The Equalizer

At one point in Neil Simon’s Tony Award-winning Biloxi Blues, Sgt. Merwin Toomey tells his young recruit, Eugene Morris Jerome, “If there were no such thing as problems, we could all go home at lunch.”

As managers, regardless of title or type of facility, we’re all problem solvers – or we better be. Not only do most of us face enough problems to keep us from going home at lunch, but solving them is also what is expected of us by our boards, general managers, owners and employees.

The best problem solvers share a number of characteristics:

  • They plan for problems. Many managers develop sound and well-conceived plans. Then something unexpected happens. Effective planners develop back-up plans to deal with unforeseen or unintended outcomes.
  • They use rigorous logic and progressive-step methods of analysis. They organize their work into constructive increments.
  • They tap into substantial reserves of research and data to make fact-base decisions. But they’re also capable of learning on the fly. They can harness emerging information, and search for patterns from previous study and experience to extract the underlying essence of how things work.
  • They are comfortable being uncomfortable. They often enjoy the challenge of unfamiliar problems.
  • They continually expand their network of resources. They use professional and peer networks to learn how others have dealt with similar challenges.
  • They research other business segments and disciplines for solutions to similar problems. They leave no stones unturned. If more research is needed, they dig back in to explore creative ideas, continually testing new theories and hunches.
  • They are positive, determined and patient. They roll up their sleeves and get to work, knowing that problems seldom solve themselves and that a solution exists for every problem.
  • And when the solution is found, they share so their fellow professionals can learn from the problem and the solution-finding process. Writing white papers for magazines or presenting your experience in peer-study programs expands everyone’s knowledge and proves you to be a tireless learner and a genuine professional.

In contrast, unskilled problem solvers struggle to find new solutions in time-worn practices. They often miss the complexity of an issue and try to force-fit simplistic solutions.

Effective leaders and managers develop their problem-solving skills through a variety of means: formal continuing education, trial-and-error and with the help of mentors. While there is no substitute for the experience of having faced a major problem and figured out a solution, you also can learn to be a more effective problem solver. Here are three strategies:

Get help

The golf business offers terrific resources, including associations, consultants and peers who have a shared interest in helping to find the best solution. Some people are too proud to ask for assistance, but their stubborn and prideful isolation not only compounds the original problem but deprives them of relationships with the many generous and knowledgeable people in our business.

Work the problem

One need not solve all problems or even every aspect of one. It’s like the answer to the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time. The key is to break the problem into manageable chunks, solve that part of the problem and move on to the next step. If you have a strategic plan, prioritizing problems becomes easier because your plan tells you which problems are standing in the way of meeting your objectives.

Reverse engineer

Stephen Covey advised “begin with the end in mind,” which is the approach of diligent problem solvers. What will success look like? What will it take – whether it’s capital, labor or persuasion – to get there? Reverse engineering brings focus to the intended outcome. Use it as your magnetic north.

Our jobs surround us with problems, making problem solving the unwritten part of every job description. The better problem solver you become, the more valuable you will be in any position your career takes you.

GGA’s Henry DeLozier penned this article for Golf Course Industry.

Monitoring Club Performance through Board Policy

Monitoring club performance is essential for the Board to be accountable to members. The trend in business and non-profit organizations is for data driven decision-making. Boards and GMs prefer objective measurement of goal achievement by using key performance indicators (KPIs) tracked on scorecards and dashboards. It is also important for the Board to evaluate its own performance regularly, at least annually. In essence, what gets measured gets managed.

The Policy Governance Principle of Rigorous Monitoring must be applied consistently through Board Policy.  Performance is best measured against agreed-upon criteria. Some of the items listed below are of a tactical or practical nature. However, they support Policy Governance principles and the Club Governance Model.

The Board’s Role in Goal Setting

The Board has an important role in not only establishing its own goals, but also in ensuring that the General Manager (GM) has every opportunity to be successful when establishing his/her annual goals. The Board is responsible for the following items:

  1. Determine the club’s strategy, its major goals and desired outcomes
  2. Set appropriate limits for the GM through the establishment of executive limitations policies
  3. Provide the GM with the authority, flexibility, and resources to successfully complete agreed-upon goals in the allotted time
  4. Specify the objective results goals, the ends – the term used in the Carver Policy Governance Model.
  5. Monitor Board and GM performance including holding itself accountable

Make Monitoring Club Performance a Board Policy

Monitoring club performance should not be left to chance. It must be set out in writing and agreed to, in advance, by the Board and GM. Monitoring is Board policy. The following items explain how to incorporate monitoring club performance into policy:

  1. Incorporate the club strategic plan, the Board and GM’s goals into the Board Policy Manual (BPM), directly or by appendices.
  2. Incorporate the monitoring of the GM’s performance into the BPM with sufficient detail to make monitoring as automatic as possible using a specified process, consistent documents and scheduled times.
  3. Incorporate the GM’s performance evaluation into the BPM for clarity and consistency.

Management’s Role in Goal Setting

Management must take an active role in setting goals and monitoring performance. A passive approach leads to undefined and unattainable goals resulting in poor performance reviews. As the Board’s only employee, the GM not only participates with the Board in setting his/her goals, the GM then communicates these goals to the management team. Ideally, the GM’s goals, and therefore the Board’s goals, are consistently communicated to every staff member to align all activity and maximize the use of club resources. Management is responsible for the following items:

  1. Determine the means – Once the goal is set and clearly defined, communicate to the Board that management will decide how the goal is accomplished. Management must secure the authority, within executive limitations, to accomplish the goal without the undue interference. Responsibility without corresponding authority defeats accountability. It is better to be reminded than instructed.
  2. Determine limitations – Report what cannot be done with valid reasons why and ensure that unrelated outcomes are not bundled into a goal. Goals must be achievable. This is often determined by a dues-based budget. Many clubs set stretch goals that cannot be achieved based on the level of funding from dues and other sources.  Avoid moving goalposts and undefined targets; management must be diligent in avoiding goal creep. Similarly, overarching subjective goals should be avoided.
  3. Establish the monitoring process – when-what-where-in what form-to whom. The timing of interim reports is particularly important. Simplify the monitoring and reporting process using KPIs, dashboards, and scorecards. A simple and clean visual representation is better than pages of text.

This article was authored by GGA Director and Governance expert George Pinches.