Archive for the ‘service-based leadership’ Category

What You Owe Your Boss – Loyalty and Support

Monday, August 25th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

It Ain’t the Employees

Monday, March 17th, 2014

If you want to improve quality and service at your operation, don’t start with your line employees.  According to the late W. Edwards Deming, one of the foremost authorities on quality improvement who helped transform Japan into a world-class industrial giant after World War II,

“The worker is not the problem.  The problem is at the top!  Management is the problem!” 

He further emphasizes the point by saying,

“There is much talk about how to get employees involved with quality.  The big problem is how to get management involved.” *

Among Deming’s many observations is that quality is achieved by a complex sequence of (manufacturing or service) processes and it is management that establishes those processes.  Until the barriers to quality inherent in ill-conceived and implemented processes (often created by management without a true understanding of what factors contribute to quality) are removed, the lack of quality or service is only the natural consequence of such poorly-designed, integrated, and applied processes.  Recognizing this, it is clear that quality improvement can come about only through the leadership and direction of management.

So what’s to be done about improving quality?

Leadership.  As usual, it all comes back to leadership – that often ill-defined quality that everyone talks about, but few truly understand.  Let us first of all be clear, leadership is not a position.  A position carries authority and responsibility, but as we say in Leadership on the Line,

“Exercising leadership involves building and sustaining relationships between leader and followers.  Without that bond or connection, there are no willing followers and, therefore, no true leaders.” 

In Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, we go on to say,

“The quality of your leadership is determined by the influence you have with your followers, which, in turn, is established by the quality of your relationships with them – and your relationships are built on a foundation of trust, of which integrity, competency, consistency, and common decency are primary ingredients.”

In speaking on the same topic, Roger Enrico, former Chairman at Pepsico, said,

“The soft stuff is always harder than the hard stuff.”

But what are we really talking about when we speak of the ‘soft stuff’?  As we say in The Quest for Remarkable Service,

“In short, it’s the people skills – those aptitudes and abilities used to get the best out of our human assets.  It encompasses all those things we talk about when discussing leadership – the highly nuanced interactions with a diverse workforce that result in motivation, morale, enthusiasm, focus, commitment, productivity, teamwork, organizational cohesiveness, and group success.”

Finally, a prime ingredient of leadership is example.  As Albert Einstein once said,

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.”

Without the disciplined direction and consistent example of management at all levels of the operation, quality and service will remain forever elusive.

Establishing Expectations.  You cannot expect that your line employees with their vastly different backgrounds, education, and life experiences will inherently understand what the quality and service expectations are for your operation.  These must be spelled out in great detail and reinforced continually.  The same is true for your management staff, but with far greater consequences.  Your management team sets the standard and the example for your entire operation.  Without consistent leadership, explicit communication of expectations, and reinforcement of well-defined values, expecting your employees to meet your standards of behavior and service is unrealistic in the extreme.

So the requirements must be to:

  1. Train both managers and employees thoroughly in your Organizational Values and Culture of Service, and
  2. Spell out in detail what your quality and service standards and expectations are for both managers and employees.

Employee Empowerment.  John Tschohl, founder 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.”

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 company’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.

Training.  All of us who work in the service business understand that operations are both people-intensive and detail-intensive.  It takes a lot of employees to provide the requisite levels of service and every aspect of service involves many details.  These two facts make detailed, ongoing training an absolute necessity for any successful operation.  For a list of those topics that must be covered in training for both managers and line employees, see the article entitled Training Requirements in Hospitality Operations.

Recognizing the high cost of training, Hospitality Resources International has created a number of On the Go Training resources for operators.

Your Employees.  How you treat your employees will have a great deal to do with their attitudes and dedication at work.  Read Give Them More Than Just a Paycheck for ways to increase their commitment to their place of employment and the quality of their service to your customers/guests/members.

Bottom Line.  None of the above is rocket science, but it does take a disciplined approach to your work.  At the end of the day, discipline is probably the most important ingredient for any efforts to improve quality and service.  As Jim Collins says in his groundbreaking book Good to Great,

“Much of the answer to the question of ‘good to great’ lies in the discipline to do whatever it takes to become the best within carefully selected arenas and then seek continual improvement in these.  It’s really just that simple.”

“A culture of discipline is not just about action.  It is about getting disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who then take disciplined action.”

So as you go about making your plans to improve quality and service, remember it starts and ends with your management team.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also train your employees in the finer points of service and your expectations for them, but without the active involvement of management at all levels, it ain’t gonna happen!

