Posts Tagged ‘service-based leadership’

So You Want Your Club to Be a Service Leader

Monday, January 31st, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Details and Quality

Monday, January 10th, 2011

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Value Your People

Monday, November 15th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Becoming a Service-Based Leader

Monday, October 4th, 2010

lol2Developing leadership skills is not memorizing a list of things to do or not to do, though such lists are useful in helping students learn.  Leadership is not the accumulation of managerial abilities, such as budgeting, computer skills, or the specific work skills of a particular industry, though such aptitudes will certainly enhance your overall skill set and add to your competence.  Leadership is not a position or a title.

Successful leadership depends on the quality of relationships between a leader and followers.  As such it entails relationship skills–the personal characteristics and abilities to connect with and inspire the enthusiastic efforts of a diverse group of people toward a common goal.

True leadership requires an understanding of what makes people tick–individually and in group settings.  It requires sensitivity to the needs and desires of others, even when they may not be able to adequately define or communicate these themselves.  It requires openness and accessibility so followers are comfortable bringing their concerns and issues to the leader.  It requires a person who is self-analytical, who examines every less-than-optimum outcome for improvement, often discovering a better way to interact with followers.  It requires a person who puts the needs of the enterprise ahead of personal ambition, who recognizes that tending to the group welfare in a disciplined way will ultimately bring about better performance.

Finally, learning leadership skills is not a one-time event.  Just as different endeavors and levels of organizations require different skill sets for managerial success, leadership skills must expand and develop as the individual moves up to higher levels of responsibility.  Satisfactory leadership skills in a front line supervisory position are clearly inadequate for the challenges of a general manager, division manager, or president of a company.  But the skills learned in the early years of one’s career will be the foundation for the broader skills necessary when one takes on greater responsibilities, particularly if you understand that true leadership is a lifelong journey, not a destination.

The Single Most Important Requirement to Becoming a Service-Based Leader

Becoming a Service-Based Leader is a transformative process; it’s about personal growth.  The student must be prepared to challenge ingrained attitudes and beliefs about self and others.  It requires a willingness to closely examine motivations and habits.  The emerging leader must also be willing to accept personal responsibility for his or her life and decisions.  But most of all it requires a great deal of personal honesty.  Self-delusion and denial are the committed enemies of personal growth.

lol-workbook2As you progress through The Workbook, make a promise to yourself.  Promise that you will search the depths of your being to get to and understand your deepest motivations, not those that you glibly repeat because you have so often heard others say them and think they’re the norm.  True leadership is not the norm, and becoming an effective leader will require you to step outside your comfort zone and confront the beliefs and attitudes you hold, not from conviction but from unexamined habit.

The Rewards of Service-Based Leadership

Developing the skills of a Service-Based Leader will reward you in a variety of ways.  First and foremost, I believe the foundation of Service-Based Leadership and a recognition of the value of people in all you do, can, over the course of a career, lead you to the Level 5 Leadership that Jim Collins found at the top of all Good to Great companies.

Second, because Service-Based Leadership is all about developing successful relationships, it can bring success to other parts of your life–your family relationships, your friendships, and the way you interact with people wherever you meet them.

Lastly, Service-Based Leadership will help you develop the self-analytical skills to examine life’s challenges and better understand how you react to them.  Ultimately, it will help you to grow as a person and learn to face difficulties with greater equanimity and purpose.

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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The Soft Stuff

Monday, September 20th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Super Service Employees

Monday, July 12th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Our Need to Serve

Monday, June 28th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

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

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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How Consistent is Your Club Leadership?

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Strong, stable, and consistent leadership is the single most important requirement for successful club operations.  While there are many styles of leadership suited to any industry or endeavor, experience over many years in the club business makes it clear to this writer that a service-based approach to leadership works best in the service industry with its often young, mixed gender, and multi-ethnic workforce.  This style of leadership has as its primary motivation service to others — to members, to the owners of the club, and to the employees.

ed-jpeg-4This 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.  In simplest terms, when a club’s employees are served by their leaders, they will serve the members, who by their continuing patronage serve the club’s bottom line.  An understanding of the importance of this style of leadership can be inferred from the simple question,

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

While it is recognized that the General Manager must be a strong leader, it is also critical that the club’s subordinate managers and supervisors are also trained to be strong service-based leaders.  While some degree of a leader’s skill-set seems to be inborn, such as personality and an analytic mind, and others, such as confidence, judgment, and basic communication abilities, are developed early in life, the great majority of a leader’s skills are attitudinal and can be learned.

