Posts Tagged ‘employee empowerment’

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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So You Want Your Club to Be a Service Leader

Monday, January 31st, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Details and Quality

Monday, January 10th, 2011

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Value Your People

Monday, November 15th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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The Hospitality Challenge

Monday, September 6th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leadership is key at all levels of the organization:

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Implementing Employee Empowerment

Monday, May 31st, 2010

There are three principal areas where empowered employees can contribute significantly to improved club operations.

  1. Resolving member issues.
  2. Helping improve work processes as part of Continual Process Improvement.
  3. Taking on certain delegated management functions.

Resolving Member Issues

Employees who deal most directly with members on a day-to-day basis are in the best position to solve service issues and resolve member complaints in a timely fashion or before they escalate into larger issues.  Unfortunately, in some clubs front line employees are seen as the first line of defense in saying “no” to members.  Only when the member gets sufficiently angry and demands to see the manager, can the problem be solved.  Yet this approach sends two very wrong messages – one to the member that says we don’t trust you and we don’t mind wasting more of your time as you explain the problem again to a manager; and the other to employees that says that we won’t let you say “yes,” but we, the managers, often will, thereby contradicting you and making you look bad.

Since the bottom line in all our dealings with members is to say “yes,” there is no reason to put either the member or the employee in the situation described above.  A far better solution is to provide useful guidance to employees and give them both the responsibility and the resources to solve service issues.  A good start would be to allow employees to decide on their own how to resolve any issue by “spending” up to a certain amount to fix the problem – either by “comping” a meal, sending a token of apology, or doing something special for the member.

Without a doubt the cost is insignificant compared to the loss of member goodwill and patronage and is a small price to pay if a lesson can be learned or a work process improved.

And herein is the important point, every time employees use their authority and spend money to solve a problem, they must fill out a Service Issue Resolution, CRI Form 180, explaining in detail what went wrong and what could be done differently in the future.

When employees gain more confidence in their abilities to resolve issues and as management continually improves work processes based upon reports of problems, a culture of quality service will gain momentum.  Employees will feed off each other’s successes and take the initiative to solve a host of little service issues as they take more pride in their work and their contribution to the overall effort.

Helping Improve Work Processes

Part of your club’s culture should be to foster a process of Continual Improvement in all aspects of your operations.  This means that you should review systems, standards, policies, procedures, programming, training, and work processes to continually improve the way you do business and provide service.  While managers typically have broad industry experience and the big picture of what is necessary to succeed, it is the line employee who is most closely connected with the member and the details of service.  Who, then, would be in a better position to recommend improved work processes than the person who works most closely with service and service delivery?

As we have often said before, in our business the devil is in the detail.  When you make a commitment to involve your employees in designing and improving work processes, they become energized by the involvement and look for more and more ways to contribute.  The more involved they become in contributing to the success of the organization, the more responsibility they will assume for ensuring that success.

Taking on Delegated Functions

As empowered employees take on more responsibility, managers can select individuals, who show both the motivation and aptitude, to take on some of the management functions of the organization.  An excellent example is provided again by the Ritz-Carlton Company.  They select and train certain individuals to conduct initial screening interviews with prospective employees.  These empowered employees relish the task and see themselves as the gatekeepers in keeping the company’s hiring standards as high as possible.  They get paid slightly more for their additional duty and derive prestige in being given this important task.

Necessities for Empowerment

Having reviewed the benefits of empowering employees, we again state 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.

Excerpted from Employee Empowerment.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Attending to the Basics in an Organized and Disciplined Way

Monday, February 8th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week:  Creating Measurable Accountabilities

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Employee Empowerment

Monday, December 28th, 2009

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 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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