* For those interested in Deming’s logic in approaching quality improvement, read Improve Quality – Lower Costs

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.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

Value Your People

Monday, October 7th, 2013

“Your regard for people shines through in all of your actions and words. Your facial expression, your body language, and your words express what you are thinking about the people who report to you. Your goal is to demonstrate your appreciation for each person’s unique value. No matter how an employee is performing on their current task, your value for the employee as a human being should never falter and always be visible.”

Susan M. Heathfield, Business Consultant

What things can you as a leader do to demonstrate your regard for people “in all your actions and words”?

Know and use employee names.  Everyone likes to be recognized as an individual and called by name.  Certainly your regular customers do and your employees do as well.  Introduce them to customers and visitors when appropriate.  Failing to do so implies they’re just part of the scenery instead of key contributors to the success of your operation.

Learn about employees as individuals.  Get to know them, their life situations, their dreams and plans, their goals in life.   This does not mean you are to become their friend or confidante, but it does mean you have enough interest in them as individuals to try to understand their situation, their needs, and motivations.

Greet employees daily.  You should never fail to greet employees when you see them each day.  You don’t like to be ignored as if you were unimportant, and neither do they.

Share your time with employees.  As busy as you are, make time for your employees.  They have questions, concerns, and needs that should never be ignored.  Be open and approachable.  When you are not, when they are afraid to come to you for fear of your reaction, you are kept in the dark about what is really going on in your team.  If any employee is monopolizing your time or is a “high maintenance” employee, do not be shy about letting him know the inappropriateness of this behavior.

Recognize each person’s strengths and weaknesses.  None of us is the perfect manager, server, retail attendant, etc.  Don’t expect your employees to be.  Learn each person’s strengths and weakness.  Capitalize on the strengths and help each person overcome their weaknesses.  The time you invest in helping an employee develop his or her skills and abilities is well worth the effort and will be appreciated far more than you’ll ever realize.

Be involved in the workplace and work processes.  Do not create a hostile work environment by failing to adequately engage with your employees.  Without your ongoing guidance and direction, petty dissensions and friction will grow among the workers of your team as they struggle to figure out who must do what.

Look out for your peoples’ welfare.  Make sure your employees get adequate work breaks, that their work spaces are set up for comfort and efficiency, that they are properly trained and equipped for their jobs, that you adjust work schedules when possible to meet individual needs, that you resolve pay discrepancies quickly, that you get back to them to resolve issues they’ve raised.  Make sure they understand their benefits, taking the time to explain the details to them.

Treat employees as adults.  When you treat employees like children, they will act like children.  Don’t talk down to them or treat them as if they’re immature.  When you give people responsibility, most will reward your trust.  Those who demonstrate they can’t be trusted should be encouraged to move on.

Show respect.  This is critically important in the way you speak, the tone of your voice, your choice of words, and your body language.  Your respect for others cannot be faked.  You must sincerely value people to treat them with respect at all times.

Do not take advantage of people.  Employees are not your servants and should not be expected to perform personal services for you.  If you delegate tasks, make sure there is value in it for them, either in enhanced compensation or a genuine learning opportunity.

Demonstrate the common decencies of human interaction in all your dealings.  Be kind and courteous.  Give your people the benefit of the doubt.  Don’t be quick to take offense or become upset.  Maintain control of your temper and reaction to events.

Thank employees often.  How easy is it to say “Thank you”?  It costs nothing and it reaps great rewards.  The only requirement is that it must be sincerely given.

Say goodbye at the end of the day or shift.  A farewell is a common courtesy that you would extend to family and friends, if for no other reason than as an acknowledgement of departure.  The members of your work team, who you depend on for your success, should receive no less a courtesy.  Again, the need for sincerity is absolute.

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking  hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

Leadership and Relationships

Monday, August 19th, 2013

John C. Maxwell, author of the bestselling The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, says that the definition of leadership is influence.  While it is, first and foremost, the ability to influence followers, it also requires that the leader influence those people who make up any and all constituencies.

In a free society, all but the most socially and economically disadvantaged have choices – they can choose to work for you and your business or they can take their talents and abilities elsewhere.  It is, therefore, the manner in which you as a leader engage them that determines your level of influence.

