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Breaking down Departmental Silos within your Club

As the new year is upon us and many look to make resolutions for the coming year, I recommend instituting, or improving a Department Head Retreat. RCS Hospitality Group recently hosted a webinar on the importance and value associated with creating a strong governance culture with the correct use of board and committee orientations. In that webinar, I touched briefly on a similar orientation for senior leaders/department heads--Let's dig a little deeper into this exercise,

If you don't already conduct an annual retreat with your senior team, I suggest making it a priority in 2019. Ideally, schedule a full day with your senior team at a location away from the club. Talk to a local club; possibly one that is often mentioned by members or one that has recently completed a renovation. As with other retreats, organization is the key to success. Give the department heads some homework prior to the retreat. A few questions you may want to ask to get the thought processes moving (and have the department heads be prepared to discuss in-depth) include:

[if !supportLists]· What are this year's goals for their department?

[if !supportLists]· [endif]What are the individual department heads’ goals for this year?

[if !supportLists]· [endif]What goals does the department head have for his/her direct reports?

[if !supportLists]· [endif]What are the challenges their department faces on a

daily/monthly/annual basis?

The morning session should be a review of the current state of the club to include a thorough review of the club’s mission and vision statement. If there have been recent changes on the board or committees, this is a good time to review the mission and vision statement. It is also a good time to review financial information along with membership results from the prior year and plan for the upcoming year. Depending on the club’s individual situation, it is often beneficial to review any upcoming legislative changes (national or local), changes to environmental or human resource laws or discuss best practices.

As with any meeting, setting goals and conveying them in the agenda is a good practice. Sample goals for a Department Head Retreat could be:

[if !supportLists]· [endif]Break down barriers between departments

[if !supportLists]· [endif]A better understanding of each department's challenges and goals

[if !supportLists]· [endif]A better understanding of the challenges and goals of the club.

Many clubs have capital improvement plans that may include a complete renovation or smaller projects for each or certain departments. The retreat is the perfect place to have the general manager (or clubhouse manager) review improvements to the clubhouse and each department read review capital plans/expenditures in their respective department. This allows everyone to see what is happening throughout the club and get an explanation as to why and how this all fits into the bigger plan and goal for the club.

After lunch is a great time to spend 20-40 minutes focused on each department. This is where the general manager will pose the questions mentioned earlier and everyone will have an opportunity for discussion on how best to attack the challenges and celebrate the successes. The general manager should be prepared to summarize the retreat and spend time on the successes from the previous year. Ideally, providing details on a significant success for each participant in the room.

As you can imagine, there is an infinite number of ways this retreat can be successful, and by no means is this the only successful path. The main goal is to bring the senior leaders of the club together to spend a day discussing challenges and setting goals for the upcoming year. At future retreats, the goals from the previous year can be reviewed and new goals identified. If the retreat breaks down the 'silo' effect that often occurs in clubs, consider it a successful retreat. It is amazing what can be accomplished when everyone is rowing in the same direction.

As always, I am always open to elaborate or share additional information and would love to hear from you. Please feel free to email me at

Happy 2019!!


Brian Armstrong is RCS's primary recruiter, and a Certified Club Manager with over 17 years of management experience in all types of clubs. Brian's industry knowledge is vast and extends to every area of the club. This well-rounded expertise combined with a forward-thinking perspective enables Brian to effectively and strategically guide clubs and their Boards into the 21st century while still respecting the traditions of the past. He was elected President of the National Capital Club Manager's Association in 2012 and 2013, served over 5 years on the Board and countless others on various committees, and shares RCS's passion for giving back to the industry.

Contact him at or visit the RCS website at

#memberexperience #strategicplanning #cluboperations #brianarmstrong #boardmembers #orientations #leadership #managementtraining #governance #clubleadership #clubmanagement

Whitney Reid Pennell
 Founder & President

Whitney Reid Pennell is the founder and president of the award-winning RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services). She is a published author and widely praised seminar leader, with over 20 years of club operations management and consulting experience. 

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