Bored Board Syndrome - Overcoming apathy, respecting and energizing club leadership.
By Harvey M. Weiner, Managing Partner
We all have a deep and pervasive need for meaning. We want our lives to be meaningful. Not only is this so about our lives in general, but we feel distress and anxiety when we feel that time is being wasted on something that is meaningless.
The job of the club’s board of directors is to provide long range vision, position the club for strategic progress and establish policy. Boards mired in the minutiae of day-to-day management issues lose their perspective, burn out and drop out. Certainly one must respect where the club has been in order to guide it toward tomorrow but management can take care of next week just fine. Those who most need to focus on the club’s long term vision are often blinded by today’s compelling issues. However, effective, energized directors recognize that their vision, their legacy must outlive their influence on the price of a hamburger.
Unclear responsibility and authority pushes the board to evaluate each decision as it comes due. Boring! Wouldn’t it make sense to clarify who has the power to make a decision then get out of his/her way? Unclear authority leads to operational paralysis, duplication of effort, staff insecurity and its natural consequences: personnel turnover and board boredom.
Simplistic quick fixes don’t work and wishing won’t cure the cancer that today is spreading throughout the private club industry. Director apathy, member malaise and volunteer burnout call for more comprehensive thinking.
Many solutions have been proposed: a strengthened management title; increased board engagement in day-to-day management; even a reversion to already discredited clubhouse model with clubhouse manager, golf pro and green superintendent each reporting to their respective committees who in turn report to the board.
Each such solution is, in itself, inadequate. Each builds on a weakened and fundamentally flawed foundation. The private club industry today is dramatically different from a century ago. Simply referring to the club’s manager by a nicer title, i.e., General Manager, Chief Operating Officer or Chief Executive Officer changes nothing except, perhaps, their compensation expectations. The manager of any club will always be a hybrid based on that club’s realities.
Not one of these ideas addresses the underlying problem: member apathy, board indifference and feelings of impotence in the face of issues they are unprepared to comprehend.
Fundamental change must occur at the board level. Boards must no longer accept mediocrity. Debating trivia accomplishes nothing other than generating more boredom. Board members are the club world’s least expensive but most valuable brain trust. Provide them with challenging, accurate information, request thoughtful deliberation and expect extraordinary output.
When conducting recent club board retreats we have stimulated enthusiastic board discussion about their club's core values, brand, positioning, mission, vision, long range and strategic plans, capital funding alternatives and ensuring the club's future. Directors appreciate owning both process and results and enjoy the deeper understanding of otherwise complex, club-specialized topics. Collaboratively analyzing critical concerns facing their club and the industry in general provides club leadership a rare opportunity to explore issues with which s/he will be faced during their term in office. In short, we respect the directors for who they are, their accomplishments and their contribution to their club. Their time is valuable and they want to utilize it for meaningful activities.
If the industry expects smart, skillful people to feel relevant when voluntarily serving on our club’s boards, then we must accept responsibility for guiding, valuing and challenging each individual director.
Harvey Weiner, Managing Partner of Search America® private club management search & consulting, is an agenda-setting, trusted advisor to club leadership since 1974. 800.977.1784 www.SearchAmericaNow.com
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