Archive for the ‘remarkable service’ Category

Guest Blog: Dignity…We All Crave It, So Why Do We Keep Ignoring It?

Monday, November 14th, 2011

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What is the motivating force behind all human interaction – in families, in communities, in the business world, and in relationships from the personal level to the international level?  DIGNITY.  It is the desire to be treated well.  It is an unspoken human yearning that is at the heart of all conflicts, yet no one is paying attention to it.

When dignity is violated, the response is likely to involve aggression, even violence, hatred, and vengeance; the human connection is the first thing to go.  On the other hand, when people treat each other with dignity, they feel their worth is recognized, creating lasting and meaningful relationships.  Surprisingly, most people have little understanding of dignity.  While a desire for dignity is universal, knowing how to honor it in ourselves and others is not.

After working as a conflict resolution specialist for twenty years, I have observed and researched the circumstances that give rise to dignity violations.  On the other hand, when the following ten elements of dignity are honored, people feel their dignity has been recognized and that they have been treated well.  Relationships flourish under these conditions.

The Ten Essential Elements of Dignity

Acceptance of Identity.  Approach people as being neither inferior nor superior to you.  Give others the freedom to express their authentic selves without fear of being negatively judged.  Interact without prejudice or bias, accepting the ways in which race, religion, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, age, and disability may be at the core of the other people’s identities.  Assume that others have integrity.

Inclusion.  Make others feel that they belong, whatever the relationship – whether they are in your family, community, organization, or nation.

Safety.  Put people at ease at two levels: physically, so they feel safe from bodily harm, and psychologically, so they feel safe from being humiliated.  Help them feel free to speak without fear of retribution.

Acknowledgement.  Give people your full attention by listening, hearing, validating, and responding to their concerns, feelings, and experiences.

Recognition.  Validate others for their talents, hard work, thoughtfulness, and help.  Be generous with praise, and show appreciation and gratitude to others for their contributions and ideas.

Fairness.  Treat people justly, with equality, and in an evenhanded way according to agreed-on laws and rules.  People feel that you have honored their dignity when you treat them without discrimination or injustice.

Benefit of the Doubt.   Treat people as trustworthy.  Start with the premise that others have good motives and are acting with integrity.

Understanding.  Believe that what others think matters.  Give them the chance to explain and express their points of view.  Actively listen in order to understand them.

Independence.  Encourage people to act on their own behalf so that they feel in control of their lives and experience a sense of hope and possibility.

Accountability.  Take responsibility for your actions.  If you have violated the dignity of another person, apologize.  Make a commitment to change your hurtful behaviors.

Our desire for dignity resides deep within us, defining our common humanity.  If our capacity for indignity is our lowest common denominator, then our yearning for dignity is our highest.  And if indignity tears relationships apart, then dignity can put them back together again.

Our ignorance of all things related to dignity – how to claim our own and how to honor it in others, has contributed to many of the conflicts we see in the world today.  This is as true in the boardroom and in the bedroom, as it is in politics and international relations.  It is true for all human interaction.  If we are to evolve as a species, there is no greater need than to learn how to treat each other and ourselves with dignity.  It is the glue that could hold us all together.  And it doesn’t stop there.  Not only does dignity make for good human relationships, it does something perhaps far more important – it creates the conditions for our mutual growth and development.  It is a distraction to have to defend oneself from indignity.  It takes up our time and uses up our precious energy.  The power of dignity, on the other hand, only expands with use.  The more we give, the more we get.

There is no greater leadership challenge than to lead with dignity, helping us all to understand what it feels like to be honored and valued and to feel the incalculable benefits that come from experiencing it.  The leadership challenge is at all levels – for those in the world of politics, business, education, religion, to everyday leadership in our personal lives.  Peace will not flourish anywhere without dignity.  There is no such thing as democracy without dignity, nor can there be authentic peace if people are suffering indignities.  Last but not least, feeling dignity’s power – both by honoring it and locating our own inner source of it – sets us up for one of humanities greatest gifts – the experience of being in relationship with others in a way that brings out the best in one another, allowing us to become more of what we are capable of being.

