Tennis Industry magazine


Facility manager’s manual: Impact Through Influence

With proper training, you’ll make sure your staff has knowledge, power and influence.

By Rod Heckelman

There our countless manuals and books on how to properly train employees. In general, most are helpful, but in the club industry there are a few twists that are often not brought into the equation in these manuals.

First, and most important, unlike a shopper at a store or a person attending a restaurant or, for that matter, most of the service industry, a club member frequents the facility repeatedly over a long period of time. In fact, the goal of most clubs is to encourage this to help create high membership retention. But as a result of this, members frequently know either as much as or more about how their club operates than many of its employees. This creates a dynamic that needs to be taken into consideration when training your facility’s staff.

Imagine how a restaurant would operate if a diner was more knowledgeable about the menu than the waiter, or how a sales clerk would react if the customer knew more about the product, its cost, its supply and how it functioned.

So, let’s look at this dynamic and try to understand the impact. If knowledge is power, then in many cases the member, not the employee, may have the power and, in turn, the influence. Your training program needs to reverse this dynamic.

Training for Influence

You need a training system that creates a method for your employee to have the knowledge, then the power, and finally an equal or superior amount of influence. It is with this influence that your staff can guide the members through their use of the club. To best understand this, here are few common examples.

So why the importance of “influence,” and how is it different from “information”? Influence, not information, will coach a member into using the club. Influence guides the member to spend more money at the club. Finally, it will be influence, not the re-addressing of the rules, that will help employees create that quality club that will have a reputation of being well-run and inviting.

Developing Intuitive Skills

How do we create this new paradigm in our training programs? First, you will need to help develop employees’ intuitive skills. This is accomplished through four steps.

1. When training, provide the history behind the information and why a rule or policy is in place. Most rules came about for a reason; let that employee know what those reasons were. Also, explain why the rule is in place, the practicality of the rule and its fairness. This type of understanding creates a new learning pattern that will include the process of deduction and reasoning.

2. Coach staff in understanding the consequence of their actions. It is from this study and evaluation that they will also become more skilled at anticipating events. For example, if one of your staff is asked to address a conflict between two members, they should try to think through what the results of their attempted resolution might entail. Are the two members going to get along? Will both be satisfied with this resolution? These questions will help develop the thought that this could happen again, and actions taken sooner might help in avoiding this conflict. The hope is that employee will be more preventive and less reactive to issues.

3. All well-run facilities develop a system where the employee has a sense of responsibility and autonomy in their decisions. You want both the member and the staff to realize there is no “going over their heads” to a higher authority. This policy allows the manager to delegate authority and responsibility so they have more freedom.

But there is more to this than just setting up a chain of command. The employee needs to feel their actions have both direct and indirect influence. If they should have to provide a response to a member concerning a membership policy, they would hope such a response would first impact that person, but would, secondly, send a message to any other member or staff person that this action had been taken. This is best accomplished through efficient communication.

How often do you overhear one of your employees address a member with instructions about a rule or policy and notice that the member was uncomfortable with that answer? Not so much with how that information was delivered, but rather because that answer does not work well for their agenda. They want to play back-to-back, or want to play only with better players, or basically, they want their needs met and are not concerned about what works for everyone. Too often these interactions are not recorded or reviewed. By keeping an ongoing journal, or some method of communicating with the entire staff, the employee can document this event and be able to influence the entire staff. This constant back and forth interaction, which would include management, helps everyone get on the same page.

4. Lastly, good training means giving up control. Training is ongoing, but not if you are saying the same things over and over. Continue to broadcast and highlight the successful events of your staff, but take it one step further; explain why they were successful. It is important to review the whys and what happened when something goes wrong, but it is equally, if not more important, to review the success of your staff. For example, one of your employees picks up on a non-member who is consistently coming into the club as a guest and violating your guest policy. It’s great that they caught this person, but why did they catch him and what are the consequences? Have staff learned to be more observant about usage? Are they better at interacting with those coming into the club? Maybe most important, were they able to transform that person from a non-member to a member and receive some financial reward?

This expanded form of training may seem challenging, but just as you are able to elevate the performance of your employees, you will find that you also elevate your managerial skills. This will not only better the quality of how your facility is run but also increase the value of your management.

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About the Author

Rod Heckelman  is the general manager at Mount Tam Racquet Club in Larkspur, Calif., and has been on the faculty for The Tennis Congress.



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