What Search Committees Are Looking For

I sometimes wonder if I’m not stating the most obvious when I consistently talk to candidates about what boards and search committees are looking for in today’s managers. Then, I walk into another boardroom and have it hit me yet again – this board is looking for skill sets that should be “101” competencies in most candidates! Where is the professional development and personal awareness to do a consistently better job in addressing these real or perceived needs at most clubs?

While most of us are products of the environment we grew up in or environments that we are exposed to on a consistent basis, there are certainly many managers who have looked in the ‘mirror of self-awareness’ and recognized areas within their skill sets that truly need to be sharpened, even though they are areas some of us simply don’t have interest in or feel comfortable doing so.

So, from the perspective of a person who has sat with countless boards and search committees, in hours and hours of candidate reviews and interviews, and have many observations of what areas those groups are really focused on and interested in from most candidates; here are the characteristics that stick out most in my mind:

Personality and professional presence! I’ve sat through too many interviews where I’ve seen hugely qualified managers (lots of success and competency) not connect because they had (or didn’t show) either of these qualities! Comments like “Kurt, I didn’t think you were ever going to ‘wake him up’ in this interview,” or “do you think he got that tie from Goodwill,” or “she may be the most competent, but least interesting candidate I’ve ever talked to” have emanated after interview sessions.

Clearly, you don’t want to be someone who you are not, but you also don’t want to ‘not show who you really are!’ Further, in today’s club world, there are very few ‘office administrator’ managers; those who don’t need to be engaged and interactive with both members and staff. So, if that isn’t a part of your personality consider getting into a business that embraces that style or change it! You must have enough personality, passion and enthusiasm to be sincerely and actively engaged in most every aspect of the club, or it likely won’t work, at least not over the long run.

Finally, pay attention to your ‘personal presence.’ That can be from how you dress to how you present yourself in interactions – looking others in the eye, a firm and focused handshake, a confident (without ego) direct answer to a question, or simply your presentation in the attire you select. They are ALL part of the multiple evaluations that people have of you every time you meet. And, if they don’t pass first muster, it’s pretty hard to get a ‘mulligan.’

Financial acumen and the ability to convey it! Lots of people want the title and all that comes with it, but from our vantage point, you’ve also got to be able to live up to the expectations that come with it. As an example, many of the most successful managers we see give the financial report in their board and finance committee meetings. If you want to be in charge, you need to be able to convey how the business is functioning and share the trends that it is following. The problem for many is that they’ve been conditioned to think that that isn’t their role, or they simply don’t have the confidence to do so! So if this is an area that you know you need to develop further, getting more knowledgeable and articulate is increasingly more important in order to establish and maintain credibility in the boardroom.

Team Development and Mentoring! The ability to get the ENTIRE team (all operating departments) focused on consistent and COLLABORATIVE goals and objectives, and understanding why, is a critical success factor of most high performing club managers today. Having a strong focus on all of the major areas of this competency – effective hiring, using new and/or proven tools for evaluation like DiSC Assessments or Myers-Briggs evaluations, robust orientations, on-going training and development programs (in ALL departments, not just F & B!), and such are becoming “101” basics in high performing clubs, led by a focused manager.

Skillful in Non-Profit Governance ‘Dynamics!’ The ability to navigate the often and increasingly choppy waters of well-intended volunteerism and its impact on the basics of ‘running the business.’ Clearly, getting anything done, and then getting it done consistently, is an area that needs laser focus on a constant basis, but is an area many managers spend very little to time understanding or trying to improve upon. It is, however, the ultimate cornerstone to success in many club organizations and is something that many boards now recognize is a critical success factor (the ability to lead/manage in this area) of their manager.

Organizational Health Awareness! While it encompasses most of the above, a passion for working through organizational health issues – whether it be politics (both with members AND within the staff ranks), ensuring clarity of mission, and oftentimes simply dealing with those nagging, but real issues that just need to be resolved. Too many managers get themselves into hot water because they just don’t deal with the painfully obvious issues that they know have to be dealt with!

So, for fear of again stating the obvious (all of it being ‘common sense’ but not ‘common practice’), these basic but not so easy to master skill sets are critical in today’s business/club world. A real focus and self-awareness of how one stacks up and ‘rates’ in each of these categories is a really good exercise for all of us to do on a regular basis!



Kurt D. Kuebler 
Kurt D. Kuebler, CCM, is a Partner of Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC, The Most Trusted Names in Private Club Executive Placement.