Donna Hicks Ph.D., author of Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict, Yale University Press, 2011.  You can read more about the author and her book at http://drdonnahicks.com/

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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Guest Blog: What I Learned About Business Leadership from John Wooden

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

I have been a leadership coach for the past two decades for Fortune 500 CEOs and other senior leaders.  Much of my success, or more accurately the success of my clients, is due to the wisdom of John Wooden, the great former UCLA basketball coach, who passed away at age 99 on June 4th, 2010.  Mr. Wooden won 10 national championships, a record unlikely to ever be equaled.  Many have called him a national treasure. I concur, and would add that he was a treasure chest of great wisdom in many domains of life beyond basketball, including business.

Twenty-one years ago (1989), just before I became an executive coach, I had the good fortune to spend a few hours with Mr. Wooden during one of his Chicago visits.  He was willing to see me because of his relationship with two of my former coaches.  After the normal pleasantries, I asked Mr. Wooden this question: “What is the one thing you did that made you such a masterful leader and coach?”

His answer changed my life, and shortly thereafter began to change the lives of my clients.  His answer: “Most coaches have one commitment, and that is to winning.  I had a dual commitment-to winning, and also to relationships-and I was equally committed to both.”

I was astounded by his answer because as a corporate business leader earlier in my career, I had certainly fulfilled on his first commitment, but had not even given much thought to the second.  Mr. Wooden then elaborated on how he fulfilled on those two commitments, never compromising one for the other.  That definition of leadership, and other leadership principles I learned that day, have played a major role in my business coaching practice the last 20 years.  Here are some of the most important principles Mr. Wooden spoke about and how they apply to business leadership.

1.   Live the Dual Commitment-to Both Results and Relationships.

As Mr. Wooden said years ago, “The drive to win is a good thing, but when that drive becomes single-minded, it often leads to insensitivity to people.  The coach, by relentlessly focusing on winning, can, over time, damage the team’s performance.”

Most of my corporate clients, when they begin working with me, mirror the way I used to be in my corporate career-a strong commitment to Results and a relatively weak commitment to Relationships.  However, when those same business leaders learn how to fulfill on both commitments, key performance measures including sales and earnings typically reach unprecedented, sustainable levels.  I have seen that happen with thousands of my business clients the last twenty years.

2.   Implement the Discipline of Execution.

Mr. Wooden insisted his players and coaches, including himself, be on time, and keep their word about everything, big and small.   He expressed this axiom: “Powerful results require disciplined actions, where everyone can be counted on.”

To generate the results they want, business leaders need to cause powerful actions to be implemented in a coordinated, clear manner, where each person’s word is their bond.

3.   Be Transparent.

This means admitting you’re not perfect, that as a leader you can learn from anyone.  One of Mr. Wooden’s favorite expressions was “It’s what you learn after you think you know it all that really counts.”

In business, the most effective leaders realize the first person to lead is themselves.  In other words, they have self-awareness.  This requires the counter-intuitive practice of leaders asking for feedback from the people around them on what’s working and not working.  That kind of vulnerability is actually a sign of strength, not weakness, and creates great value for the business and the people in it.

4.   Slow Down in Order to Speed Up.

One of John Wooden’s favorite phrases was “Be quick, but never be in a hurry,” meaning be alert, be diligent, think, but don’t be in a rush, don’t be careless, don’t take things for granted.

Of course, this principle relates to business in a big way, if one looks no further than the oil crisis in the Gulf.   Effective leaders must overcome the many characteristics of our times that push leaders to react, rather than reflect and think.

MR. WOODEN, ON BEHALF OF BUSINESS LEADERS EVERYWHERE, THANK YOU!

Al Ritter, President, Ritter Consulting Group, ahritter@ritterconsultinggroup.com

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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Touch Point Tactics

Monday, September 12th, 2011

In war the generals plan the strategy, unit commanders establish plans to shape the battle, and front line leaders set and direct the tactics to wage the fight.  In our business the board and General Manager set the direction and standards of the club, but it’s the department heads and front line supervisors who figure out how best to implement at the point of contact with members and guests.

The term “touch point” refers to those critical moments and events that shape and define a customer’s impression of service and service delivery.  Also called “moments of truth,” touch points are defined as “a critical or decisive time or event on which much depends; a crucial moment.”  But no matter what they are called, if a club is to be a service leader, it must consistently get the touch points right and it’s up to the club’s junior leaders to plan, train, and direct front line employees to flawlessly execute each of these service opportunities.

