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Watch Your Language

Watch Your Language

I have worked in the private club industry for about 12 years. A love of the industry and recognition of how unique and special the people and the clubs are spurred me to engage full time with KOPPLIN  KUEBLER & WALLACE.

The more clubs I visit and the more educational opportunities I attend, the more I know this is true. And I’m also aware of how many cultural issues mirror my previous corporate clients.

When I’m invited to a club to work on a search, coach, consult, or deliver team building or communications training, I observe first. One of the things I notice is the language they use. I listen and note how the team members communicate ─ verbally and non-verbally. It helps me to get a better sense of the overall culture.

Now, we all have a bad day from time to time and may go into one of the freezers, close the door and yell a few choice words…but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about one little word that can cause toxicity, infiltrate a culture, demoralize a team and increase attrition. It’s simple. The word is “I.”

Let me share some recent examples. Several weeks ago, a friend and I went to dinner at a trendy, casual restaurant in Manhattan. The server approached our table with a young lady right behind him. He smiled and said, “Hello, I’m John. I’ll be your server, and I’ll be taking care of you today. This is Lindsey; she’s training with me. I’ll give you a few more minutes to look over the menu.”

Lindsey did not seem happy when she left the table. I was embarrassed for both of them. It also seemed that Lindsey was questioning the type of team culture she had joined. It certainly didn’t feel inclusive. It also seemed to me that John needed some training. Specifically, he needed to work on his “we.”

The language of non-inclusion can manifest at so many touchpoints.

Another example was a job posting I recently read by a club looking for someone to fill a somewhat senior-level role. The position level doesn’t matter, but the posting began with “I am seeking a (blank) to join my team.” If I were an applicant, I would already be turned off. Whose team is it? Read that sentence out loud. Now read this: “We are seeking a (blank) to join our team.” Simple. Can you feel and hear the difference?

Or how about the department head who brings a team member or two to a presentation where perhaps those team members provided some input? Let’s say they addressed the group by saying, “I am here today to present” instead of “We are here to present.”

How does watching the language being used shift the culture in a positive direction? If you are a department head discussing an issue with the staff, think about how you open up the dialogue. What do you say? “I’ve noticed during the past month that many of you seem distracted.” Or this: “I’ve noticed during the past month that many of us seem distracted.”

The replacement of one little word says a lot about the department head’s leadership style. The department head is part of the team and reinforces that notion, even when something needs to be addressed and corrected. It bolsters overall trust and emphasizes the team concept.

Multiple linguistic and psychological studies conclude that using words that are more “other-focused,” such as “we,” “us” and “our,” is advantageous to building a more trusting, friendlier, more collaborative, more open to connectivity, communal environment.

In contrast, several studies showed that excessive “I” talk, using pronouns such as “I,” “me” and “you” — talk that is inward or self-focused — actually decreases connectivity, is associated with depression and causes employees to disengage.

Is it possible that the workplace is a bit depressed? Gray and gloomy? Are we striving for a dynamic, positive team culture but are not quite sure why we aren’t getting there? Maybe we need to take a deep dive into how our people communicate with each other and the language we use.

If we watch our language and are more mindful of being other-focused in our words, our words become actions and actions become habits. And … guess what? Positive habits are the foundation of a positive culture.

So, let’s all watch our language.


Michelle Riklan is a career strategist, consultant, and search executive with KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, a consulting firm providing executive search, strategic planning and data analysis services to the private club and hospitality industries. Michelle can be reached at (908) 415-4825 and at Michelle@kkandw.com.

Watch Your Language2023-06-06T19:54:03+00:00

This Much I Know For Sure: Empowerment, The Key to a General Manager’s Shorter Workweek!

Empowerment - The Key to a General Manager’s Shorter Workweek!

Early on in my club management career, I was fortunate to benefit from the wisdom of a club board member who was a very successful business consultant.

Dr. McDonald (a PhD in industrial psychology) gave me the key to balancing my work and personal life and it was perhaps the best advice I’ve ever received as a club manager.

He told me it’s all about one word: Empowerment. Most of us have heard that concept bandied about for many years, but I, for one, didn’t exactly know how to begin. Then it happened.

One of my new board members told me that his son had a company that provided a better system for washing dishes than anything else on the market. We had been using Eco Labs for their service and products for many years and were quite satisfied with the results and our relationship with the company. I agreed, however, to meet with his son to evaluate the merits of this “new and better system” for washing dishes.