But to expect that your managers with varying backgrounds, education, and experiences will have a common understanding of what constitutes effective leadership is naïve in the extreme.  Unless junior managers are systematically trained to develop the skills which have to do with building and sustaining meaningful work relationships with their constituencies, particularly employees, their leadership development will be hindered and haphazard.  This results in the General Manager’s vision and message of service not being communicated consistently or faithfully to line employees.  Instead of having a cohesive team dedicated to a common purpose and acting in a concerted way to further the aims of the enterprise, the club is a collection of tribes who don’t necessarily approach the mission or their jobs in the same way or with the same attitude.

Without leadership consistency, employees get a mixed service message, and their morale, engagement, and commitment will vary from manager to manager and department to department.  It’s really quite simple — if your management team does not provide consistent:

  • Vision, values, and example,
  • Communication and engagement,
  • Training, resources, and support,
  • Regard for and treatment of employees,

You’ll never gain consistency of employee commitment, contribution, and performance.

But the good news is that successful leadership skills can be taught and learned.  Warren G. Bennis, widely regarded as a pioneer in the field of contemporary leadership studies, has said,

“The most dangerous myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership.  This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not.  That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true.  Leaders are made rather than born.”

So the solution to fragmented leadership is to promote a consistent style and application of leadership club-wide.  This can only be done by providing consistent leadership training to the entire management team.  But how does the General Manager teach leadership when you have so much else to do and possibly haven’t given a lot of thought to the issue?

theworkbook_cover-4Over the years while serving as general manager in hotels, resorts, and clubs, I searched a number of times and read a number of books — most extolling the successful leadership techniques of Fortune 500 or celebrity CEOs, or written by Academics with a lot of theory but little practical advice for those toiling in hospitality management.  My frustration in trying to find something useful finally led me to write my own leadership guidance for my team, and this ultimately became Leadership on the Line:  A Guide for Front Line Supervisors, Business Owners, and Emerging Leaders, first published in 2002 and now in its 2nd edition.

This past year, in response to frequent requests to prepare a more “hands on” learning tool, I wrote and published Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, a companion piece to the original book that builds on the themes of Service-Based Leadership from the book by offering self-study sections on Leadership Basics, Values, Lessons, Applications, and Assessments.  Taken together the book and the workbook provide an effective way to teach and to learn a consistent, service-based approach to leadership.

Given the primary importance of leadership in any successful venture, it should never be left to chance.  Even if confident of your own leadership abilities, do yourself and your managers a favor by promoting a consistent, club-wide conception and application of leadership.  When consistently reinforced by your leadership and example, it will have a dramatic impact on their performance, as well as the club’s.

The book ($19.95) and workbook ($19.95) may be purchased at Amazon.com or on the Club Resources International website (never a shipping charge).

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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The Hierarchy of Service

Monday, January 4th, 2010

While Service-Based Leadership stresses that the leader must serve the needs of his or her constituencies, not all constituent needs have equal weight or importance.

Owners or shareholders are usually the smallest constituent group in numbers, but their needs are paramount.  Why?  Because it is their capital that has been invested in the enterprise and their need for return on investment that permits the continuation of the business.  If it is not making a profit, if it cannot gain credit based on a potential for future profit, if it cannot meet its cash needs for payroll or to pay vendors, it will quickly go out of business and the needs of all other constituencies will become irrelevant.

Obviously, a return on investment is important.  Consider why an owner would want to earn 2% in a business when he could invest his money in a less risky investment and earn a better return.  While there may be other reasons for continuing to own a business—such as prestige; a sense of obligation to family, community, or employees; or the expectation of improved future performance—over the long haul owners will not be willing to risk their capital on a poor-performing venture.

Next in order of importance are the needs of customers.  Without sufficient customers  patronizing the business, it will not be profitable or viable.  If not viable, it will not last long-and all constituencies lose.

Ultimately, customers are attracted by price and the quality of products and services.  Taken together, quality and price create a sense of value—the value perceived by customers.  If enough customers perceive value, they will frequent the enterprise to spend their money and will make it successful.  If not, the business will ultimately fail.

This statement brings us to our third constituency—the employees.  They are the ones who execute the owners’ vision for quality of product and service.  They are the ones whose daily interaction with customers creates the value customers seek.  Properly led, valued, and supported, employees will enthusiastically commit to serving the business’ customers thereby fostering levels of business that enable it to thrive.

Organizational Models

org-chrt-traditional-41The basis for the traditional hierarchical organizational model is the military concept of “chain of command.”  In this model, management is represented as the sequence of authority in executing the will of the owners—and certainly management plays that essential role.  But in addition to not representing the importance of customers, it also places the employees at the bottom of the chain—thereby visually relegating them to the position of least consequence.

pyramid3-2The Service-Based Organizational model depicts the importance of satisfying customers, as well as the important role of employees.  The organization’s leaders are placed at the bottom, clearly emphasizing their role in serving the needs of all constituencies.

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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