Most club departments have a limited number of touch points, probably less than ten.  The food and beverage department has considerably more due to the intensive interaction with members during food service.  Regardless of number, it’s up to department heads to identify and establish standards for each touch point – even to go so far as scripting and rehearsing employees’ touch point roles.

So what are the steps in planning touch point tactics?  Here’s a basic list for department heads:

  • Identify members’ needs and expectations from the club.
  • Carefully review departmental interfaces with members and identify all touch points.
  • Prioritize touch points based on service impact and impression.
  • Spell out in detail the optimum manner for employees to execute each touch point.
  • Script, train, and rehearse employees to consistently execute touch points.
  • Revise and refine touch point execution based on feedback from employees.

Points of caution:

  • Train employees to avoid robot-like, lockstep execution.  Employees must be comfortable enough in their roles to improvise according to the dictates of the moment and situation.  Everything they do must be comfortable and personal – that’s why it’s so important to empower your staff.
  • Managers must encourage and act upon feedback from employees.  The people who have direct service contact with members are in the best position to determine what works and what doesn’t.

Bottom Line:  As with managing any other critical aspect of the operation, touch point tactics must be well-developed and executed to achieve the desired effects.

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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Give Them More Than Just a Paycheck

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Throughout my career I’ve too often heard managers complain about the labor pool, the lack of work ethic and sense of responsibility among workers, and the constant headaches that came from their human “resources.”  The overwhelming sense from these managers was – “We pay too much to these people whose only interest is in collecting a paycheck.”

Yet at the same time and in the same or similar markets, there were other managers who did just fine in finding and retaining good people who made a real contribution to their clubs.  What then made the difference?  The answer is quite simple – good leadership!

So instead of just providing your employees with a paycheck, consider giving them the following:

  • Respect.  The life of all human beings is important to themselves, yet too many people are treated by their bosses as if they didn’t matter.  This maltreatment is not always by design; it’s the byproduct of busy bosses too focused on themselves or the many problems they face in busy operations.  But every employee deserves to be treated with the utmost respect and the common courtesies of human interaction.  When consistently and sincerely given, this respect will transform any work team.
  • Responsibility.  Placing responsibility on your work team demonstrates your trust in them.  Trust given returns trust.  In contrast, when you treat your employees like idiots or children, many will respond by acting like idiots or children.
  • Recognition.  Every day your employees do hundreds of things right.  Make sure you recognize that essential contribution to the success of your operation.  When sincerely given, a simple thank you or handshake of appreciation has a profound impact on morale, commitment, and contribution.
  • Responsiveness.  Leaders must engage with their employees every day and respond to their issues and concerns.  In any group of people working in a complex, fast-paced, and detail-intensive business there will be conflict and turmoil.  Without the leader’s guiding hand, this turmoil can consume the operation.  Leaders must stay engaged, be approachable, and respond to concerns.
  • Example.  Someone once said, “A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.” The leader’s example is paramount in setting the standards of the operation.  If the leader doesn’t seem to care about his employees, they won’t care about him or his initiatives and agenda.
  • Training.  Most people want to do a good job and appreciate when they are properly trained to improve their knowledge, skills, and job performance.  Lack of training leads to a chaotic and confusing work environment, the loss of conscientious employees, and a staff dominated by people who “couldn’t care less.”
  • Removal of Roadblocks.  Leaders should be hyper-sensitive to anything in the workplace that inhibits efficiency.  Do whatever is necessary within reason to identify and eliminate anything that makes employees jobs more challenging, time consuming, and frustrating.  Not only do you gain speed, efficiency, and improved productivity, but your employees will understand that you are dedicated to improving the operation and you care enough about them to address legitimate concerns.

All of the above steps from leaders will have a dramatic effect on employees and the operation.  In contrast, when you give your employees no more than a paycheck, you shortchange them, the club, and your members.

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 Hospitality Challenge

Monday, September 6th, 2010

I’ve learned a lot about the hospitality business since my first position as General Manager of an historic hotel in the late 70s.  In a variety of positions in hotels, resorts, and private clubs – in startups, turnarounds, and repositionings, I’ve learned a number of key lessons from my efforts to deliver high levels of service.  Here they are:

The customer is King.  The only perception of quality, service, and value is the customer’s.  Hospitality managers must learn as much as possible about their customers in order to meet their needs and wants – where they come from, why they come to your establishment, what are their expectations, what do they like or dislike about your property, what are their complaints, what would they like improved?

