In the course of our many travels around the country visiting and working with clubs of all types, we get to see some truly great leaders, and very enlightened and energized club operations. I recently had the good fortune to see three such operations first hand while conducting board retreats and a member ‘ambassador’ committee focus group.

The first club was holding its first off site board retreat wherein the new GM/COO was looking to both identify and prioritize goals and objectives for 2011, and also ensure that the board continued its already respectful, committed and energized ways. Getting off site at another club that had accommodations was the first key. Then, starting with an initial “what does our club of the future look like” discussion over dinner, the board became very introspective and thoughtful, recognizing that discussions the next morning would really start to clarify a number of scattered and unfocused discussions from the past year.

The next morning began with an insightful look at ‘best practices’ of boards and in club governance around the country, recognizing that the ‘same old, same old’ ways just don’t work very well any longer. That led into a full and balanced discussion of the club’s real strengths (to be leveraged), weaknesses (to be mitigated), opportunities (to be capitalized on) and threats (to be ever vigilant of). We were able to gain real consensus and had a great airing of thoughts and perspectives on each of these issues.

But, the REAL key in this case, was to see this group take the same approach (SWOT) to evaluate THEIR OWN performance as a board. Listening to them challenge one another (in a very positive way), support one another, and really ‘look in the mirror’ at themselves, how they make decisions, how they treat one another, and so on was really a wonderful thing. While I wouldn’t characterize it as a ‘group hug’ or ‘intervention’ as the group was already high performing and focused, it really gave them all pause for thought and reflective awareness of their roles and responsibilities in the greater well being of the club as a whole.

I have little doubt that as we monitor the future of that club, it will be one that out performs its neighbors in a very competitive club market!

The club where I was able to view and assist with a focus group session had a much different focus on its intended result, but nonetheless was impressive with its goal and execution.  Like many

[most?] clubs these days, this one would love to have about 40 more members than it does at present. Its manager recognized that it needed someone dedicated full time to the recruitment effort, beyond the traditional membership committee, which had highly variable results each year depending upon the dedication of its chairperson.

They recently hired a full time membership director and were looking to help her with an initial prospect list, as well as other thoughts to help identify prospective members to this well-established club. In this round table, focus group-like setting, we again employed the SWOT method of recognizing the member attendees’ perspectives on the club’s historical membership process, as well as its retention efforts. Being able to facilitate it to keep all discussions positive, productive and goal focused was my role.

In the end, the large number of attendees who were being asked for their input, suggestions and support were energized and the positive discussions led to a strong commitment for continued involvement and support of this ‘new normal’ world of necessary recruitment. It further focused the fact that existing members can be their own ‘best’ and ‘worst’ enemies in the recruitment and retention effort if always focused on what’s wrong rather than what’s right with the club. And, it gave the board in this case, welcome support to deal with the bad behavior exhibited by a few members, which this group identified as being a hindrance to attracting new members.

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