Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

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.

Service Breakdown: A Failure of Leadership

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

After thirty-five plus years in the hospitality business in both hotels and private clubs, I can state categorically that poor service comes from poor leadership.  Show me an operation with poor, shoddy, inconsistent service, and I’ll show you an organization with a failure of leadership.  This observation flows from the understanding that leaders who recognize service problems in their organization will take corrective action.  They will establish a plan of action, set priorities, lead employees to execute the plan, and follow through to completion.

Why, then, is poor service so often the rule rather than the exception?  I have met many competent, hard-working, and professional general managers who voiced a clear and unequivocal service vision for their operations.  They understood the need for well-defined standards, thorough training of employees, and constant reinforcement of service ideals within their organizations.  Yet, they struggle to establish and maintain high standards of service.  While we all recognize the many demands on our time, the challenge of employee turnover, the training burden in a detail-intensive business, time constraints, and ever-present budget pressures, these are not the root problem.

In examining this challenge that never seems to go away, I believe I have discovered the most significant source of the problem – the lack of well developed and consistent leadership skills among subordinate managers, those who direct the day-to-day activities of the operation’s line employees.  While the general manager may clearly understand and articulate the requirements of service, unless that “gospel” is communicated faithfully, consistently, and continuously to line employees by their immediate supervisors, there is a breakdown in the service message.

Throughout my career I have inherited or hired front line supervisors whose background, experience, and education should have prepared them for the challenges they would face daily in our business.  While most had more than adequate technical skills to execute their responsibilities, they were often lacking in a critical aspect of leadership – how to direct and motivate employees to achieve high levels of quality and excellence.

While some front line supervisors demonstrated exceptional leadership skills, many did not.  Often my biggest problems were created by supervisors who did not treat their employees properly, who did not communicate expectations, and who did not seem to understand or follow the most basic requirements of leading or managing people.  These profound failings were crippling to the organization and required many hours of counseling, training, and, in some cases, terminations to remedy.

Over time I realized that any focus on training of line employees to smile and be friendly was a waste of time until I could be assured that supervisors developed basic leadership skills.  From that point on, I focused my efforts on training supervisors.  Regardless of background or education, I wanted them to learn to be effective leaders, to paint and preach a vision of excellence for their staff, establish goals, communicate expectations, provide support and training to their employees, and solve the inevitable problems that arise when people work in a service context.

The training called for a clear vision for hospitality operations and guiding principles that would shape our efforts.  I made it clear to supervisors that our employees were truly our most important resource, and they must be treated with dignity and respect.  Supervisors were told that their primary job was to provide direction, support, and training for their employees and that, based on their experience or education; I held them to a higher standard.  I also provided detailed guidance on how to develop line employees and correctly counsel and discipline when necessary.  Finally, I put a positive emphasis on communication and problem discovery.  In time these concepts were formalized into a leaders’ handbook which was issued to newly-hired supervisors.

How successful was I in achieving my ends?  I would frankly admit that the results were mixed.  While some supervisors responded positively, others seemed incapable or unwilling to grasp basic leadership principles.  These, typically, after much invested time and effort, were encouraged to take their talents elsewhere.  But on the whole, the effort yielded improved employee morale, lower turnover, better two-way communication, and a more upbeat team spirit among all staff.  We still struggled with budget and time constraints on training, but we were far better off than we would have been without the effort.

Consistency and high levels of service will always be a challenge in business.  Without competent and committed leaders at all levels, general managers will always be trying to “do it all.”  In time they will burn out or be forced to compromise their standards.  In either case the result is service breakdown.

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.

Service-Based Leadership

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

Service-Based Leadership is the foundation for Remarkable Service.

Given that leading ultimately involves guiding, influencing, and directing people, I posit the following working definition for “Leadership”:

Leadership is the sum of those individual traits, skills, and abilities that allow one person to commit and direct the efforts of others toward the accomplishment of a particular objective.

Central to this definition is the understanding that exercising leadership involves building and sustaining relationships between leader and followers. Without this bond or connection, there are no willing followers and, therefore, no true leader. Given that no leader operates in a vacuum, it also requires that the leader establish relationships with other relevant constituencies.

With Service-Based Leadership, the attitude and primary motivation of the leader is service to others – to members, to employees, to shareholders. This approach to leadership naturally creates relationships – the deep and abiding bonds that sustain the efforts of the organization. This outward focus of the leader sets up a dynamic where:

  • Employees are continually recognized.
  • There is an open flow of ideas, opinions, and information.
  • Initiative and risk are highly regarded.
  • Problem discovery and solution is a focus while placing blame is unimportant.
  • Every employee feels energized and part of the team and is valued for his or her contribution.
  • Prestige is derived from performance and contribution, not title or position.
  • Members are treated well because employees are treated well.
  • The energy and initiative of all employees is focused on the common effort.