The hospitality business is detail and people-intensive.  It takes a lot of people doing all the right things everyday to deliver consistent, quality service.  Therefore:

  • Written standards, policies, and procedures ensure every employee knows what to do and how to do it; help develop specific training materials; and ensure consistency and continuity in the operation.
  • Formal training is a necessity.  Operational processes cannot be left to oral history or chance.
  • Continuous process improvement is a must.  We can never rest on yesterday’s accomplishments.
  • Thorough benchmarking of all areas of the operation ensures that we know what is going on and what our customers are telling us by their spending habits.

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

  • Consistent, property-wide leadership is a must.  Disparate and competing leadership styles confound the staff and sow divisions in the team.
  • Values and behaviors must be spelled out in detail and reinforced continually.
  • Excessive employee turnover is damaging to an organization in continuity, lost time, and cost.  Except in extreme cases our first impulse (especially in difficult labor markets) is not to fire, but to examine causes; improve processes, organization, disciplines, and training; and instruct, counsel, and coach employees.
  • Employees must be empowered to think and act in alignment with organization values, the property’s mission and vision, and carefully defined management guidelines.  “Without empowerment an organization will never be a service leader.”  Why?  Because there is far more to do and monitor on a daily basis than any management team can possible handle.  Authority for service and service delivery must be pushed down to the lowest levels of the organization – where it takes place.

Work planning and ongoing performance review are essential to holding managers accountable for their performance and the performance of their departments or work teams.  Without accountability only the General Manager is accountable and he or she will fail or burnout trying to succeed.

Leadership is key at all levels of the organization:

  • To set an unimpeachable example for employees.
  • To uncover, analyze, and solve problems.
  • To thoroughly communicate standards, policies, procedures, information, and training.
  • To engage customers and staff continuously.

All of the foregoing requirements must be institutionalized so that the operation continues undisturbed in the face of any turnover and 80% of the operation functions routinely – allowing management to focus on strategic issues, planning, execution, problem-solving, and customer interface.

These lessons learned have led me to formulate a plan to create and deliver high levels of service.  This plan can be found in a white paper I’ve written entitled The Quest for Remarkable 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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Leadership – Charisma and Trust

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

People often speak of an especially effective leader’s charisma – that somewhat mysterious ability to connect with people in a profound and moving way.  We can all think of leaders, usually on the national or international stage, who possessed charisma.  Some names that come to mind include Eleanor Roosevelt, with her quick wit and commitment to social equity, and Ronald Reagan, called the “Great Communicator” for his skill in connecting with people.  More recently we recognize Oprah Winfrey and her engaging manner with people from all walks of life and Barack Obama for his undeniable ability to move audiences with his  presence and oratory.

While charisma can add to a leader’s skill set, it must be based upon a foundation of trust.  Without earned and merited trust, a charismatic personality is little more than a con artist.

Two important ways to gain and hold the trust of followers and other constituents is to demonstrate both integrity and competence in all you do.

Integrity is not simply honesty, though truth and truthfulness are significant parts of it.  Ultimately integrity is being true to yourself and your beliefs.   The dictionary defines integrity as “the adherence to moral or ethical principles.”  This implies that one’s actions match her words – that she does what she says she will do regardless of consequences, that she has a moral compass that guides her in all instances, that she can be counted on to do the right thing.   At the end of the day, a person who has integrity can be trusted by others in all situations.

In addition to possessing integrity a leader must demonstrate competence.  No one wants to follow someone who is inept, no matter what authority he may possess.  In fighting wars a follower’s life may depend upon it.  During the Civil War a fellow officer said of Gen. Nathaniel Banks that it was murder to send soldiers out under him.  While this political appointee of President Lincoln had the authority to command, he clearly did not possess the competence to lead.

The U.S. Marine Corps in its Fundamentals of Marine Corps Leadership tells its aspiring leaders that they must be technically and tactically proficient.  To develop this ability, they are told to “seek a well-rounded [professional] education” and to “seek out and associate with capable leaders.  [To] observe and study their actions.”  Lastly, Marines are told to prepare themselves for the job of leader at the next higher rank.  This advice applies to leadership in any situation or endeavor.

By cultivating and demonstrating both integrity and competence in all you do, you will gain the trust of your followers.  While only a gifted few possess natural charisma, it may be argued that it is not required for the smaller arenas in which most of us labor.  Yet as you continue to grow and nurture your leadership skills through practice and experience, you may discover that your followers consider your leadership to be charismatic.  As with beauty, charisma is in the eye of the beholder.