Influence is derived from the relationships you create with your followers and other constituents.  How you act and interact with others is the basis for your success as a leader.  The quality of your relationships will determine your outcomes.  But you must understand that each of your followers and constituents is a unique individual with different needs and motivations.  What may work with one may fail miserably with another.  And, unfortunately, creating meaningful relationships with other people can be a great challenge for all of us – witness all the dysfunctional families, rocky romances, and failed marriages – and no less challenging for leaders who must interact with a wide variety of followers.

But the art of relationships can be learned.  Generally speaking, while it requires experience, judgment, a measure of sensitivity to the needs of others, and a fair degree of emotional maturity, the ability to form and sustain meaningful relationships improves with age.

Developing leadership, or relationship skills, is a cumulative process.  It’s why Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, proposes the Level 5 Hierarchy leading to the consummate Level 5 Leader.  It is why potential leaders must be identified early, why young managers must be trained in the skills of leadership, and why such skills should be nurtured and shaped with each increase in responsibility and each step of the career ladder.  Clearly, the rudimentary skills of direct face-to-face leadership that serve the front line supervisor so well are inadequate for the more complex and subtle exercise of authority required of a mid-level manager or senior executive.

Creating and sustaining meaningful relationships is at the heart of Service-Based Leadership.  The extent to which you are able to develop those relationships early in your career will have a great bearing on your future success – but not only in your career.  The bonus is that in developing Service-Based Leadership skills, you develop the skills to form meaningful relationships in other areas of your life.

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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Becoming a Service-Based Leader

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Developing leadership skills is not memorizing a list of things to do or not to do, though such lists are useful in helping students learn.  Leadership is not the accumulation of managerial abilities, such as budgeting, computer skills, or the specific work skills of a particular industry, though such aptitudes will certainly enhance your overall skill set and add to your competence.  Leadership is not a position or a title.

Successful leadership depends on the quality of relationships between a leader and followers.  As such it entails relationship skills-the personal characteristics and abilities to connect with and inspire the enthusiastic efforts of a diverse group of people toward a common goal.

True leadership requires an understanding of what makes people tick-individually and in group settings.  It requires sensitivity to the needs and desires of others, even when they may not be able to adequately define or communicate these themselves.  It requires openness and accessibility so followers are comfortable bringing their concerns and issues to the leader.   It requires a person who is self-analytical, who examines every less-than-optimum outcome for improvement, often discovering a better way to interact with followers.  It requires a person who puts the needs of the enterprise ahead of personal ambition, who recognizes that tending to the group welfare in a disciplined way will ultimately bring about better performance.

Finally, learning leadership skills is not a one-time event.   Just as different endeavors and levels of organizations require different skill sets for managerial success, leadership skills must expand and develop as the individual moves up to higher levels of responsibility.  Satisfactory leadership skills in a front line supervisory position are clearly inadequate for the challenges of a general manager, division manager, or president of a company.  But the skills learned in the early years of one’s career will be the foundation for the broader skills necessary when one takes on greater responsibilities, particularly if you understand that true leadership is a lifelong journey, not a destination.

The Single Most Important Requirement to Becoming a Service-Based Leader

Becoming a Service-Based Leader is a transformative process; it’s about personal growth.  The student must be prepared to challenge ingrained attitudes and beliefs about self and others.  It requires a willingness to closely examine motivations and habits.  The emerging leader must also be willing to accept personal responsibility for his or her life and decisions.  But most of all it requires a great deal of personal honesty.  Self-delusion and denial are the committed enemies of personal growth.

As you progress through your career, make a promise to yourself.  Promise that you will search the depths of your being to get to and understand your deepest motivations, not those that you glibly repeat because you have so often heard others say them and think they’re the norm.  True leadership is not the norm, and becoming an effective leader will require you to step outside your comfort zone and confront the beliefs and attitudes you hold, not from conviction but from unexamined habit.

The Rewards of Service-Based Leadership

Developing the skills of a Service-Based Leader will reward you in a variety of ways.  First and foremost, I believe the foundation of Service-Based Leadership and a recognition of the value of people in all you do, can, over the course of a career, lead you to the Level 5 Leadership that Jim Collins found at the top of all Good to Great companies.

Second, because Service-Based Leadership is all about developing successful relationships, it can bring success to other parts of your life-your family relationships, your friendships, and the way you interact with people wherever you meet them.

Lastly, Service-Based Leadership will help you develop the self-analytical skills to examine life’s challenges and better understand how you react to them. Ultimately, it will help you to grow as a person and learn to face difficulties with greater equanimity and purpose.

