Posts Tagged ‘employee empowerment’

The Many Ways to “Kill” Employee Empowerment

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

We have spoken before about the importance of creating a culture that promotes Employee Empowerment at your club.  We quoted from John Tschohl, President of the Service Quality Institute, who said, “Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader.”  Mr. Tschohl went on to say that, “Empowerment is the most critical skill an employee can master and a company can drive in order to lure and keep customers.”

quote1-2Given the importance of empowering your employees, it’s helpful to understand the many ways to destroy such empowerment and that none of them 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.  In searching for reasons empowerment isn’t working, focus on the following:

You are only paying lip service to empowerment.  Without your sincere commitment to your employees and their success, they will recognize your “empowerment” as a sham and will become more cynical and disaffected the more you try to encourage their “empowerment.”

You don’t really understand what empowerment is.  If you fail to realize that empowerment begins and ends with your leadership, if you think that empowerment is something your employees have to create, expecting your employees to act in empowered ways is a waste of time and energy.

You haven’t provided the “big picture” context of what your organization is trying to achieve.  Your employees need to understand how their contribution furthers the basic aims of the organization.  Defining and sharing your values and goals is a first step.

You’ve failed to give your employees the information and training they need to understand the context and scope of their empowerment.  When you ask them to take on additional responsibilities as empowered employees, they need to understand why and what the benefits are to them as well as to you and the club.  They will also need examples of what empowered behavior is.  Lastly, they will need to know that they will not be blamed or punished for making mistakes.

You’ve given them guidelines, but then micromanage them.  Maybe you’ve done a good job of defining limits, but then micromanage them.  When you do this they will quickly understand that they are not “empowered” and that you will continue to make all the decisions, no matter how trivial.

You second guess the decisions you’ve authorized your employees to make.  After giving your employees the guidelines to make empowered decisions, you second guess and criticize every decision they make.  Put yourself in their shoes; how long would you put up with this before throwing in the towel on “employee empowerment”?

You have failed to give feedback on how your empowered employees are doing.  Feedback, particularly early on, is critical so that employees understand by constant discussion and explanation what they are doing right and what can be improved on.  Once they achieve a critical mass of understanding, they will feel more and more confident of their actions, will need less guidance, and will be looking for more and more ways to contribute.

You have failed to value your employees.  Without the most basic sense that they are valued and recognized as partners in your efforts to provide quality and service to members, they will recognize that your program of “empowerment” is just a way to manipulate them.  People who think they are being manipulated are resentful and will be unresponsive to your continued exhortations to be “empowered.

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.

Empowerment – Providing Frequent Feedback

Monday, April 11th, 2016

“Provide frequent feedback so that people know how they are doing. Sometimes, the purpose of feedback is reward and recognition. People deserve your constructive feedback, too, so they can continue to develop their knowledge and skills.”

                                                                                                                                                Susan M. Heathfield

Guidance to Leaders

Hospitality enterprises need to ensure that leaders provide frequent feedback by making such feedback part of their Organizational Values and Culture.

“(Employees) have a need and the right to know how their performance is contributing to the achievement of  . . . goals.  Continuous feedback is essential.”

“Recognition is important to all of us.  If we have the authority to correct, we also have the responsibility to praise.  We cannot have one without the other.”

                                                                                                                                                Principles of Employee Relations

“Unless you make a concerted effort to provide employees proper direction, feedback, and ongoing growth opportunities, delegating may alienate them.  In other words, don’t use them.  You need to put effort into their growth and make it worthwhile for them as well as for you.”

                                                                                                                                                Leadership on the Line, p. 53

“There are seldom opportunities for dramatic heroism in most businesses.  However, there are the daily, dedicated efforts of employees faced with monotonous routine, difficult situations inherent in customer service, and detail, detail, detail.  Employees should be recognized for the quiet, unprepossessing heroism that this involves.  Simply put, do not forget to thank your employees for the good things they do every day – it probably outweighs the bad 50 to 1.”

                                                                                                                                                Leadership on the Line, p. 59

“Once goals have been established, constantly reiterate them and provide feedback to employees regarding their efforts to achieve them.  Most people want to participate in a larger effort and know how their daily efforts are contributing.”

                                                                                                                                                Leadership on the Line, p. 64

Providing Feedback

When you turn your empowered employees loose to make their contribution to the team’s goals, you must continually monitor what they are doing and provide meaningful feedback so they know how they’re doing.

Like a sailor continually monitoring the sea and wind while trimming his sails and adjusting the rudder to most efficiently sail a course, the leader must monitor the team’s efforts and tell them what they are doing right and how they might improve performance.  This frequent feedback accomplishes two important things:

  1. t validates and reinforces what the team is doing right, and
  2. It modifies and enhances those things that could be improved.