When his son, Chris, arrived at my office for his appointment, I had Tim, our dish room manager, join us for the discussion. I then explained to Chris that he and Tim should spend some time in the kitchen dish room to review what he was proposing and how it would be an improvement over our current system. Chris asked if I would also view the presentation and I told him no, that Tim was our dish room manager and he would make the decision.

After saying that, I noticed that Tim was sitting up a little higher because of that assignment of responsibility. (Tim had been at the club for a few years and I compensated him at the level of a club sous chef because I viewed him as that valuable to our kitchen team.)

The next morning Tim walked into my office with the brochure and proposal Chris had left him and I could see that Tim had made a significant number of notes. He told me he had studied the proposal at home for a couple of hours and his recommendation to me was that we continue with our current vendor. I thanked him for his thorough review and told him I concurred with his decision.mWhen I called Chris to inform him of our decision, he became a little irate and said he would be sharing his experience with his father who was on our board and happened to be the house committee chairperson.

A few days later at our monthly board meeting Chris’s father took some time to inform the entire board that “Kopplin was allowing a dishwasher to make a major capital decision and he wanted to know why I would give a line employee that much authority.”

Before I could give my explanation the club president, Mr. Haik, responded.

“I think everyone on this board knows that Dick Kopplin is our general manager and he has our complete support when it comes to club operations. I have noticed that Dick will empower, not only his department managers but other employees to make decisions, often with his guidance, but understanding that the
employee needs to own the outcome. I happen to think it is a great leadership philosophy and it has obviously served our club well. Subject closed. Next topic,”
he said.

While Mr. Haik was affirming his confidence in my management, I noticed that Dr. McDonald was smiling his approval and I’m sure he would have jumped into
the discussion if needed but it wasn’t necessary. The entire board clearly understood from working with me that I would always guide an employee recommendation, if necessary, but that I wanted our team to own their decisions and take accountability for the results.

Here’s the valuable lesson I learned. By empowering our employees, I was able to replicate my leadership philosophy resulting in my ability to take time away from the club whenever I wanted. Our entire team took pride in their operational decisions and they knew I would give them the credit if everything worked well but as the leader, I was also willing to shoulder the blame if things didn’t go as planned.

I’m thankful for learning about empowerment early in my management career. It was very gratifying to watch our employee team grow and mature as I allowed team members to make and take ownership of their decisions.

And an equally good result is that I had as much personal time away from the club as I desired. Empowerment has multiple benefits. This much I know for sure!


“This Much I Know for Sure” is a regular feature in BoardRoom magazine beginning Fall 2022. Dick will share some of his reflections based on his 50-plus years of working in the private club business.

This Much I Know For Sure: Empowerment, The Key to a General Manager’s Shorter Workweek!2023-06-06T19:57:59+00:00

Club Leadership Alliance Establishes Partnership with BoardRoom Institute

Club Leadership Alliance Establishes Partnership with BoardRoom Institute

Charlotte, NC, (April 2023) – Club Leadership Alliance (CLA) partners with BoardRoom Institute, an online education platform designed specifically for private club boards, their directors, committees, committee chairs, and others associated with private club governance.

Achieving alignment between a private club’s general manager/chief executive and volunteer leaders begins with a mutual understanding of the priorities and best practices that drive success. A collaborative, united, and accessible educational environment is foundational to providing private club leadership with the awareness and strategic thinking necessary to sustain a relevant and enduring private club.

“The owners and team members represented within the Club Leadership Alliance have the experience, credibility, and expertise that I was seeking in a partnership. I have known and respected Richard Kopplin, William McMahon, and Ray Cronin for over 27 years. They were the missing link to making BoardRoom Institute a true solution to the governance and leadership issues facing private clubs today and into the future,” shares John Fornaro, CEO and publisher of BoardRoom magazine, co-founder of Distinguished Clubs, and founder of BoardRoom Institute.

Knowledge is power and providing comprehensive information and protections will help assure that board and committee members are well-positioned for their roles and responsibilities. BoardRoom Institute makes annual orientations affordable, mitigates micro-managing, and ensures all stakeholders understand their duty of care, with an emphasis on legal and fiduciary obligations.

“The CLA partners are pleased to announce our exciting new partnership with BoardRoom Institute. We now have the opportunity to present current and future clients with what we believe is the most empowering educational platform we have experienced in our decades of serving the private club industry. We have worked for many years alongside McMahon Group and Club Benchmarking to rally private club leaders around best practices, and this advancement further enables our mission of generating widespread understanding and adoption of the best practices that lead to success,” celebrates Richard Kopplin, founding partner of KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE.