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

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.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Your Constituencies

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Before you can effectively exercise your leadership skills, you must clearly recognize your various constituencies – those groups who depend on you and for whom you must provide leadership and service.  For many positions this is fairly clear cut; there are members, employees, and a boss.  However, for some positions there may be other groups who rely upon your exercise of leadership.

So for every leadership position, one must identify the constituencies served.  Once you have identified these, make a list of each constituency’s needs and how you and/or your team can best serve them.  In most cases you need to visit with constituents to hear directly from them what they need or expect from you.

With a clear understanding of their needs, you are in a far better position to determine priorities and execute your responsibilities.

The key to serving the needs of those you serve lies in ensuring that you build strong relationships with individuals.  How do you 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 the 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 ends, 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.

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 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.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Does Service Training Founder on the Shoals of Management Indifference?

Monday, December 26th, 2011

I recently read an internet-posted news article entitled, “Disney Offers Customer Service Training.”  The article written by Adrian Sainz 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.  Here’s where we’ll pick up 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.

“Part of Disney’s lure is the feelings generated by its films and theme parks – magic and wonderment for children, escapism for adults.  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.

“Miami International Airport is a gateway to and from the Caribbean and Latin America.  About 32.5 million passengers passed through the airport in 2006, including more than 14 million international passengers.  But among 18 U.S. airports with 30 million or more passengers per year, only three airports performed worse in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2007 North America Airport Satisfaction Study.  Miami received below average scores in accessibility, check-in, security check, baggage claim and overall satisfaction; average scores in terminal facilities and food and beverage; and above average in retail services.

“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 the article somewhat interesting, it was the three reader comments posted below the article that caught my attention.  Here they are:

  1. “I worked 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 employee.  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.'”
  2. “When we returned, all 1st level management (the ones dealing with the customers) were asked to implement the Disney experience to 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 the trip I am yet to witness the impact it had on them when dealing with us 1st level managers.”
  3. “I agree with the posters (above) 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 would seem to suggest the obvious:  that without the active involvement and example of leadership (and service-based leadership at that), improvements in customer service will not happen.

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.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Defense and Offense

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Defense and offense are words of opposite meaning, yet often linked together.  Their obvious meaning is demonstrated on the football field.  One team attacks an area defended by another, trying to reach the goal.  The purpose of the defense is to stop the attack, to defend their territory, to protect the goal.  Though these terms have most often been applied to armies at war, they can also be used to describe less physical competitions such as a game of chess.  What characterizes each of these examples is a conflict or competition.

Two words derived from these terms are the adjectives offensive and defensive.  The dictionary defines offensive as:

  • Unpleasant or disagreeable to the senses; obnoxious, disgusting.
  • Causing anger, resentment, giving offense; insulting.

Defensive means:

  • Carried on for the purpose of defending against attack or danger.
  • Having an attitude of defense.

Everyone has heard the phrase “a good offense is the best defense.”  This idea is especially useful on battlefields, football fields, and even chessboards.  By keeping your opponent so off balance by relentless attacks, he has no time or resources to plan attacks against your positions.  In this way your offense becomes your defense.

People have natural tendencies.   Whether inborn or created by longstanding habit, they are part of our makeup and we express them without thinking.  One such habit is the tendency to personally associate ourselves with that which we do.  Just as the farmer has a proprietary interest in the fields he labors so hard to till and harvest, we all identify with our organization or place of work.  A corollary to this sense of association is the natural inclination to protect that which we consider our own or with which are associated.

So it is natural for us to feel pride in our work and place of employment.  When someone attacks it with criticism, disparaging remarks, or complaints, the natural tendency is to defend it, to assume a defensive attitude.  This is all well and good unless you depend upon that someone’s goodwill for your livelihood.  When you work in the service industry, you literally cannot afford to become defensive.

When you become defensive, many things happen physiologically and psychologically.  Adrenaline starts flowing; you tense up, ready to repel any further attack; your heartbeat and respiration quicken.  Likewise, your mind races ahead to your next move or response so you don’t hear what is being said and you don’t focus on the moment.  Subconsciously knowing that a good offense is the best defense you become antagonistic; you raise your voice; you develop an attitude; you become abrupt and huffy with the other person.  At this point, without even knowing it, you have become offensive; that is by definition, “causing anger, resentment, giving offense; insulting.”