The bottom line is that feedback will give them confidence in what they are doing and this confidence will promote even more empowered behaviors.

Excepted from The Power of Employee Empowerment, Hospitality Resources International

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!

 

Freedom and Responsibility within a Framework

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Throughout my career I have struggled to balance the competing needs for entrepreneurial thinking, innovation, and initiative and the necessities of organization, structure, consistency, and control.  How does one create and sustain a nimble organization that can quickly respond to new technologies, changing member wants and desires, and the competition of the marketplace while maintaining an efficient operation and conscientiously meeting regulatory requirements?

No thinking business person wants to saddle their operation with a bureaucratic mindset, yet efficient operations need systems to function properly and avoid risk, liability, and regulatory problems.  The very word “bureaucracy” carries the negative connotation of inefficiency and stultifying processes where crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s become an organization’s reason for being.

In examining this never ending challenge for businesses, Jim Collins and his research team at Stanford University found that the good to great companies they examined gave people the freedom to do whatever was necessary to succeed within a highly developed system or framework.  Then their people were held strictly accountable for their results.

The analogy that he gave was a commercial airline pilot who works within rigid air traffic control and safety systems on the ground and in the air, but who has the ultimate responsibility for success – that is, the safe delivery of plane and passengers from location to location.  That singular responsibility allows a pilot, at his or her discretion, to remove unruly passengers, abort landings, fly to alternate airports, and take any other action deemed necessary for the safety of the flight.

But essential to bestowing such freedom and responsibility is the necessity of defining the system and clearly identifying constraints.  In the airline industry the Federal Aviation Administration establishes all standards, policies, and procedures for both commercial and private pilots and ensures their ongoing understanding of the system through licensure, certifications, simulator and cockpit training, as well as continual flight and safety bulletins.  To quote from the book:

“The good to great companies build a consistent system with clear constraints, but they also gave people the freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system.  They hired self-disciplined people who didn’t need to be managed, and then managed the system, not the people.”

As a club manager at any level of the organization, you cannot do it all yourself.  Holding the reins tightly creates a bottleneck where all decisions have to come through you, thereby stifling the initiative and creativity of your subordinates.  It also puts a tremendous burden on you to perform, requires you to be on property at all hours, and leads to burnout.

The only way to be truly successful in any complex enterprise is to empower those under you and give them the freedom and responsibility to succeed in their portion of the operation.  But to do this successfully you need to fully develop the framework for their empowerment and a means to hold them accountable.  This means you have to have well-defined organizational values and written standards, policies, and procedures.  Lastly, you need measurable accountabilities for performance.

With these in place you have started on the path to greatness in your enterprise, but it’s only the start – Collins offers much more proven guidance for those willing to invest the time in this well-researched and written, as well as entertaining, book.

The book is Good to Great – Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, Harper Business, New York, NY, 2001.

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!

 

Providing Guidelines for Empowered Behavior

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Hospitality operations need to ensure that leaders provide guidelines and information for empowered behaviorHaving developed the necessary environment for empowerment by valuing and trusting employees, while communicating values and goals to them, the leader’s next step is to establish the framework for empowered action.

With the understanding that most hospitality employees have never experienced working in an empowered organization, the leader must plant the seeds of empowerment by suggesting ways in which employees can act in empowered ways.

1.   Develop a list of most frequent customer complaints or issues.  By enlisting your employees’ help in identifying problem areas or issues, you send a strong message to them that you value their opinions and input.  This is the first step in helping them realize that they can be empowered to solve the problems.

2.   Brainstorm empowerment opportunities.  Once your team has identified problem areas, brainstorm with them how these problems might be properly resolved.  In the give and take discussion while brainstorming, your team will gain deeper insights of how and why problems should be resolved in particular ways and what might be the best resolution of a particular issue.

3.   Establish standards or limits of empowerment.  As the leader, you should guide the discussion to the appropriate solutions.  Ultimately, while employees may make decisions and take empowered action, it is up to you to ensure that they take the appropriate action and understand the guidelines of their authority.  In other words, you’re responsible for establishing the standards and limits of their empowerment.

4.   Challenge your team to work on one or two of the identified problem areas.  Select the most pressing of the identified problem areas or those that represent easy-to-fix issues; then challenge your team to make decisions on their own and take action to resolve them.  Make sure they understand that they will not be punished for doing the wrong thing and that any errors will only be used as learning opportunities for everyone involved.

5.   Set up a schedule of ongoing meetings.  Meetings every week or so are opportunities to review how the team is doing, what problems they’ve encountered, how they might resolve such problems, and to encourage the team toward further empowerment.

