Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

How Many Silos Does Your Club Have?

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

Teamwork pays off.  We’ve all seen examples in the sports world of one team playing well together beating a team with superior individual talent.  Legendary University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith made a name for himself by fielding balanced teams known for their teamwork as opposed to teams with individual high scoring stars.  Some wag once said, “Dean Smith was the only coach who could keep Michael Jordan to less than 20 points a game” – because of his insistence on selflessness and teamwork.

Teamwork is also important in business where complex organizations depend upon the strengths of different departments working together.  The term “silo” has come to represent individual managers and departments focused solely on their own agendas, functions, and tasks.  The image of a silo, standing tall with sheer walls separating its contents from other silos, is an apt analogy for business departments who work alone with minimal contact with adjacent departments regardless of degree of interdependence and common purpose.

Silos are quite prevalent in the club business where individual departments perform certain well-defined functions in the overall club scheme.  While some usually have good communications and working relationships, such as golf operations and golf course maintenance, less often is this the case between clubhouse functions, such as food and beverage, membership, and administration, and outside functions.  In many cases some department heads only encounter each other at the General Manager’s staff meetings.

The danger in having silos in your club is that some managers have little understanding beyond a broad conception of what other managers or their departments do.  Without a keener appreciation of all elements of the club’s operations, how can department heads work together as a team to understand and exceed members’ expectations?

This is particularly important in those club departments that provide a supporting function to other operations, such as accounting, human resources, administration, and facilities management.  Unless these department heads get out and meet frequently with their operational counterparts, they are unable to get important feedback or conceive of better ways to serve their internal customers.

So how does a General Manager go about breaking down the silos of a club?  Here are some suggestions:

1.  Hold regularly scheduled weekly meetings with all department heads.  These meetings allow each attendee to update others on what they are working on.  Obviously, this keeps everyone better informed and gives each a better understanding of what others do.

2. Use the annual club planning process as a team building exercise.  Many minds are better than one and often an outside view on problems can bring a fresh approach.  Read the article “A Discipline of Planning” for more information.

3.  Once a month have one department head lead a brainstorming session to improve their operation.  See the article “Continual Process Improvement” to see how it works.

4.  Take department heads to lunch at a nice restaurant once a quarter for socializing.  Follow the lunch with a brief presentation and Q&A session by a community or business leader.  Often these individuals can come from the club’s membership and would be happy, maybe even honored, to speak to their club’s leadership.

5.  Hold “Wow Factor” brainstorming sessions with all department heads.  Read the article “What Have You Done for Me Lately” for information about such sessions.

The Bottom Line:  The more your department heads interact with one another in formal and informal settings, the better they will understand the common challenges they face in running a high quality, member-focused club.  When this happens they will naturally begin functioning as a team committed to their common purpose regardless of individual function.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Attending to the Basics in an Organized and Disciplined Way

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Employee Empowerment

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

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

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

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

What is Employee Empowerment?

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

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

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

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

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Service-Based Leadership – It’s Just Common Sense

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

A Discipline of Planning

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Managing a club without a plan is like driving through a strange land without a road map.  Given the size, complexity, and money invested in making a club successful, why would anyone consider operating it by the seat of one’s pants?  Yet, this is exactly what managers do when they fail to establish a discipline of formal planning.  And make no mistake about it, it is a discipline – requiring managers and supervisors at all levels to conceive and document their plans for upcoming periods and specific events.  It also requires that the General Manager review all planning documents, as well as review progress toward completing those plans on an ongoing basis.

Every enterprise demands a plan.  Without a formal, written plan to focus attention and action upon the completion of specified goals within a specified time period, the club will lack clear direction and purpose.  By putting plans in writing, the responsible manager formally commits to its accomplishment.  Further, there is a common understanding on the part of both the subordinate manager and the General Manager of what will happen and when.  Often, the planning and execution of one department will impact other departments or the club as a whole.  Written plans ensure that all managers and department heads are fully informed about where the club is going and when things are supposed to happen.  Taking all this into account, planning is not a luxury, but a necessity for efficient operations.