Club Leadership Alliance brings together three of the industry’s most highly respected consulting firms (KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, McMahon Group, and Club Benchmarking) and this partnership will strengthen the value and resources extended to BoardRoom Institute subscribers. CLA founding partners represent expertise in the areas of operations, finance, human capital, governance, and strategic and facility planning.

“We are actively working on course updates and expect the new releases within this content-rich tool will be available by summer. This development will complement and enhance the many programs already offered to private clubs by the partners at the Club Leadership Alliance,” adds John Schultz, respected private club industry executive and CEO of Club Leadership Alliance.


About BoardRoom Institute

Education within BoardRoom Institute is focused on helping private clubs operate efficiently by optimizing the relationship between the volunteers and the paid executives through collaborative governance. www.boardroominstitute.com

About Club Leadership Alliance

The three founding Alliance firms are independent entities working together for the common good of the industry, serving clubs in all aspects of strategic planning, operations, finances, human capital, and facilities. The CLA’s core values serve as a framework for the proven best practices that create relevant and enduring clubs: Informed Leadership, Strategic Stewardship, Empowered Management and Team, and Compelling Member Experience. www.clubleadershipalliance.com


People Focused & Quality Driven. We are an experienced and award-winning search and consulting firm, specializing in the private club industry. We are committed to the success of our clients, the professionals that we place, and the industry as a whole. We improve the well-being of our clients, advance the careers of our candidates, and have fun every day. www.kkandw.com.

About McMahon Group

McMahon Group provides strategic and facility planning services for private clubs. We conduct survey research for clubs as well as on issues important to the industry. Our publications provide club leaders with insight into member needs and desires and changes in the industry. We promote the well-being of the club industry and enhance the profession of club management. www.mcmahongroup.com

About Club Benchmarking

We deliver the fact-based, actionable insight you need to make informed decisions through a suite of tools and services built specifically for private clubs. Everything we do is grounded in data and research and we serve the full spectrum of club industry stakeholders – club staff, general managers, boards, committees, members, owners and industry constituents including associations. www.clubbenchmarking.com

Club Leadership Alliance Establishes Partnership with BoardRoom Institute2023-06-06T20:00:35+00:00

Putting the Human Behind the Resources


Over the past few years, engaging a club’s employees has become increasingly important. As working environments have shifted dramatically since 2020, employees are demanding more, such as increased pay or better work/life balance. In a typical industry, meeting these demands would fall on a human resources (HR) team, but in the club industry — where human resources often is someone wearing multiple hats and falls more in an administrative role rather than a people-facing role — everyone is playing catch up.

If a club does have an HR person, said Jodie Cunningham, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, HR/Talent Strategist, Search and Consulting Executive for Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace, and active in the club industry handling executive talent search and placement, it’s usually someone associated with accounting — the person who oversees payroll, does the new-hire paperwork and the tax forms. That, however, is changing at a fast clip, she added, “which is a very, very good thing.”

Read the full article by Molly Olson in the 2023 March/April issue of Club Management Magazine.

Putting the Human Behind the Resources2023-04-11T20:56:32+00:00

Staffing a Dominating Topic at Club Conference

Staffing a Dominating Topic at Club Conference

Energy was high as club professionals from around the globe gathered in February for the World Conference on Club Management. With more than 500 first-time conference attendees, it was the highest attended conference to date. Numerous education sessions focused on employee engagement, recruitment, retention and culture, as most clubs are finding these are ever evolving and particularly challenging topics.

Jodie Cunningham, talent specialist with Kopplin, Kuebler & Wallace, shared statistics and reasons clubs struggle to find and retain employees. There are 10.4 million jobs open and 5.7 million unemployed Americans. That means there are 1.8 jobs for every unemployed American. The unemployment rate is currently the lowest it has been since 1969 (3.4 percent) yet more than four million people left their jobs each month of 2022. There are so many job opportunities that if employees are unhappy or undervalued, they are quitting and going somewhere else.

The labor shortage also stems from the number of Baby Boomers who are retiring. Over 30 million Baby Boomers reported they are out of the labor force due to retirement. Prior to the pandemic, the normal rate was around three million retirees per year and it jumped to 30 million. “We don’t have anyone to backfill these positions,” Cunningham explained. In addition, birth rates are declining—down over 50 percent worldwide in the last 70 years.

From June 2021 to June 2022 the average hourly wage increased 5.1 percent. The Club Benchmarking Measuring the Impact of Inflation and Wage Pressures Report indicated a 25 percent increase in hourly wages for clubs in the Southeast from 2019 to 2022. Wages for bartenders rose by 36 percent.

