The Union Club of Cleveland’s Lawrence McFadden, CMC, GM/COO, stresses the importance of gaining altitude during disagreements so that chefs and managers can clearly focus on the bigger picture.
Often my role of General Manager consists of managing various paradigms and relationships within our management team and our membership. Each day, I mentor others for better productivity, understanding or simply comfort in contrasting views.
When adding highly talented individuals to the organization, my role becomes harder. I am challenged with finding a unique balance between their individual skills and expecting from them an egoless attitude beneficial to our team. While this is a risky endeavor, a professional knows natural talent will always push new solutions while elevating our organization toward unparalleled excellence.
Highly talented individuals are never satisfied with outcomes. They may not play well with others and they can have unreasonable expectations of co-workers. There are even times that the team will get sidetracked by this individual, causing challenges to the overall dynamic. Every successful sport coach will tell you that at times stars certainly deserve special privileges. This is no different in a club. But as the manager, it’s critical to keep your focus on the bigger picture.
Traditionally, after several months of working together and observing one another’s unique talents, co-workers will change their perceptions and begin building a stronger relationship with the highly talented individual. An example of extreme talent was on display recently when our Executive Chef, Arnaud Berthelier, CMC, produced an action station of braised pigs trotter croquettes with delicate sliced tenderloin, silky potatoes and truffle sauce. To read such a dish on a menu might have caused a stir for membership acceptance. But during the evening, members shared their compliments and that station got the most positive reviews. The team was delighted as was Chef.
Often our teams don’t hear the positive comments from members about improved product or services. These same members often express gratitude that their club’s leadership has selected these unique individuals to be part of their club. We must make sure our team receives these messages—big or small—and as often as possible.
Going back to the hunt for talent, an opposite strategy might be to select personality first for team dynamics. But this could lead to attracting less talented individuals thus placing the entire teams’ reputation and ability in jeopardy.
Over a thirty-year career, my vision has always been to combine stars, role players and bench strengthy that can work together toward a common goal. When assembling a team, you must always remember the Stephen Covey quote, “Keep the end in mind.” Members only experience the outcome not the challenging journey of unity.
When I became a General Manager, it became obvious that I wasn’t going to be understood by the entire club membership even after going into a public front facing leadership role with the goal and desire for full consensus, including from the Board of Trustees. I learned quickly that an effective manager understands that full consensus is not a reality. In fact, some members appreciate a GM’s confidence and contrasting views if the club is heading in the right direction.
Members who might be displeased generally come from the “I” group. These individuals look for personalized services absent of better results for the entire club. Some refer to them as the “squeaky wheels,” and while they must be heard and respected, a leader must look for trends and data to support the entire memberships’ view.
Last year, I was sitting in the audience during a presentation by a very successful club manager. He announced there were about one hundred members in his club that he didn’t see eye-to-eye with. He clarified his statement that these individuals still deserve great service, respect and a patient ear, but that as a manager, we should not beat ourselves up trying to get full support on all strategic directions.
This reminded me of a weekly management leader meeting when I mentioned to our team that our nation’s Presidents usually wins with less than sixty percent of the overall vote. The takeaway is that if you wait for total consensus, you will be marred in the quicksand of indecision, lagging results and creative ideas being lost on the cutting room floor.
Perhaps the next time you have a challenging member, or you’re looking to expand your team and bring on new talent, remember it’s OK not to have an immediate solution for every question. But know you have a responsibility to listen while understanding other viewpoints. Then decide how to execute for the benefit of the entire club and the entire team.