Excepted from The Power of Employee Empowerment

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

It Ain’t the Employees

Monday, March 17th, 2014

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

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

He further emphasizes the point by saying,

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

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

So what’s to be done about improving quality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So the requirements must be to:

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

Employee Empowerment.  John Tschohl, founder of the Service Quality Institute, says,

“Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader. Empowerment is the most critical skill an employee can master and a company can drive in order to lure and keep customers.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

The Distinction between Empowerment and Discretion

Monday, June 10th, 2013

In discussing the need for written standards, policies, and procedures, we quoted Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt who said that “Discretion is the enemy of order, standardization, and quality.”  We have also talked about empowered employees being encouraged to think, act, and make decisions on their own based on guidance provided by the company.  We offer the following to clarify what might seem a contradiction.

An important distinction to make for employees is that there is a hierarchy of rules to guide their empowered actions.

1.      Legal and liability issues take precedence in that no employee may violate the law.  This applies to many employment and labor laws such as Equal Employment Opportunity, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and others.

2.      For private clubs and some non-profit organizations there are the policies based upon the by-laws and rules of the club or on tax laws.  Once again, no employee is authorized to modify or violate these rules which constitute the organizational or tax foundation of the enterprise.

3.      Beyond these are the organizational values that define the company’s culture of service and standards of behavior.  These may not be altered at the employee’s “discretion.”

4.      Next are the company’s operational policies relating to its operating systems, such as human resources, accounting and financial management, and departmental operations.

5.      Last are the operational procedures that describe how the routine things are done.

Since it’s impossible to foresee every operational contingency, employees are authorized to alter procedures, even operational policies, when common sense and necessity dictate so long as their actions are in alignment with the law, club or non-profit rules, and the organization’s values.  When they do this, they should alert their leaders of their decisions and actions.  It may well be that the employee’s on-the-spot decision will point the way to improved performance.  This is what makes employee empowerment so powerful.  The people who do the work and interface directly with the customers are in a position to influence and improve the company’s policies and procedures.

If leaders feel that an employee’s action was inappropriate, this should be communicated in a supportive and non-critical way to the work team, as well as to the individual employee, so that all can learn from the experience.

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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Providing Guidelines for Empowered Behavior

Monday, May 27th, 2013

“Make certain that you have given people, or made sure that they have access to, all of the information they need to make thoughtful decisions.”

Susan M. Heathfield

Guidance to Leaders

Hospitality operations need to ensure that leaders provide guidelines and information for empowered behavior as discussed in Leadership on the Line.

“. . . in addition to showing them what to do, you need to explain in depth the reasons behind various duties.  If they are to grow into broader responsibilities, they will need to have knowledge, not just technical experience.”

“When leaders become absorbed in their own sense of urgency about plans, projects, and priorities, it is easy to forget that employees lack this valuable information.  To foster this same sense of urgency in employees, communicate the details of such planning when appropriate.”

Providing Information

Having developed the necessary environment for empowerment by valuing and trusting employees, while communicating values and goals to them, the leader’s next step is to establish the framework for empowered action.

With the understanding that most hospitality employees have never experienced working in an empowered organization, the leader must plant the seeds of empowerment by suggesting ways in which employees can act in empowered ways.

1.   Develop a list of most frequent customer complaints or issues.  By enlisting your employees’ help in identifying problem areas or issues, you send a strong message to them that you value their opinions and input.  This is the first step in helping them realize that they can be empowered to solve the problems.

2.   Brainstorm empowerment opportunities.  Once your team has identified problem areas, brainstorm with them how these problems might be properly resolved.  In the give and take discussion while brainstorming, your team will gain deeper insights of how and why problems should be resolved in particular ways and what might be the best resolution of a particular issue.

3.   Establish standards or limits of empowerment.  As the leader, you should guide the discussion to the appropriate solutions.  Ultimately, while employees may make decisions and take empowered action, it is up to you to ensure that they take the appropriate action and understand the guidelines of their authority.  In other words, you’re responsible for establishing the standards and limits of their empowerment.

4.   Challenge your team to work on one or two of the identified problem areas.  Select the most pressing of the identified problem areas or those that represent easy-to-fix issues; then challenge your team to make decisions on their own and take action to resolve them.  Make sure they understand that they will not be punished for doing the wrong thing and that any errors will only be used as learning opportunities for everyone involved.

5.   Set up a schedule of ongoing meetings.  Meetings every week or so are opportunities to review how the team is doing, what problems they’ve encountered, how they might resolve such problems, and to encourage the team toward further empowerment.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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The Necessities for Employee Empowerment

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Having discussed again and again the benefits of empowering employees, what is necessary for a club to provide this empowerment.

First and foremost, strong leadership is an absolute necessity.  Leaders must:

  • Embrace the principles of service-based leadership.
  • Be open with their employees.
  • Be trusting and trusted.
  • Be secure in themselves, their position, and their knowledge; not threatened by knowledgeable employees or those who show initiative.
  • Be willing to share praise and shoulder blame.
  • Be good communicators.
  • Intrinsically understand and value the important role of line employees in the organization.
  • Place a positive emphasis on problem discovery and solution.
  • Allow their employees to demonstrate initiative and innovation, while giving them the “freedom to fail” without repercussions.

