Archive for the ‘service-based leadership’ Category

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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Details and Quality

Monday, January 10th, 2011

How often have we said that clubs are a detail-intensive business?  There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of details that must be attended to daily to provide the high levels of quality that members expect.  It’s also easily understood that the general manager and management team are incapable of checking each detail every day.  So what are the necessary strategies to achieve the requisite levels of quality?

  • Ultimately a robust program of employee empowerment will encourage employees to think like the general manager, be aware of the manifold necessities of quality and service, be ever alert for problems and issues, and demonstrate the ownership to correct problems wherever and whenever they find them.
  • Thorough communication of values, standards, and expectations to employees so they understand what, why, and how it must be done.
  • Comprehensive initial and ongoing training to ensure employees have all the necessary knowledge, skills, and appropriate attitudes to render consistently high quality service.
  • Detailed organizational systems and processes to allow the operation to function efficiently.  When things happen consistently and routinely in all areas of the club, employees have the time and the inclination to focus on quality.  When everything is screwed up all the time, employees will find it difficult to care.
  • Consistent service-based leadership which requires managers to provide employees with all the necessary tools, training, resources, and ongoing support to do their jobs efficiently and effortlessly.  The underlying premise of such leadership is the ultimate value of people in any endeavor and the need to serve all constituencies, but particularly the employees who render service directly to members.  Such a leadership approach creates and sustains the strong bonds of personal pride and team effort.

While creating the necessary club environment to provide each of the above requirements is neither rapidly nor easily accomplished, it ultimately is the ONLY way to build enduring quality in a service organization.

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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Value Your People

Monday, November 15th, 2010

In an article on employee empowerment, business consultant Susan M. Heathfield said, “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.”

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 members do and your employees do as well.  Introduce them to members and guests 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.

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.

American poet and author Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Value your people and they will be willing and committed participants in your quest for quality and service.

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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Becoming a Service-Based Leader

Monday, October 4th, 2010

lol2Developing 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.

lol-workbook2As you progress through The Workbook, 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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The Soft Stuff

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Roger Enrico, former chairman at Pepsico, famously said, “The soft stuff is always harder than the hard stuff.”  As one who has worked in hospitality leadership roles for over thirty-five years, I would say that truer words were never spoken.  In the detail and people rich environment of the hospitality business, it is the absence of well-developed “soft” skills at all levels of organizations that create our greatest challenges.

So what are we really talking about when we speak of the soft stuff?  In short, it’s the people skills – those aptitudes and abilities used to get the most out of our human assets.  It encompasses all of those things we talk about when discussing leadership – the highly nuanced interactions with a diverse workforce that result in motivation, morale, enthusiasm, focus, commitment, initiative, productivity, teamwork, organizational cohesiveness, and group success.

What makes it all so hard is the complexity of human psychology.  People are complex and struggle with the unique and sometimes overwhelming challenges of their lives.  Put together in a group dynamic with any number of other people coping with their own daily difficulties, both real and imagined, and it’s a mind-boggling challenge for any leader.

So what are some very real things that you can do to improve the soft stuff at your club?  Here are three basics:

Leadership training for all managers to ensure they understand the absolute importance of leadership in all they do.  My own experience points to a service-based style of leadership and the importance of building a unified and consistent approach to leadership on the part of all managers and supervisors within an organization.  The ongoing example and performance of your leadership team is THE most important driver of your club’s success.

Well-defined organizational values and constantly reinforced culture of service are an absolute must.  Don’t expect that all your managers and employees will understand your vision, values, or even how to go about providing service to your members.  Without clearly articulated values and club culture, your efforts to provide high levels of service to your membership will certainly fail.

Training, training, and more training is a bedrock requirement in the hospitality industry.  There’s just too much that needs to be done right every day by everyone on your staff to leave the details to chance.  Without training for managers and line staff, it’s a hit or miss proposition and you spend all your time responding to complaints from members, dealing with staff issues, and struggling with high levels of employee turnover.  Given the cost and effort of thorough, ongoing training, you must commit to the development and discipline of “on the go” training for all areas of your operation so you can take advantage of the spare moments during every shift.

The “hard stuff” – the buildings, golf course, and other amenities are certainly important to a successful club experience.  But without the soft stuff they are just expensive shells and monuments, lacking in the reassuring warmth and human touch that is the heart of hospitality and 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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Super Service Employees

Monday, July 12th, 2010

For those of us who eat out with any regularity, we’ve all had the experience, unfortunately too rarely, of being waited on by what I call a “super server.”  From the moment she approaches the table we know we’re in for a treat.  Sparkling with personality, she overflows with knowledge about the food, beverages, and accompaniments.  She immediately sizes up our interest in engagement and calibrates her contacts accordingly.  She speaks with confidence and authority, questioning us regarding our preferences and without hesitation recommending what she thinks we’ll enjoy.  The best of the best can unerringly take and serve orders without benefit of pen and dup pad – an ability that never ceases to amaze me.

