumulating problems can paralyze an organization.

Strong organizational team building:  Motivation and morale is built on making every employee part of the team. Organizational loyalty seems to be the strong suit of the Japanese, but it is little more than a corporate version of the military’s esprit de corps.  Much of it goes back to pride and recognition, but it also depends upon building a strong organizational identity and constant communication.

Strong support for employees:  On any level, leaders serve two important constituencies – customers and superiors.  There is, however, a third constituency of major importance – employees.  Without the willing and committed involvement of this group, the organization will never achieve high levels of success or standards of excellence.

Self motivation and self starter:  A leader’s ideas, words, action and example are major determinants in the success of the operation.  No one should need to tell a leader what has to be improved in his or her organization.  He or she should formulate the vision and prepare the action plan to accomplish it.

presentation3-2Personal selling:  Perhaps the greatest marketing tool available is the committed involvement of leadership in the marketing effort.  By becoming actively involved in various organizations and actively selling the property at every opportunity, the leader promotes not only the operation, but himself/herself.  Since many decisions are influenced by personal loyalties, this type of salesmanship is often the most far-reaching and effective.

Strong financial manager:  Benchmarks speak volumes about an operation.  While they are not the complete story, they often point to troubled areas and make it easier to discover the underlying problems.  Month to month and year to year comparisons of income statements, balance sheets, cash flow analyses, key ratios and operating benchmarks are the basis of sound decision making.

Computer literacy:  Large and complex organizations create a mountain of data.  Without the ability to organize, compile and analyze operating data, the leader does not have the resources to make good decisions.  Computers are important tools toward this end.

Attention to detail:  A good leader must have an eye for details.  Much can be learned by observing an operation and a leader must spend a good deal of his or her time “out and about” to know what is going on in an organization.

High standards of quality:  Leaders must establish and disseminate their standards of quality.  When employees are left to decide quality standards for themselves, the best that can be expected is inconsistent and, at worst a complete absence of, quality and service.

A positive attitude that remains upbeat in the face of adversity:  Attitude is all-important in any endeavor.  Employees look to leaders for guidance, reassurance, and example.  A leader must learn to roll with the small ups and downs while keeping an eye on the larger vision.  The proper attitude should also be mixed with an upbeat good cheer that is invariably infectious.

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.

Eight Key Basics to Successfully Operating a Private Club

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

The club industry is facing difficult times and while we are all facing challenges, each club faces its own particular problems.  As is usually the case when facing difficulties, this is the time to get back to the basics of our business.  Here are 8 things each club should examine:

1.  Leadership.  Clubs need clear-sighted individuals to guide them through tough times – but not just at the top.  They need strong leaders at all levels of operations.  It’s also important that the leadership styles of club leaders at all levels are congruent.  Different leadership approaches can dilute or damage the General Manager’s service message when it’s not reinforced consistently by all managers and supervisors in both word and deed.

2.  Organizational values and culture of service.  Every employee needs to understand what, how, and why you do what you do.  The basics of what you stand for as an enterprise are of absolute importance.  Defining your values is only the first step.  They must be continually and consistently reinforced to all employees.

3.  Planning.  Haphazard planning results in haphazard operations and equally haphazard performance.  Your club should have a 3 – 5 year strategic plan focused on your competitive position in the marketplace.  The club should have an annual plan for what it expects to accomplish and the General Manager and all Department Heads should have detailed annual work plans.  As important, the requirements of work plans must involve measurable performance parameters.  Detailed benchmarking of all areas of the operation is the easiest and best way to do this.

4.  Benchmarks.  You need to understand the variables of business volume and average sale that underlie all of your revenues.  Without this knowledge you may be lulled by historical levels of revenue when they are actually made up of declining volume, but higher prices and fees.  Benchmarking in detail is also an excellent way to listen to what members are saying with their buying habits.

5.  Accountability.  The club business is too demanding not to hold individual managers accountable for results.  The performance of every manager and supervisor must be measured against their annual work plan and there must be consequences for failing to meet goals.  Poor performing managers degrade the efforts of the rest of the team and drive away good employees.

6.  Employee Turnover.  There is a high cost to turnover and it usually related directly to the quality of the club’s leadership at all levels.  It is particularly costly when you do a good job of training your people.  Do not become the minor league training ground for your competitors – both private clubs and local restaurants.

7.  Training.  There is much for employees to know in serving your members.  You cannot expect that your employees will inherently know what to do unless they are systematically and consistently trained.  Training gives your employees the knowledge and confidence they need.  Confident employees are more apt to engage your members and provide higher levels of service.

8.  Member feedback.  You need to understand what your members think about your club, the products and services it provides, and the service your employees render.  Surveys are an excellent tool to do this, but you must act on the information you receive in intelligent and thoughtful ways to make the most cost-effective decisions in satisfying wants and needs.

Getting back to the basics is a sure way to regain your footing during and after the current seismic shift taking place in our industry.  The good news is, and there’s always a silver lining, that the best leaders and their operations will inevitably rise to the top.

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.