Types of Plans.  Planning is necessary on many levels and in many settings.  Formally, the club should have the following:

  • A Club Annual Plan covering a period of 12 months, coinciding with the budgeting cycle.  This plan lays out the specific goals to be accomplished during the year as part of the club’s efforts toward continual improvement.
  • A General Manager’s Work Plan for the 12 months covered by the Club Annual Plan.  This plan lays out measurable accountabilities for the General Manager and is the basis the GM’s performance appraisal.
  • Departmental Plans for the 12 months covered by the Club Annual Plan.  These plans lay out the goals and objectives of each operating department.
  • A Work Plan for each Department Head for the same 12 months.  These plans do the same for the club’s department heads.
  • Plans for major project and events.  These are plans developed for specific major tasks or activities such as purchasing new golf carts, renovating a facility, or preparing for the Member-Guest Tournament.

Planning Tips.   Having gone through the planning process a number of times, I offer the following advice to all General Managers:

  • Start early.  Procrastination results in poor, disjointed planning.
  • Lay out the broad outlines of what the Board or GM wish to accomplish.  These outlines will impact the priorities and initiatives of the club’s operating departments.
  • Involve your staff.  The departmental plans must take into account the broader goals of the club, but will also include the plans and agendas of individual Department Heads.  Further, since no department works in isolation, one department’s plan may affect others – either materially or in the timing of events and accomplishments.
  • Challenge staff.  General Managers should explain the big picture of club direction and progress and then challenge Department Heads to work on specific initiatives within their departments, for example, implementing Benchmarking, setting up Tools to Beat Budget, reviewing departmental training material and plans, Continual Process Improvement.
  • Planning is a process.  No plan is completed after one pass.  Back and forth discussion between the General Manager and Department Heads and among the different departments will further refine plans insuring a well-integrated club plan.
  • Use planning as a team-building exercise.  Given the preceding tips, I encourage General Managers to use the annual planning process as a team-building process.  Call an early planning meeting with all Department Heads to lay out the purpose, process, and planning timeline.  Then establish a series of planning meetings at which each Department Head presents his or her plans to the rest of the management staff for input and feedback.  One Department Head’s ideas may spark others to similar accomplishment.  Encourage critical review of plans and challenge groups of Department Heads to work together to work on larger club or departmental initiatives.

When departmental plans are completed, General Managers must review them and incorporate the more significant items in the Annual Club Plan.  All this should be done in time to allow adequate review and feedback by the Board before the start of the budgeting process.

Lastly, plans must not be a one-time task not to be looked at again.  To be truly useful departmentals and the Club Annual Plan should be reviewed often.  I recommend a brief review of plans and accomplishments during the Monthly Review of Operating Statements.  This ongoing review and discussion of planning will ensure timely completion of tasks and keep the club on target to meet all of its Annual Goals.

Summary.  The importance of disciplined planning cannot be overstated.  Haphazard planning results in haphazard operations and equally haphazard performance.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Eight Key Basics to Successfully Operating a Private Club

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

A Culture of Service

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Employee Empowerment

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

John Tschohl, Founder and 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.” That statement from one of the country’s leading thinkers on quality is strong and unequivocal. But just how does a company or organization “drive” employee empowerment.

The answer is simple and just as unequivocal – Service-Based Leadership.

Without effective Service-Based Leadership, not just at the top of the organization, but at all the intervening ranks down to, and most importantly, front line supervisors, the necessary relationships will never be formed with line employees. Here are some quotes that make the point.

People who are unable to build solid, lasting relationships will soon discover that they are unable to sustain long, effective leadership.”
John C. Maxwell
Developing the Leader Within You

“With Service-Based Leadership, the attitude and primary motivation of the leader is service to others – to members, to employees, to shareholders. This approach to leadership naturally creates relationships – the deep and abiding bonds that sustain the efforts of the company.”