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 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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Leadership Consistency

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Management teams can be dysfunctional for a host of reasons, but there is none so basic as a variety of competing leadership styles.  To expect that any group of managers, each with his or her own background, training, and experience, will have a similar and effective leadership style is unrealistic in the extreme.

Yet as with so many other aspects of management, consistency is essential to faithfully communicate and reinforce the club’s culture, service ethic, and environment for employee empowerment.  Without leadership consistency, employees get a mixed service message, and their morale and commitment varies from manager to manager and department to department.

Imagine a management team made up of department heads with the following leadership styles:

  • Military – with its requirement of absolute, immediate, and unquestioned obedience,
  • Democratic – where decisions are only made after lengthy discussion and debate,
  • Gunslinger – with its emphasis on shoot first, aim later,
  • Absent – where the leader is never around or is hiding in his office,
  • Aloof – while he is there, he never interacts with or engages his followers,
  • Uncommunicative – where the leader gives everyone the silent treatment,
  • Pissed off – where the manager is angry all the time at everyone,
  • Screamer – where he assumes everyone is deaf and yells at everybody,
  • Political – where the manager believes his only function is to suck up to members,
  • From another planet – where the leader expects that everyone will know what to do and will do it without being told,
  • Fear-based – where the leader rules with an iron hand and scares the heck out of everyone, and
  • Service-based – where the attitude and primary motivation of the leader is service to others – to members, to employees, to shareholders.

Clearly, such a jumble of leadership styles will lead to a confusing and contradictory example and message for employees, as well as create barriers to cooperation and teamwork between departments.

The solution to such a fragmented workplace is for the General Manager to promote a consistent style and application of leadership club-wide.  This can only be done by providing consistent leadership training to the entire management team.  Given the uneven comprehension of leadership issues among any group of managers, the benefits of a uniform understanding and application of leadership will bring club operations to a uniformly high state of performance.

Tip:  Use Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners and Emerging Leaders and Leadership on the Line – The Workbook to teach Service-Based Leadership to your management team.

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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Attending to the Basics in an Organized and Disciplined Way

Monday, February 8th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many of the tools and resources to implement the initiatives mentioned here are available on the Club Resources International website — most at no charge.  Currently the website has 1,550 high quality, fully integrated resources available — and more being added all the time.  Come explore the site and see for yourself!

Next Week:  Creating Measurable Accountabilities

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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Training Strategies: Planning and Preparation

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Over the last two weeks we’ve maintained that a lack of training is the Achilles heel of club operations.  Without formal and consistent training, a great number of clubs suffer from high employee turnover, member complaints about poor service, lack of organization, and generally inefficient operations — all of which have a negative impact on member satisfaction, recruitment, and retention, and ultimately the bottom line.

Here are some of the strategies to design and field a more robust, formal training program for both line employees and management:

1.   Start with a plan.  As with any major project, there must be a plan.  Things to consider when planning include:  goals, program requirements, training principles, impacted positions, priorities, budget, timelines and milestones, curricula by position, equipment and supplies, resources and materials, benchmarking, administration and documentation, annual certifications, plan and implementation review, and designated responsibilities.

Tip:  Check out the sample Club Training Plan on the Club Resources International (CRI) website for ideas.

Tip:  Start small and grow.  You don’t have to do everything at once.  Pick key member-facing positions with the greatest number of employees to get your biggest bang for the buck.  But don’t forget the importance of manager/supervisor training.  In the long run a well-trained, knowledgeable, consistent, and disciplined management team will be far more valuable to your success than anything else.

2.   Appoint a Training Manager to shepherd the project.  Assign this responsibility to an existing department head.  This individual will draft and present the plan, oversee its implementation, and report directly to the General Manager on plan progress and developments.

Tip:  The training initiative must have the absolute and enthusiastic support, backing, and “will to make it happen” of the General Manager or it won’t go anywhere.

3.   Charge each department head with the task of developing a curriculum outline for each position in his or her department.  These are the topics that employees in any given position must be familiar with.  Much of this information should be written, but some must be communicated or taught by other means, such as demonstrations, videos, DVD’s, etc.  In addition to the “what” (curriculum topics by position), the outline should also include “who” must learn the material, “when” it must be learned, and “how often” it must be taught for material that requires ongoing refresher training, such as sexual harassment, safety training, sanitation, and others.

