Last week I posted a piece on “listening” and have received quite a few questions and comments, generally very positive but underscoring the challenges of these trying times. Some responses indicated members were communicating in greater numbers than ever before. One GM commented that his voice mail box had 53 messages over the weekend, perhaps suggesting no need to go beyond what is currently being provided, even though 53 members may be your most vociferous members. Some responders suggested the feedback is so deafening that there is little time to do anything else. This prompted me to consider another part of the challenge we face. Time!
William Penn once said, “Time is what we want the most, but we use the worst”. I suspect his premise was effective use of time is difficult for everybody. Perhaps hidden in the message was that by listening first, then developing a plan to facilitate the issues, time becomes more abundant when properly utilized.
Peter Drucker said, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things”. Think about that for a moment. In time management which comes first?
As a leader, you drive responsibility for both. Ultimately however, the conundrum is often prioritizing. What’s right there in front of you sometimes seems monumental, especially in times like these. Acquiescing to the moment is frequently the result as you try your best to appease. But, is such a process effective? Likely not.
Even before COVID many leaders felt overwhelmed with workloads overflowing inboxes, and full voice mailboxes, often leaving that empty feeling of failure. Stories of staff burnout over the frustrations members are feeling as a result of restricted usage, safety measures and even bad member behaviors are everywhere. So now, in the absence of time management you have a leader that is overwhelmed, staff that is burning out and members who are unhappy. Not the kind of environment you wanted to create. Reality? Yes! Predictable? Yes! Efficient or effective? Hardly!
Listening is an art form. Effective listening and developing an efficient process that identifies time managed and effective team-based solutions not only frees key leaders to address the larger issues, it also teaches and mentors your team to do the same.
Here is a 5-point process to lead your team to a more fluid, time efficient and effective time management regimen.
Before we look at the 5-point process, bear in mind that organization begins at the top. If you are demonstrating efficient and effective ways in which to listen, then create processes to react to the issues before they become critical. In doing so, you will have taken the first step in developing your own skills, but as importantly, demonstrated to your team that time management is not only important for managing the Club, but critical to their own health and well-being as well.
Point One: There are two basic reasons for mismanagement of time. First, there is no overall plan to deal with the normal pressures of the day to day; no release valve that starts to rely on effective departmental engagement with the members, efficiently dividing out the responsibilities. Result: It all falls on the GM’s shoulders.
Second, your crisis management plan, if one exists, fails to engage your team in the solution process and accountability. Result: Same as above.
Solution: Realistic, factual and consistent messaging, not just in time of crisis, but regularly. Point out the existence of a plan. In crisis, give ongoing, consistent information on what you are doing and why. Train all staff in the same consistent messaging. Repeat the message as frequently as necessary. Communication, both in listening and in transmitting your message creates confidence and trust. Look at systems that will automate two-way communications, personalize your member’s experience and that trust will multiply and further diminish the time management issues you face.
Point Two: When unexpected crisis occurs, engage the team in anticipating issues that will evolve. Anticipate how your team will react with an action plan. Prepare a communication plan/schedule and your messaging. Keep it fresh and ongoing. Help members understand the issue and why you are reacting as you are. Limit the amount of time that you spend on the phone explaining the same things over and over. Listen attentively, (keep it as brief as possible) then indicate you will look into the issue and get them an answer. By anticipating in advance and keeping a log of repeated complaints or issues you can create a pre-established written response to be sent personally and shortly after your conversation with the member. Make the same process available to Department Heads. Result: You and your staff can quickly, efficiently and effectively personalize a response creating confidence, trust and ambassadors.
Point Three: Stay above the crisis! The immediacy of crisis management and communications can be overwhelming to anyone. In turn, stress occurs, you get stopped in your tracks and the normal leadership role of attending the day to day and alert to changing conditions is neglected. More stress to you and to your staff. We’ve all heard the adage describing the never changing view of the follower. It never changes. Crisis can create the same view. When we allow the crisis to essentially take over, inevitably damage is occurring that may be even more important. A COVID example: Many clubs initially experienced increased cash flow, but as the usage restrictions increased, the flow of member calls, complaints and behavioral issues increased. That increase led to more “crisis” conversations with members, staff and volunteer leadership resulting in the reduced focus on normal operations. Meanwhile, cash flow is becoming an increasingly difficult issue, perhaps even creating another crisis. You get the picture. Result: Allowing yourself to be absorbed into any crisis prevents your normal ability to foresee other problems before critical mass.
Solution: As the ultimate responsibility rests with you, being the “do everything manager” is not an option. Neither is being the “do nothing manager”. As the saying goes, “it takes a village”, it does. That means pre-establishing processes long before a crisis, specifically identifying issues, solutions and communication strategies when an actual crisis presents itself and knowing what parts of the communication and crisis management will fall into whose hands. It involves the members too. If there was ever a time that a Crisis Committee could be valuable, now would be that time. Qualify the participants through corporate experience and roles in similar activities and processes. Semi-annually, hold a workshop with a crisis management consultant to review your plans and organizational structure.
Point Four: Your value as a leader is not how much of the load you can carry on your own. In addition to the first three points, remember that there are resources at your disposal that can and would have alleviated many of the pain points felt by you and your staff. Whether its systems that enhance two-way communications, gauge member’s needs or concerns or provide instant access to club leadership, admitting that you or your staff cannot do it all in an ever increasingly challenging club world is far from failure. It’s a measure of your confidence and ability to identify resources that will keep your Club, yourself and your staff alert to issues before they become critical, keeping your team’s stress levels to a manageable level and ultimately creating an increased sense of trust and confidence with your members.
Point Five: Finally, here’s a little tip that I learned many years ago from a time study engineer. He asked if I had a daily “to-do” list, which I did. He asked to see it and then asked if there was another list that had big ticket things other than the normal day to day items. I said, I had them in my head. He laughed and gave me this tip that has stayed with me for over forty years.
Every day that you wake up, create/review a list of prioritized things that you wish to accomplish that day. Make a promise to yourself! Start at the top issue and don’t start on anything else until that goal has been accomplished. Obviously, if meetings or other distractions occur, that’s okay. Just don’t go back to the list until you complete the one you started. Only then can you go to item 2 and so on. The list is generally designed for your day to day issues. However, create a second list; one that identifies more lofty objectives and make another promise to yourself. Give yourself time each day to work on these goals as well. Maybe not as much time, but devote time each day to both lists, in the same way. Don’t go to another goal until you finish the one you are working on.
Prior to this advice I considered myself excellent at extinguishing “brush fires”, those annoying things that cropped up day after day that I knew I could solve quickly. Problem was they most often preempted my other “lists”, resulting in frustration over any kind of willful progress in my “to-do” pile. Frustration and stress.
Everyone slips now and then, and I’m no exception. However, by sticking to this advice over the years I have seen my frustration level lowered, my ability to get things done efficiently and effectively enhanced and my customer relations opportunities increased. Simple, but efficient. Its up to you to determine how effective.
In closing, Blake Ashdown, the CEO of ClubInsights suggested to me that “Every GM and every Board Member must see themselves as “change agents” at their club. Their job is not to continue doing things as they have always been done in the past. To do so, is to FAIL!”
Optimally, lead by example; seek out solutions that will allow you and your team to be more effective with less stress; and, provide the kind of mentoring and leadership that instills confidence and trust. It’s only five steps.
ClubInsights has the solutions that will make yours and your employees’ life easier and your members more satisfied. Simple solutions that deliver… That’s Us!
I’d love to tell you how! Call me at 214 679-8496