Leadership on the Line

“This leadership style differs from others in its focus on serving the needs of employees to provide them with the proper tools, training, resources, motivation, and empowerment to serve the club’s members.”
The Quest for Remarkable Service

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

“As a group of people committed to common goals, you can only achieve your team’s greatest potential by taking advantage of the talent, initiative, and ingenuity of each and every one of your employees. To the extent that any individual is not valued, trained, and motivated, your enterprise suffers.”
Leadership on the Line

For employees to feel empowered, you have to create a culture that nourishes and sustains it. By conscientiously and sincerely working to become the best Service-Based Leader you can be . . . you will create an environment where employees will recognize their empowerment and enthusiastically act on it in all they do.”
Employee Empowerment

“[None of the ways to kill empowerment] are caused by employees. If your employees do not feel empowered, look no further than your leadership and the way you interact with your people.”
Employee Empowerment

Summary: Since employee empowerment ultimately depends only on “the recognition by employees that they are empowered,” empowerment is a direct result of an organization’s systematic development and institutionalization of Service-Based Leadership.

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.

Guest Blog: Getting the Training Wheels Turning

Monday, August 18th, 2014
Don Vance, CCM, CPC Chief Operating Officer General Manager Hound Ears Club

Don Vance, CCM, CPC Chief Operating Officer General Manager Hound Ears Club

A recent Gallup survey reported that less than one-third of U.S. employees are “actively and genuinely engaged” in their jobs, while 17% are “actively disengaged.”  That means that the remainder—over 50%—are just going through the motions of their jobs and flying under the radar, basically trying not to get noticed.

As front-line managers, it’s up to us to create and maintain the relationships that stimulate employee engagement, while reducing physical and psychological turnover.  The worst employee is the one who quits mentally, but stays in your employ and has no inclination to leave.

One of the primary goals of all training programs, then, should be as much to generate enthusiasm and staff involvement— and ignite commitment—as to impart the needed knowledge and skills required for the specific duties of particular job responsibilities.  Making sure that our training programs include components for these critical motivational purposes will prove to be just as important factors in how successfully we can improve employee retention and service consistency, create customer loyalty, and drive business results.

Ready for the Call

This all becomes especially critical in industries like hospitality, where there has always been a traditional emphasis on promoting from within.  If you’re going to first look to fill positions by advancing people who are already on your staff, you certainly want to have confidence that those who are sitting “on the bench” and waiting for their chance are eager and motivated, not disgruntled and disengaged.  If we only have people on board who are not only not ready, but also not willing (or even just one of the two), we are only setting them up to fail.  As one of my favorite sayings holds, “You can’t send a Duck to Eagle School.”  And if our training programs fail to recognize this, we will be forever trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

A friend and colleague of mine and I recently had a conversation about this very subject.  He recently accepted the position of General Manager at a very fine city club in Florida.  Prior to his appointment to this position, the member-owned club’s Board of Directors had to terminate the previous General Manager, who had been promoted from within, simply because he was not capable of fulfilling the responsibilities of this role.  To get the opportunity, this manager must have done a good job in his former position.  But it sounds like this may have been another case of someone failing largely because they hadn’t been trained effectively for the next step in their career.

Yes, it could certainly have also been a case of the old “Peter Principle,” which held that many people will eventually be promoted beyond their capabilities.  But I think that’s a principle that has largely gone by the wayside, especially in the hospitality business.  In this day and age, we’ve become much better about identifying the people who “have what it takes” to move up in the managerial ranks, versus those who are also valuable contributors, but clearly have limits.  But that doesn’t mean we have also become much better about making sure those people who “have it” will be properly prepared when we do move them up.

Firing Up the Floaters

Effective training programs can only occur when we have gained the trust, loyalty and commitment of our employees—and a big part of gaining this trust and commitment is making sure they don’t see, or know about, examples like the one at the Florida city club.

Our employees aren’t stupid.  If they sense situations where they, or others, are being set up to fail, or feel that training programs are largely self-serving and designed only for the organization to feel good about itself or show that it has met an “obligation,” they will understandably do all they can to settle in as part of that 50-plus percent segment of the workforce identified by the Gallup study: People who just try to keep their heads low, get through the day, and float through their careers.