How can you avoid the natural tendency to become defensive?  The first step is to become aware that you become defensive when criticized or listening to a member complaint.  Notice the giveaways.  Are you tense and nervous?  Do your hands shake or your voice quaver?  Do you feel  a tightness in your chest?  Do you raise your voice?  Any of these symptoms reveal your defensiveness.

Realizing this, what can you do about it?  First of all, understand two important things:

  • Complaints are not usually directed at you, so don’t take it personally.  Allow some distance between yourself and the complaint.  Not too much, though; you must show a sincere concern to resolve the problem.
  • When a member complains, there is, in his mind, a problem.  Whether we think there is a problem or not is immaterial.  Furthermore, because of the nature of the service profession, the problem is ours.  When considered in this light, the member is doing us a favor by making us aware of the problem.  We should be appreciative and thankful instead of defensive.

In addition, there are some particular things you can do when confronted with a complaint.

  • Where there is no conflict, there is no need for offense and defense.  Don’t allow a conflict to arise.  Disarm the situation by cheerfully accepting our problem.  Listen carefully to what the member is saying.  Apologize sincerely for our shortcomings.  If you can solve the problem, cheerfully and quickly do so.  If you can’t, get a manager who can.
  • If you find yourself becoming nervous or defensive, take a deep breath.  The inflow of oxygen will help quiet your system and the moment you take to breathe has a calming effect on your nerves.
  • If you find yourself losing control, try to leave the room on some pretext.  If you are a server, tactfully excuse yourself “to check with the kitchen.”  Once there, take a deep breath and get control of yourself.  Try to put the member’s anger into perspective.  It’s not the end of the world.  Resolve to overcome that anger.  Take another deep breath and go back to the member.
  • Go on the offensive in a positive away.  Take control of the situation.  Ask pertinent questions about the problem.  Take notes as necessary.  This taking ownership of the problem demonstrates a proprietary concern and a desire to correct the problem.
  • While apologies must always be given, remember that easy apologies and facile excuses do not impress.  Our actions speak louder than our words.
  • Be sincere.  You should have a sincere desire to help any member with a need or concern.  If you don’t, you’re in the wrong business.

Two things you must never do:

  • Pass the buck or evade responsibility.  You may not have created the problem, but now that it’s been brought to your attention, you need to resolve it.
  • Don’t become defensive.  It is not us against the members.  We’re on their team!

Responding to member complaints is one of the most difficult things we face in the service profession, but when we avoid becoming defensive, we often can create a turnaround situation where the problem is solved and the member satisfied.  There is no more satisfying situation in service.

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.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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What I Expect of My Retail Manager

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Most clubs have some sort of non-F&B retail operation such as golf and tennis pro shops, while some in more remote areas may have a general store.  Often the pro shops are operated by the professionals – both golf and tennis; in other cases, the club has a retail manager to oversee these operations.  But no matter who is responsible for the retail bottom line, there are certain things that I, as a general manager, expect.  Here’s my list:

  1. Create written standards, policies, and procedures for all aspects of the retail operation to promote organization, consistency, and continuity.  These also form the basis for training of retail clerks.
  2. Create and use an Annual Retail Buying Plan.  What, when, and how much inventory is purchased each year should be carefully planned.  The plan should be in writing and be revisited at the end of the year to see how well the club did in buying and selling various categories of merchandise.  Revisiting the plan at year’s end will help improve next year’s buy.  Good buying decisions are the most important thing a retailer can do to be successful.
  3. Benchmark the operation.  Retail operations must be benchmarked in detail to learn as much as possible about what sells and doesn’t sell.  The more the retailer knows about the customer’s buying habits, the better future buys will be.  It’s also important to analyze the results of buying and markdown decisions.  What and how many items are marked down represent the buying mistakes.  A retailer should always learn from those mistakes to avoid repeating them.  I also want them to track, monitor, and analyze monthly and year-to-date sales by product category, brand, and item to better understand what sells and what doesn’t.
  4. Create and use a Merchandiser’s Book.  Proper management of retail inventories and good business practice require that retail managers maintain close scrutiny of their buying decision, retail benchmarks, inventory purchase orders, and a log of their major merchandising decisions such as markdowns, sales, inventory discrepancies, write-offs, and any member feedback about the retail operation.  By maintaining this information in a single binder, retail managers have a convenient method of continually analyzing their buying and merchandising decisions with an eye toward continual improvement.
  5. Know the members and their buying habits by using a Membership Retail Book.  Each retail interaction with a member reveals something about his or her buying habits and preferences.  A Membership Retail Book is simply a place to organize and record the information learned about each member.  It is as simple as recording member information in an alphabetized ledger book under each member’s name or utilizing the member preference feature of your retail software.  Once information has been entered for a particular member, it is easy to add more information each time that member shops.  In time the Membership Retail Book will accumulate a wealth of information about members buying habits and preferences.  This information can be used to improve buys, better serve members, increase retail sales, and improve margins.
  6. Have an established discount policy.  Inevitably some merchandise will not move quickly and will sit on shelves or racks for some time.  Such slow-moving merchandise should be made more attractive to members by reducing the price through a series of pre-defined discounts.  Tracking such discounts in the Merchandiser’s Book may help the retailer understand what didn’t sell at full price and this understanding will help improve future buying decisions.
  7. Use a sales and promotion calendar.  An annual sales and promotion calendar should be developed to help the retailer market promotional and discounted sales.  The more members that know in advance about promotions and sales, the more traffic there will be in the shop.  It can also be used as an opportunity to learn more about member’s buying habits.  Coordinate sales and promotion calendar with the activities director who is responsible for the club’s master event and activities schedule.
  8. Rotate stock and change displays.  Move merchandise around frequently to keep the shop interesting and fresh.  Use props and displays to showcase merchandise.  Seasonal themes and decorations offer many opportunities to make the shop attractive and inviting.  Ensure shop clerks are familiar with all products in the shop.  Staff must be familiar with their inventories and knowledgeable about products carried in inventory.
  9. Conduct timely and accurate inventories to ensure that cost of goods sold is computed correctly.  Conduct a formal analysis of cost of goods sold when the monthly number is out of line.  Benchmark the cost of goods from month to month to spot any negative trends.
  10. Train staff.  In addition to teaching shop clerks customer service, merchandising, and sales techniques, they must know as much as possible about the products they sell.  The retail manager must work with vendors to provide detailed information about their products.

None of the above steps are rocket science.  More than anything they are the organizational habits of a professional retailer.  Implement any or all of these practices and watch the business and annual margins grow.

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.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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So You Want Your Club to Be a Service Leader

Monday, January 31st, 2011

What’s the first step?  Teaching employees service skills, techniques, and attitudes?  Nope!  This approach will have only a limited, short-term effect on some of your staff . . . and even these will give up pretty soon if they don’t see a consistent service ethic and example from their leaders.

Becoming a service leader requires a long-term, sustained effort from a management team committed to a consistent service-based approach to leading their service teams.  The ultimate goal of such an approach is to empower employees to think and act like managers — to take the initiative and ownership to resolve service issues wherever encountered with the sure knowledge of their leaders’ backing and support.

Simply put, the requirements and priorities for becoming a service leader are:

  • Establishing a consistent, club-wide service-based leadership style with its emphasis on serving employees by providing all the necessary tools, training, resources, support, and example to provide high levels of service.
  • Establishing a consistent, club-wide culture of service continually reinforced by all managers.
  • Creating a highly organized operation where expectations and standards are understood by all, and managers and employees are held strictly accountable for conduct and performance.
  • Ensuring that managers at all levels of the organization understand and consistently employ the many disciplines and best practices of operating a well-organized club.  This requires that all managers are trained to common standards and performance expectations.
  • Hiring well and training thoroughly so that the club employs the best people with the right personalities for the positions they hold and that every employee is trained in the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes for the jobs they perform.
  • Providing personalized service to your members, requiring that you and your employees know what your members want and their names, interests, and preferences.  This requires the system and organization to discover, organize, and disseminate such information to your employees so they can use it in their daily interactions with members.
  • Empowering your employees to take the initiative, make decisions, and take actions to “wow” members and resolve any and all service issues.  Such empowerment requires that employees are well-trained not just in the how’s of service, but also the why’s.  Finally, you must carefully define the parameters of employee empowerment and decision-making and create a supportive environment that never blames employees for their decisions and actions, only looks for better ways of doing things.

As can be seen from the above requirements, becoming a service leader is not an easy undertaking or one to be approached lightly.  On the contrary, it requires the management “will to make it happen” and the service-based leadership to create the environment that naturally promotes service.

But regardless of the effort involved, the bottom line is, as John Tschohl, president of the Service Quality Institute, says — “Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader.”

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.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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