Secondly, the necessary disciplines and systems must be established to continually review work processes while involving employees.  It’s also important that procedures be in place to keep the General Manager and other Department Heads fully informed of any resulting changes.

Next, the club must be committed to and deliver extensive, ongoing training to its employees.  Untrained employees cause confusion and the resulting chaos will drive good employees away.

Employees must also be recognized for their accomplishments and contributions.  This recognition will further cement the partnership.

There must be opportunities for employees to grow personally and professionally.  When employees know that the club is also committed to their advancement, they will more willingly participate in making it successful.

Lastly, employees must respect their leaders and willingly follow them.  They will only do this when they see their leaders’ passion for excellence and personal commitment to success.  There can be no substitute for this example.

Summary

Empowering employees is a requirement in any effort to provide remarkable service.  Busy managers cannot do it all and need the help of their willing, committed, and empowered employees.  While it takes time and effort to establish a culture of empowerment at a club, the resulting improvement in operations, efficiency, and service levels make it well worth the effort.

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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Get Your Employees to Think Like the General Manager

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Imagine a club operation where all the employees think like the General Manager.  Imagine what the operation would be like when 100% of the staff is focused on the details of the operation.  Imagine the impact on the bottom line if the entire management and service team are dedicated to maximizing revenues and controlling costs.

Most club managers would scoff and say that such an operation can never exist – that it’s as unlikely as Mideast peace.  Yet the path to that dream is based on one simple premise – getting all employees to view their club through the eyes of the General Manager – that is to think and act like the General Manager in all they do.

Since the “dream” is to get employees to think and act like the General Manager, they must be trained intensively to understand the full dimensions of their jobs, including the nuances of service as well as the techniques of their position.  They must understand how their daily functioning impacts and impresses members; that they must think outside the limits of their job descriptions to recognize that service entails an all-encompassing responsibility regardless of position or function.  They must know that they can take the initiative to solve problems knowing that they’ll have the support of their leaders.

The military has long recognized the importance of soldiers taking the initiative to exploit battlefield opportunities.  In the flux of combat, commanders know that their initial orders cannot cover all possibilities.  To overcome this deficiency and to imbue their fighters with the confidence to act as the situation dictates, the military includes a statement of “the commander’s intent” in its field orders.

Professor Milan Vego of the U.S. Naval War College says, “The main purpose of the intent is to provide a framework for freedom to act.”  He goes on to say, “The intent should allow the subordinate . . . to exercise the highest degree of initiative in case the original order no longer applies or unexpected opportunities arise.”

In the highly fluid world of club operations, managers can take a lesson from the military and ensure that their employees fully understand their “intent” – the desired outcome in all service situations.  The way to do it is to empower your employees.  Willing, committed, and empowered employees will make a world of difference in delivering remarkable service levels to your members.  Recalling the words of John Tschohl, founder of the Service Quality Institute, “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.”

But just how do you go about empowering employees?  Management consultant Susan M. Heathfield in an article on the principles of employee empowerment listed the following:

  • Value your people
  • Share your vision
  • Share your goals
  • Trust you people
  • Provide guidelines and information for empowered behavior
  • Provide frequent feedback
  • Focus on problem solution; not placing blame
  • Recognize and reward empowered behavior

In a white paper entitled Employee Empowerment this author laid out the necessities for empowerment:

First and foremost, strong leadership is an absolute necessity.  Leaders must:

  • Be open with their employees.
  • Be trusting and trusted.
  • Be secure in themselves, their position, and their knowledge; not threatened by knowledgeable employees or those who show initiative.
  • Be willing to share praise and shoulder blame.
  • Be good communicators.
  • Place a positive emphasis on problem discovery and solution.
  • Allow their employees to demonstrate initiative and innovation, while giving them the “freedom to fail” without repercussions.

Secondly, the necessary disciplines and systems must be established to continually review work processes while involving employees.  It’s also important that procedures be in place to keep the General Manager and other department heads fully informed of any resulting changes.

Next, the club must be committed to and deliver extensive, ongoing training to its employees.  Untrained employees cause confusion and the resulting chaos will drive good employees away.  Employees must also be recognized for their accomplishments and contributions.  This recognition will further cement the partnership.

Lastly, employees must respect their leaders and willingly follow them.  They will only do this when they see their leaders’ passion for excellence and personal commitment to success.  There can be no substitute for this example.

The dream of employees thinking and acting like the General Manager is one that can be realized, but only through a commitment to employee empowerment and all that it entails.  When employees understand their “manager’s intent” in all situations and know that the exercise of initiative will be valued and supported, the dream can become a reality.

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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