If we are to energize and excite our employees and maximize the talents and strengths of our entire workforce, we must do more to align all employees with their own individual needs along with our organization’s strategic plans.  The first key step to accomplishing this is to recognize that we shouldn’t “force feed” everyone into the same standard training programs.  Rather, we should do more to shape and customize our training efforts around three key initiatives;

  1. identify special training needs for individuals or groups through “skills assessments” of our employees;
  2. focus on continuous employee development, rather than ramming everyone through upfront training and then assuming that will be enough to carry them through forever, no matter how long they stay with us or what roles they advance to;
  3. create an overall “learning culture” within our organizations that requires more of a partnership with our employees.

Coaching ‘Em Up

In my experience (both as an employer/trainer and employee/ trainee), a key to pursuing these initiatives is to shift from the Boss to the Coach mentality.  As managers, we need to find ways to interact and identify with each individual employee in a way that give us better insights into their desires and aspirations.  Through a conversational process, we need to probe into not only their strengths but their weaknesses, so we can help to coach them beyond where many of them may ever see themselves going.

This is a real transformational process that requires time and patience—but the results can speak for themselves.  We have to base our approaches as managers in the belief that if an employee has a learning attitude, desire, passion, and the willingness to commit to something greater than themselves, we can teach them to achieve levels of success that they have never imagined on their own.

This notion of unearthing and nurturing hidden abilities, as a coach or talent scout would do, is especially apt in the hospitality business.  In fact, I have always believed that we are entertainers in this business, and that our workplace is the stage.  There is nothing more beautiful to me then to see a server on the dining room floor executing what they know how to do flawlessly (and instinctively) in the heat of the action on a busy night.  It is like watching and listening to a ballet of the highest caliber.

But if our training programs don’t touch the inside of our employees individually, they will not change on the outside, and then instead only go through the motions.  And when that happens, they will be depriving us (as managers), themselves (as employees) and most importantly and sadly, our members and guests (as customers) of their best performances.

Employees must also know, and believe, that they can benefit from whatever training we require of them.  We must have strong recognition and benefit systems in place that reward growth and performance.  In addition, we must continually reexamine the effectiveness of our current training programs, to monitor their success.

Group Dynamics

We must also not forget the importance of group training.  At The Club at Longview, we recently developed a program we call our Employee Member Experience Team.  Using an individual employee from every department of our club, this group learning experience is designed to identify and develop “Moment of Truth” opportunities that can define and enhance our members’ experiences, every time they come to the club.

We make sure that this group training program is interactive and engaging for the employees who participate in it, and it has led to significant contributions to our programs for members.  We have also found that this type of training encourages a spirit of team-building that is critical to our organization’s success.  Too many properties have disconnects among their employee groups, because they just don’t have enough chances to get to know or work with each other.  When you work out on the golf course, it is difficult to get to know the cook in the kitchen.  But with this type of group training program, we are also building effective interrelationships among our various employee groups.  It’s true: Working together works!

You should also encourage your employees to take full advantage of the amazing array of valuable free or low-cost training resources that are now available to them on the Internet or through local or national organizations.  And, if your club or resort hasn’t yet considered “Webinars” (Web-based training programs), you’re missing out on an approach that can be very cost-effective for supervisors, as well as more time-effective for entry-level management employees.

Rather than discourage or restrict computer use among your staff during “work hours,” in fact, you will find that one of the most productive aspects of your training regimen these days can be to encourage everyone to take a specified amount of time each day or week to research specific topics that you’ve assigned to them, and then report back to your group on what they’ve found.

Article written by: Don E. Vance, CCM, CPC, Chief Operating Officer/General Manager, Hound Ears Club

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Coaching Your Way to Excellence

Monday, January 13th, 2014

One of the most important responsibilities of any hospitality general manager is coaching your team to success.  The business concept of coaching is one borrowed from the sports world as can be seen from the following Merriam-Webster definition:

“Coach – one who instructs or trains; especially one who instructs players in the fundamentals of sports and directs team strategy.”  (Note the words “fundamentals” and “strategy.”)