With Service-Based Leadership, you will find that service to both internal and external customers is effortless. Less energy is expended in processing complaints, grievances, and conflicts. Work is more fun and everyone’s job is easier.

The Service-Based Leader understands that the key to serving the needs of those he or she serves lies in ensuring that strong relationships are established with individuals. How does one do this? Begin by:

  • Treating everyone you meet with courtesy, respect, and good cheer.
  • Focusing on each person you deal with as if he or she were the most important person in the world.
  • Taking the time to get to know people; sharing your time and attention with them.
  • Learning about other people’s jobs and the challenges and difficulties they face.
  • Keeping promises and following through on commitments.
  • Being principled, showing fairness, and demonstrating integrity.
  • Recognizing the ultimate value of people in all you do.

Relationships depend upon how you view yourself in relation to others. If you see yourself as separate and apart from your constituencies, if you view others as the means to your end, if your vision and goals lack a broader purpose than your own needs and ambitions, establishing meaningful relationships will be impossible. On the other hand, when you see yourself as part of a team with a shared mission, then a sense of service will be an intrinsic part of your service team relationships.

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.

A Culture of Service

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

We frequently talk about the importance of developing an organizational culture of service.  What exactly do we mean by an organizational culture?

The dictionary defines “culture” as the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.  With a slight modification of this definition we come up with the following working definition of organizational culture.  The sum total ways of working and interacting built up by a group of people within an organization and transmitted from one generation of employees to another.

The major benefit of establishing an organizational culture is that once adopted by the majority of people in an organization the culture takes on a life of its own and permeates the workplace.  As normal turnover takes place, new hires quickly learn that to be accepted in their new surroundings, they must embrace the culture and make it their own.  In the absence of a culture developed and disseminated by the organization’s leadership, a culture will arise on its own, usually fostered by a vocal few and often cynical and at odds with the purpose of the organization.

So how do you create a culture in your organization?  First, you have to define clearly and succinctly the aims of your organization and what it aspires to be.  These are most often found in Mission and Vision Statements.  Beyond these basic statements of intent, one must clearly spell out standards of behavior and performance.  These can be in the form of Guiding Principles, Operating Standards, Leadership Principles, Service Ethic, Principles of Employee Relations, Organizational Values, Service Pocket Cards, a Code of Professional Ethics, or any other formal statements describing the “What, How’s, and Why’s” of how organizational business should be conducted.

Yet publishing such principles and statements, no matter how inspirational and well-written, will only foster employee cynicism if the values are not enthusiastically embraced by the organization’s leadership.  On the other hand, when leadership demonstrates their commitment to the organization’s values by their daily example, employees will do likewise.

With well-defined values and the enthusiastic example of leaders, the ground has been prepared for the fruits of organizational culture, but just as in growing a garden, preparing the soil is only the first step.  The real work for a successful harvest is the daily tending – watering, fertilizing, pruning, weeding, and pest control.  In the case of an organizational culture, it is daily reinforcement at every opportunity with all employees that continues to focus individual attention on the values that underlie everyone’s efforts.  In some cases, it’s publicly recognizing an employee for embracing and utilizing the values in their work relationships or service rendered to members.  In other cases, it’s privately correcting an employee who has ignored or transgressed the culture.  In extreme cases, it’s terminating the employee who refuses to accept the group norm.  The key is to continually remind employees of the organization’s values and elevate them from words on a page to an animating spirit that permeates every aspect of the organization and its work.

From the process of continually accentuating and reminding one achieves a breakthrough similar to that described in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great.

Sustainable transformations follow a predictable pattern of buildup and breakthrough.  Like pushing on a giant, heavy flywheel, it takes a lot of effort to get the thing moving at all, but with persistent pushing in a consistent direction over a long period of time, the flywheel builds momentum, eventually hitting a point of breakthrough.”

This breakthrough is reached when the organization achieves a critical mass of employee buy-in.  Though the process of establishing an organizational culture requires patience and persistence as well as leadership and example, when breakthrough is achieved, the culture takes over and is self-sustaining – with the employees holding the bar high and policing their own ranks.

In such an organization, employees understand what must be done and how.  Motivation and morale are sky-high as employees are empowered by their participation and contribution.  The leader, relieved of the burden of constantly following behind employees to ensure they are doing the right things, can focus on strategic issues and the future of the organization.

The importance of a well-defined and promoted organizational culture cannot be overemphasized or underestimated in its impact on quality, performance, and member service.  The only thing that can screw it up is for the leader to fail to show an ongoing interest or set an uncompromising example of the organizational culture and its values.

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.