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Hiring a New GM/COO: Competencies and Success Factors

Because choosing your club’s next general manager can often be a long and difficult undertaking, properly evaluating the club’s needs is essential. Once firm skillsets and previous experience are identified, the Search Committee can begin the search.

During the interview process, the committee will need to evaluate candidates on several different factors that may vary depending on the club’s specific needs and culture. Factors such as alignment with club culture, ability to maintain relationships and communicate effectively, and motivation to grow the club may be some of the qualities assessed to fill this important role.

The club will also have to take into account the need to hire outside the club if a viable candidate is not available within. This decision, if not properly executed, may have negative effects on employee morale and retention.

The following competencies and success factors can help ensure your club hires a GM who is aligned with the club’s needs.

Vision and strategy

Does the GM candidate demonstrate agility and resourcefulness in challenging, complex or difficult situations? Are they able to bring in knowledge from a diverse range of learning experiences? Do they have a core understanding of your club and its practices and challenges? And finally, is the candidate optimistic about the club’s future but realistic in what it will take to accomplish the club’s goals? Is this vision aligned with the board’s vision for the club?

Ensuring tactical success

Does the GM candidate have the ability to lay the groundwork and develop a plan to ensure that the club’s big ideas are achievable with the given resources? Can this candidate build a team that can execute tactical success? A candidate may overpromise when searching for a job, so listen for responses that are supported by facts, statistics and previous experience.

Relationships and communication

GMs must address a diverse set of needs from members, staff and the board. Managing these needs and the relationships among these groups is critical to the club’s success. During the interview process, assess whether or not the candidate has the interpersonal skills necessary to work with others, especially the board, including empathy toward your club’s employees and the ability to create common ground among those at the club. Effective communication begins with understanding the needs of others. The candidate should also show experience demonstrating distinguished communication skills, as this is an essential tenet for the position.


Is the candidate properly enthused and excited to enter into the unique challenges offered by your club?

Previous experience

Has the candidate been vetted for previous experience managing a similar club? If the candidate has no previous GM experience, do they have the management skills necessary to perform at a high level? When assessing the short- and long- term needs of your club, does the candidate’s profile match the task at hand? Has the candidate shown a record of previous success in multiple clubs, and how has that success reflected in the decisions the candidate has made during his or her previous tenure?

Fit to situation

Is the candidate ready for the challenges he or she will face, and does his or her previous experience align with your club? How likely is he or she to succeed in the position? Is he or she both a business fit and a culture fit? Remember that the most successful and qualified GMs align with the club culture.

This article is excerpted from “Chief Executive Succession Planning for Private Clubs,” which is a part of NCA’s Club Governance Standards. NCA members can download the entire series.