Given the sports origins of coaching, let’s look at the role of coaches by using the National Football League as an example.  In this highly-competitive arena, the measure of success is winning.  As legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Every team in the NFL is loaded with talented players who by their athletic prowess, physical conditioning, and demonstrated abilities over years of competition, have risen to the pinnacle of their profession.  Yet despite their talent and experience, these players are guided by a team of experts – the coach and assistants – who instruct players in the fundamentals of their positions, mold individual talent into a team for optimum performance, and plan the strategy for each game of the season.

This analogy could not be more appropriate for hospitality general managers who have a team of assistants – the individual department heads – and the players – the line employees who interact daily with customers/guests/members and whose performance is critical to overall success.  The general manager and department heads are responsible for instructing their line employees in the fundamentals of their positions and establishing plans for success – the enterprise annual plan and each departmental plan.

Recognizing the key role of coaching in the excellence of any enterprise, why is it so often neglected in hospitality operations?  I suspect the main reasons are the busy pace of daily operations, the time-consuming involvement of managers in the basics of the business – basics that should be made routine by organization and structure, and the lack of ready materials to organize and convey instruction to managers and employees alike.

Hospitality Resources International has created a number of proven coaching tools covering the fundamentals, structure, organization, and disciplines for success.  These that can be used in short, easy-to-absorb sessions to focus any hospitality team on the fundamentals of the profession.  When used in conjunction with well-thought out strategy and plans, they become powerful conveyances on the road to operational excellence.  Here’s a list and brief explanation of each:

Leadership on the Go – 53 coaching topics for the most fundamental and critical foundation of success; the perfect tool for coaching a consistent, service-based style of leadership.

Values on the Go – A means to constantly and consistently remind your management team of the operation’s underlying values.  Includes topics on Mission, Vision, Guiding Principles, and Operating Standards.

Service on the Go – The 54 topics in this book cover such topics as The Foundation of Service, Principles of Service, Attitude, Teamwork, Etiquette, Common Courtesies, Body Language and Tone of Voice, The Pre-Shift Meeting, Suggestive Selling, Engaging Members, Dining Service Tips, Service Recovery, Wow Factors, and more.  Taken together they form an incredibly effective tool for coaching new employees and reminding long term employees on the basics of service and service delivery.

Management Disciplines on the Go – 130 topics to coach your management team on the essential disciplines of hospitality success.

Employee Development and Discipline on the Go – This 65 topic, wire-bound book is directed at the necessary disciplines to find, hire, develop, and retain the best talent for your operation.  Includes detailed principles and procedures for counseling, disciplining, and discharging problem employees.

Food Service Management on the Go – 136 best practice topics to remind and reinforce the necessary disciplines for running a high-quality and high-performing food service operation.

Accounting on the Go – A great teaching and coaching tool for managers and supervisors with bottom line responsibility.  Use these 46 short topics in a wire-bound book to remind your managers of their important fiscal responsibilities, as well as to help standardize the accounting functions of your operation.

Human Resources in the Go – 84 Human Resources coaching topics covering employment laws, hiring, onboarding, employee development, training, performance reviews, and necessary club HR policies.  These topics are designed to assist your club’s management team in meeting all regulatory requirements and HR best practices.

Each of these coaching tools can be purchased individually on the HRI Marketplace store.  As an alternative, all eight can be purchased at a 25% discount here.

Hospitality enterprises that engage in a formal program of coaching experience significant benefits, ranging from improved morale and engagement from people who recognize their employer’s commitment to their development, to enhanced performance resulting from a focus on the fundamentals of the business, and to pride in belonging to a high-performing operation.

Lastly, there is no greater satisfaction than that of the coaches who share their knowledge and experience in a meaningful way with those following in their footsteps.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!