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Relationship fundamentals


Board and manager relationships can be self-reinforcing or self-destructive when challenges arise

It may seem trite to say, but the best and longest standingboard and manager relationships are built upon a foundation of trust and honesty. If either of those two traits is missing or erodes over time, then someone has to be brave enough to fix it, or brave enough to make a separation.

Sometimes it's not always clear why trust erodes. Boards will often point to a former manager saying she didn't know how to run the club or that he consistently missed targets such as budgetary markers. However, when asked how long it took for the board to take any kind of action when the first target was missed, it is shocking to see just how long poor performance was allowed to go on without any consequences. We are not talking here about the board firing a general manager (GM) because they missed the budget one month, but rather the board doing nothing month after month after month, letting the unspoken
tension grow to a breaking point where there is no way back for either party.

A classic case study
One recent example to illustrate this problem ended with the club parting ways with a long-term, much-appreciated manager. The challenges began when the club added a new dining facility and eachmonth consistently missed its food and beverage budget. This wenton for many months without any real action happening on either end—just complaining from the board that the numbers weren't acceptable and complaining from the GM that he was being micromanaged. The problem was that no actionable steps were agreed to in order to address the issues. The manager never brought a set of corrective options to the board and the board never demanded a timeline with milestones. The result: lack of honest dialogue and operational paralysis. Nothing was done, mistrust and recriminations built up until the inevitable happened … the manager was moved on.

But now for the interesting twist … the question now being posed to the president … "how did you allow this to go on for so long?" The board and manager relationship must begin anew each year with a clear, written business plan with goals, timelines, reporting milestones and action steps. If you are thinking your club has that already because you have a budget, think again. The budget is only a monetary representation and quantification of the business plan goals for a year—the plan itself is so much more and, if thoroughly developed through manager and board consensus, will reinforce the board and manager relationship and provide a reference point or game plan if things don't go as smoothly as planned during the year.


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