Cunningham emphasized it is a job seeker’s market and clubs need to proactively attract and retain their employees. Part of retention also includes managing and mitigating employee burnout. According to Jessica Rector, author, speaker and founder of Blaze Your Brain, a recent study found 79 percent of the workforce is in burnout and a significant amount are experiencing extreme burnout. When polling the crowded room of club managers, about 35 percent of managers reported their teams were in extreme burnout and half of the managers said they themselves were on their way to being burnt-out.

Jodie J. Cunningham, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is a HR/Talent Strategist, Consultant and Search Executive with KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. She can be reached via email: jodie@kkandw.com.

Private Club Advisor – April 2023

Staffing a Dominating Topic at Club Conference2023-04-06T19:24:36+00:00

KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE Renews Executive Partnership with National Club Association

National Club Association Renewal

KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, a leading club industry recruiting and consulting firm, has renewed its partnership with the National Club Association for the sixth consecutive year.

Alexandria, Va., April 3, 2023 – KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE (KK&W) renewed its Executive Partner status with the National Club Association for the sixth consecutive year.  The company also renewed its sponsorship of the Excellence in Club Management® Awards Gala for the second year.  KK&W is a leader in private club executive search, governance, education & training and consulting & planning.

“It’s a privilege to partner with KK&W for a sixth year,” said NCA President & CEO Joe Trauger. “And it’s fitting to welcome them back as a sponsor of the ECM Gala, which showcases a commitment to excellence by outstanding club community professionals. We’re looking forward to another great year of partnership.”

“Dick Kopplin, Kurt Kuebler and I are excited to partner with NCA for another fulfilling year,” said KK&W Partner Tom Wallace. “NCA’s leadership and advocacy are helping the industry we love, explicitly assisting club leaders to stay relevant and enduring.”

KOPPLIN KUEBER & WALLACE’s Executive Partnership benefits NCA members through education initiatives and investments across NCA’s platforms and services. Firm executives are regular contributors to Club Director and Club Trends magazines along with multiple NCA committees. Relevant contributions include:

“Additionally, we are excited to again sponsor the Excellence in Club Management® (ECM) Awards Dinner, said Wallace. “The ECM Awards hold a special place in my heart as a past winner as well as for my teammates Jack Sullivan, Ted Gillary and Michael Smith.”

KK&W is the first sponsor of the Excellence in Club Management® Awards Gala, recognizing the extraordinary industry contributions of private club general managers, managers and chief operating officers who have exhibited outstanding skills in managing their clubs. Past ECM winners within the KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE team include:

  • The Mel Rex Award – Lawrence McFadden, CMC, ECM – 2000
  • The Mead Grady Award – Michael G. Smith, CCM, CCE, ECM – 2019
  • The Lifetime Achievement Award – J.G. Ted Gillary, CCM, CCE, ECM – 2019
  • Country/Golf Club with Under 600 Full-Privilege Members – Thomas B. Wallace, CCM, CCE, ECM – 2007
  • Specialty Club – John“Jack” Sullivan, Jr., CCM, ECM – 2000
  • City/Athletic Club or City/Dining Club – J.G. Ted Gillary, CCM, CCE, ECM – 1999


About NCA

The National Club Association (NCA) has been the advocate for the private club industry in Washington, D.C., for more than 60 years. As the voice of private clubs on Capitol Hill, NCA ensures that club concerns are forefront when legislative and regulatory issues affecting the industry are being decided. In addition, NCA provides club leaders an outstanding array of resources on club industry trends, governance best practices, legal and operational matters and ways to strengthen club leadership. nationalclub.org.


People Focused & Quality Driven. When you work with KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, you can expect an experience that will be centered around the well-being of their clients, the candidates they place, and the industry as a whole. Their process has been fine-tuned for 27 years and involves merging more than 500 years of combined expertise with a comprehensive understanding of stakeholders’ needs. They are an award-winning executive search and consulting firm and a trusted partner dedicated to the success of the organizations they work with. Executive search expertise includes: GM/COO, CEO, Assistant General Manager/Clubhouse Manager, Director of Food and Beverage, Executive Chef, Director of Golf/Head Golf Professional, Golf Course Superintendent/Director of Agronomy, Director of Tennis/Director of Racquets, Fitness & Wellness Director, Chief Financial Officer, Director of Finance, Controller, Human Resources Director, Membership and Marketing Director Searches, and Consulting Services for Private, Resort and Developer Owned Properties, Clubs and Communities as well as Senior Living Communities and Property Owners Associations. For more information, visit www.kkandw.com.

KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE Renews Executive Partnership with National Club Association2023-04-13T18:23:20+00:00
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