Such extraordinary individuals are worth their weight in gold.  Not only do they serve with flair and expertise, but they sell, thereby increasing the average check, while making a distinctly favorable impression of competence and professionalism that brings diners back again and again.  This is true in restaurants and just as true in private clubs where members appreciate the recognition and special touches that a super server adds to the dining experience.

Far more frequently, we’ve experienced the norm of service – undertrained, inexperienced employees who may understand the basics of service, but little more.  Often lacking in knowledge, personality, and attitude, their service may meet minimum expectations but seldom inspire the diner to sample the extras – appetizers, desserts, wines, and specialty drinks – that the kitchen works so hard to create and which enhance the overall dining experience.  If truth be told, these employees are doing no service to their employers and in many cases are doing outright harm by driving customers away.

The often repeated maxim for employers “to hire for personality and train for technique” encompasses a basic truth.  Attitude, personality, and engagement seem to be inborn skills and are difficult to teach.  While training can provide service skills and knowledge, thereby increasing a server’s confidence and maybe even engagement skills, the best service employees posses an indefinable quality that is difficult, if not impossible, to replicate.

Given the dearth of these extraordinary service employees, they should be recognized and compensated for the rare skills they possess.  Too often though, their presence on an employer’s staff is viewed as simple good fortune with little or no effort made to differentiate them from the common herd.  The result is that in short order they move on to greener pastures where their talents are more fully appreciated.  When this happens the loss to the establishment is often more than can be appreciated at the moment.  Not only has the employer lost a super server, but a money-maker, an ambassador, and an example for less accomplished co-workers.

And everything said about food servers applies as much to super service employees in retail, activities, golf, tennis, administration, and other areas of the club.

What can clubs do to attract and retain Super Service Employees?  By analyzing and considering the wants and needs of super service employees, it is possible to set up programs to attract and retain them.  In simplest terms it boils down to respect, status, meaningful work, and enhanced compensation.  In particular I would focus on the following:

  • Establishing consistent Service-Based Leadership at your club.  The underlying premise of Service-Based Leadership is leaders at all levels who recognize the essential task of serving all constituents, including employees.  Weak or self-serving managers will drive them away.
  • Implementing employee empowerment which is a natural extension of Service-Based Leadership.  Empowered employees are enlisted as partners in the club’s effort to improve the operation and provide high levels of service.  Super service employees want and need this enhanced participation and contribution.
  • Improving communications with employees.  All employees, but especially the super service ones, want to know what is going on and how the operation and direction of the club affects them.
  • Mentoring employees.  Curious and intelligent, super service employees appreciate the time and effort made in giving them the big picture and a deeper understanding of the workings of the club.
  • Creating “master” service positions that recognize higher skill levels and greater knowledge.  The job descriptions for these positions must clearly lay out those distinguishing skills, characteristics, and duties that warrant more responsibility and higher compensation.  Such master positions can then become the aspiration of new or less accomplished employees.
  • Creating a clear career path of knowledge, skill development, and certification which allows other employees to set their sights on the more highly regarded and compensated master level.
  • Assigning master level employees the task of teaching and training those who aspire to the higher level.  Such tasking serves the super service employees’ need for participation and contribution while improving the overall skill level of other employees.
  • Challenging super service employees to engage in creative project work such as taking a larger role in training, creating more effective training programs, formulating and executing member relationship management strategies, and establishing a “wow” factor program for members.
  • Recognizing and rewarding super service employees.  Ensuring they know they are appreciated.  This not only serves their needs, but demonstrates to other employees their value, thereby motivating others to follow their example.  Rewards should also be tangible, such as:  higher pay based on their higher levels of performance, incentive opportunities, preference in scheduling, and educational opportunities.
  • Providing benefits to all employees based on well-defined employment statuses, i.e., full time, part time, and seasonal or temporary.  At a minimum benefits should include holiday pay for designated holidays, vacation time, personal/sick time, health benefits, and retirement benefits.

As an industry we can no longer view employees as a disposable asset, which is what we do when we view ongoing turnover as a cost control measure.  Operating small, stand-alone hospitality organizations with multiple businesses, high levels of service, and lean management staffs covering long hours and weeks is too difficult a task to do without a stable, competent workforce.  When we view labor as a disposable, easily-replaceable commodity, we condemn ourselves to high levels of turnover with its attendant training costs, turmoil, and loss of organizational continuity.  High levels of turnover must be viewed as a critical organizational and leadership failure that is damaging in all ways to the club’s mission and operation.

None of these solutions is easy to implement and will certainly add costs to the club, but I believe the current employment paradigm is far more damaging to a club’s success and remains a significant “hidden” cost of operations.

