We often hear that attention to detail is important to the success of a business, but what does “attention to detail” mean in the club environment? And why does it seem to be so hard to get employees to pay attention to the little things that make so much difference to the perceptions of members and guests? How do we get our employees to “see” the details themselves and take enough pride and ownership in the business to address them promptly and properly?
Frankly, after more than 30 years of managing clubs, I have put this lack of attention to detail on my short list of aggravations. Getting new hires to understand that little things make the most impact and getting them to do their jobs with this in mind can be a challenging assignment. Changing a person’s innate senses and habits is difficult.
Employees who are blind to litter and dirt pull into the parking lot and do not see the soda can in the spot next to their car as they get out. They walk obliviously past the candy bar wrappers in the grass. They miss the three cigarette butts that line the cracks in the sidewalk. They do not notice the messy handprints on the glass door as they enter the club. They somehow are unaware of the dirt tracks on the floor in the lobby as they make their way to their office. And as they stop in the restroom to check out how they look in the mirror, they fail to notice the messy water and soap all over the counter as well as paper towel scraps on the floor.
Maybe you have administrative employees who made it through college without learning how to use spell check. No matter how many times you find errors in their correspondence with members, staff or the public, they continue to disregard their embarrassing shortcomings. These employees either assume the “proofreading fairy” will magically correct their errors before the material goes out, or they simply have conditioned themselves to believe that others won’t notice or care.
I could continue on about light bulbs that are out for days, paint that is peeling or chipped, kitchen areas that look like they have not been cleaned in months, spider webs, nicked furniture, potholes in the parking lot and more, but I won’t.
The sad fact is that many, if not most employees, are not attuned to details. This trait must be learned, and for many, it must be learned the hard way. Early in my career, I had the unpleasant experience of having a boss who was a cigarette butt fanatic. He tormented me daily about finding cigarette butts in places where I had just been and failed to notice. At times, he left them on my desk or on my car. Another of my early career mentors was an owner who happened to be an attorney. He demanded to see in advance every piece of written material we planned to send to members, and he would mark them up with a red pen to the point that they were unrecognizable at times.
These experiences went on for months and years. Although painful, they were a great training ground for my future responsibilities as a manager. I now pay close attention to detail. Although I am by no means as obsessive as my prior two bosses, their actions instilled in me the importance of paying attention to detail and also taught me that training an employee to start noticing these details and take action about them is a tough and time-consuming job.
If you find yourself continuously struggling with staff members who do not pay attention to these critical details, you will need to make some adjustments. You either will need to surround yourself with others who are fanatical about details, or you will need to teach your employees what to look for and what to do when they observe deficiencies. By making it a daily practice to point out problems and suggest a solution, the people who have not been conditioned to pay attention to details will learn from repetition and instill a new approach to their daily duties.
I wish you luck—and lots of patience— with your staff. You also may want to consider leaving this column on a few desks or counters for others to find “accidentally.” I just hope they take the time to read it rather than look past it as if it is not there.
Herb Lipsman is chief operating officer of Houston Oaks Country Club & Family Sports Retreat in Hockley, TX. He also has been a consultant in the industry, specializing in design, development and operation of upscale facilities.