Tip:  For service skills positions, the standard four-step training process of “Tell-Show-Do-Review” can be improved upon by Jim Sullivan’s 7-step process:  1.  Say What:  explain what will be covered, 2.  Say Why:  explain why the information is important, 3.  Show How:  demonstrate the correct way, 4.  Detail Variables:  since service is situational, discuss acceptable variations, 5.  Guided Practice:  rehearse skills together, 6:  Spaced Repetition:  repeat the skills training over time until each employee “gets it,” and  7.  Teach Back:  have employees teach back lesson as an instructor.

4.   Charge the designated Training Manager with developing club-wide training topics.  Usually this would be done in cooperation with the HR Manager, Safety Manager, or other subject matter experts.  Club-wide topics include an overview of club amenities, facilities, and operation; member rules; employee rules and work-related policies; organizational culture; club operating systems; legal and liability issues; and leadership development.

Important point:  Keep in mind that while much of the information employees and managers must know is similar; there is often a different thrust to the material.  For example, line employees must know what to do if they feel they are being sexually harassed, while managers must understand the nuances of what constitutes sexual harassment, how to avoid it, and what to do if reported to them.

values-2Tip:  Many of these topics have been covered in materials found on the CRI website, for example:  Organizational Values, Readings in Basic Leadership and Management, Leadership on the Line, Managers Handbook, Employee Handbook, Club Safety Plan, and Training-on-the-Go (such as F&B Training-on-the-Go, Safety-on-the-Go, HR-on-the-Go, Values-on-the-Go), and Daily Huddle topics.

5.   New hire training starts with basic information such as job descriptions, performance expectations, club orientation and departmental orientations (they are different, though covering some of the same topics for reinforcement), employee handbook, and managers’ handbook.  Any plan to provide a more formal approach to training must include a review of, or if not already in place, the development of such documents to ensure they cover all pertinent topics and are fully integrated, that is, they are consistent and reinforcing.

Tip:  Again, a good starting point for these documents is the material on the CRI website.  Follow the links above to check out the material.  Download or purchase the material and customize it for your own use.

Other Tips:

  • Experience has shown that critical information provided in small doses over time (hence the training-on-the-go material) is the best way to provide ongoing training at the lowest cost. Instead of specially scheduled, on-the-clock training sessions, some sort of pre-shift meeting for every department and shift is an excellent way to do this. The key here is to have a pre-developed, organized system of material, so that managers can take advantage of such meetings without having to jump through hoops to find and develop topics. Keep in mind that once such material is developed, it is available for future use with little or no effort.
  • Because of the one-time intensity of developing or gathering training material, this project should be done during the club’s “off season.” But to maximize the effectiveness of this limited time, the initial planning and timelines should be completed prior to the slow season to ensure that everyone “hits the ground running” when things slow down.
  • Training resources can be found anywhere. The advent of the Internet and search engines makes it relatively easy and convenient to find training material for almost any topic or position. Some will be free and some will cost, but once department heads determine topics, they should begin searching for relevant material.
  • Presenting the material in a professional manner is key! Do not hand your employees a 3-ringed binder filled with odd sheets of copied information. Efforts must be made to eliminate contradictory terminology and information written by different authors. Spend the time and effort to present it professionally — each topic should be presented in a common format with appropriate context, segue, and without extraneous information. You wouldn’t present such a jumble of information to your members, and you shouldn’t do it to your employees who you depend upon for your success.

As an aside:  the beauty of the Internet material is that is can be copied, pasted, and edited in your own formatted documents.  Also, when preparing training material, don’t forget to develop quizzes.  They can be used for formal comprehension testing or during informal teaching Q&As by supervisors.

  • Developing and fielding training information is an ongoing process. Review material over time, adding to it and improving it as you go. Ask employees to give you feedback on the adequacy and effectiveness of the material — ultimately they are the best judges of what’s useful and what’s not.

Developing a comprehensive training plan and program is probably one of the most challenging things your club will do, but the time, cost, and effort is well worthwhile.  Over the long haul, the effort you put into developing the professionalism of your staff and improving the quality of service at your club will have far reaching positive effects on member satisfaction and your bottom line.

Next Week:  Training Tools and Execution

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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