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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Our Need to Serve

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Jim Collins says that people “want to be involved in something that just flat-out works,” but I believe it is something more.  I believe that people have a great need to connect with or serve something larger than themselves.  Whether it’s building a skyscraper, embarking on a campaign to eradicate hunger, working on the design of an award-winning advertising campaign, or even dressing in favorite NFL team colors and attending all the home games – people need to connect to a larger purpose or endeavor.

Great leaders understand this basic human need and have the ability to create that connection for their followers; unfortunately, not always to good purpose-witness Hitler’s rise to power and spell-binding hold on the German people or, in recent times, the illusion of success created by the leaders of ENRON before its financial collapse.

But the connection I am talking about need not be a life-altering cause or event.  Most of us live rather uneventful lives.  While our need is to earn a living and support our families, an astute leader recognizes the opportunity to create something out-of-the-ordinary – a special enterprise that performs better than others and is a source of purpose and pride for all.

In connecting people to the challenge of creating something special, the leader feeds the employees’ need to do something beyond self while advancing the purpose of the enterprise.  All that is necessary is for the leader to frame the challenge in terms of shared goals.  In the service industry this is a fairly simple task.  Our purpose is to serve.  The quality of our service encourages customers and repeat business, which in turn ensures the success of the enterprise for the owners, and, ultimately, the job security and advancement opportunities of everyone involved.

Throughout my career, I have met many eager, enthusiastic young people, some just starting out their adult lives and relishing the opportunity of their first jobs.  Unfortunately for most, their youthful idealism is crushed pretty quickly by the realities of the workplace, particularly when they are not well-led, when they are not properly trained or supported, and when they are treated as if they didn’t matter.

At the same time, I’ve heard managers complain about the poor state of the labor pool and their inability to find decent employees who have commitment to their jobs.  Listening to such complaints I have to wonder what steps these individuals have taken to motivate their employees, to provide training and meaningful work experiences, to connect their workers’ labors to a larger effort.

To expect that the wide variety of applicants for positions will inherently know and understand a leader’s vision and the values that underlie the enterprise’s efforts is foolish.  All employees, whether first-time job seekers or those who have worked in a variety of jobs and settings, need the vision of connecting to a larger purpose, and they need a Service-Based Leader who can provide them the meaningful employment that serves their greater needs.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook.

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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The 100/0 Principle

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Al Ritter has written a great little book, The 100/0 Principle, subtitled The Secret of Great Relationships.  While this may sound like any one of the score of self-help books published annually, one merely has to look at Mr. Ritter’s resume – MBA from Dartmouth, marketing and operations positions with Pepsico, CFO at Swift and Company, Senior VP for Citigroup, consulting for Accenture, and founding his own consulting company – to recognize that this short, simple, and easy-to-read book holds much promise for business leaders in any setting and level of organizational hierarchies.

I believe the simple concept at the heart of this book is arguably the single most important guarantor of success in any relationship, certainly in the personal arena, but beyond that in any organization or business enterprise.  Such well-known leadership authors as John C. Maxwell, Brian Tracy, and Warren Blank have all recognized the central role of relationships in any attempt to lead.  As Maxwell said, “People who are unable to build solid, lasting relationships will soon discover that they are unable to sustain long, effective leadership.”

What Mr. Ritter so strikingly advocates in his book is that if you want any relationship to be successful, you must take 100% responsibility for the outcome while expecting nothing in return.  While this statement may seem shocking to some, I believe it is counter-intuitive wisdom of the highest order.  To examine why, consider the following statements relating to leadership:

  • A leader is responsible for his own success.
  • A leader is responsible for everything her organization does or fails to do.
  • In a free society, all but the most socially or economically disadvantaged followers have choice and can go elsewhere.
  • Meaningful relationships are based on trust.
  • Followers don’t automatically extend their trust to a leader; it must be earned.
  • As the one with the power and authority, the leader must take responsibility for establishing trust.
  • If, for whatever reason, a relationship with followers is not going well, a leader cannot expect or wait for others to fix it.
  • Ergo: He or she must take full responsibility for the relationship.

Mr. Ritter states and I believe that taking complete responsibility for your relationships and expecting nothing in return will yield vastly improved results in every arena of life.  His book offers concrete advice and steps, such as creative listening, suspending judgment, and unconditional acceptance, for readers to adjust their thinking and change their responses to difficult people, challenging situations, even “toxic” bosses.  While his experience with The 100/0 Principle has been mostly successful, he outlines a few situations where it doesn’t apply.  He also candidly admits that there are no guarantees that it will always work, but that in the majority of situations, dramatic results are achieved.

Roger Enrico, former Chairman and CEO of Pepsico said, “The soft stuff is always harder than the hard stuff.” I can’t imagine that anyone who has attempted to lead would dispute this basic observation.  Read Al Ritter’s book – it offers a simple and straightforward approach to getting the soft stuff right!

The Book is: The 100/0 Principle:  The Secret of Great Relationships, Al Ritter, Simple Truths, LLC, Napierville, IL, 2010

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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