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Informed Leadership: The Importance of Continually Educating Stakeholders

As we’ve traveled across the country visiting clubs over the years, we’ve been fortunate to identify certain best practices that consistently lead to high performing clubs. We encourage clubs to seek out industry best practices, adapt them to their specific operation and implement those best practices within their own club. We urge club leaders to then “memorialize these standards” so everyone in the organization knows what the standards are, how they work and why they are important to the success of the club.

One of the most important best practices is creating informed club leadership by continually educating all stakeholders—boards, committees, members and employees. When stakeholders are regularly educated on industry trends, societal trends, best practices and the state of the club industry, clubs are more successful. Informed stakeholders create the foundation for a healthy organization. Board members, committee members and employees of all levels who are regularly provided education and training, better understand their role in the club. They are more effective in their positions and perform at a higher level. And, keeping members generally informed regarding industry trends and successes has future impact when they become more involved in volunteer leadership roles.

Clubs by their shear nature of formation are social organizations and therefore, prone to more emotional than fact-based decision-making. Educating board and committee members helps alleviate emotion from dominating the decision-making process. Providing background information on “why” things are done and “why” decisions were made gives stakeholders clarity. Too often clubs miss the opportunity to gain support and buy-in by stakeholders because they forget the very important element of “why” things are being done, and only communicate “what” is being done. The “why” is an essential piece for stakeholder understanding. Thus, talking about standards often, providing regular education stakeholders, and sharing the history behind decisions, ensures that each board member, committee member and employee knows their role, responsibilities and how they connect to others in the club.


Informed leadership starts with creating a culture of constant learning, from service to governance through training and education. When the education and development of people becomes deeply weaved in the club culture, the expectation that learning is an important part of every job within the organization is established, and that usually leads to innovation and relevance. Constant learning for every board member, committee member and your entire staff is a critical element to the sustainability and overall success of the club. It doesn’t have to be a formal, “heavylifting” exercise, but consistent focus on information conveyance and education usually results in greater or quicker understanding, trust and ultimate buy-in or support.

Weaving education into every position at your club begins by making it a priority. Every meeting agenda should include an educational aspect. Dedicate time at board, committee and staff meetings to discuss best practices, trends, results of industry surveys and how they impact your club. Considering adding this element to town hall or annual membership meetings, focus group sessions or the now standard practice of virtual member meetings. Include educational topics in newsletter articles and in management team meetings. Make best practices and industry knowledge part of the language at your club to keep learning the priority.

During COVID-19, education became an urgent need for boards and management teams. Club leaders were searching for information, seeking guidance, and scouring resources for best practices in the pandemic. Industry associations such as the National Club Association stepped up to provide numerous webinars, surveys and resources to help club leaders navigate the unprecedented and challenging times. Clubs that did not seek out information and stayed on their own island did not fare as well as the clubs that took initiative to gather intelligence, find resources and communicate that knowledge with stakeholders consistently.

Over the past few months, presidents’ councils have formed with the assistance of regional GMs/COOs. These collaborations provide a way for club presidents to not only share information about COVID-19 happenings but also to talk about water issues, labor challenges, amenities, local initiatives and other topics affecting clubs. These connections provide a great way for club presidents to generate ideas, be sources of information and have a unique sounding board for ideas or concerns. Gathering to network and share information creates a culture of education and data versus misinformation, micromanagement and emotional decision-making. Department heads and senior managers may want to create similar opportunities to expand their own networks as well.

When it comes to education, consistency is the key ingredient. Training and information must be provided regularly. Once a year during board orientation or new employee onboarding is not enough. Make educating stakeholders a priority and establish informed leadership to set your club on the path to success!

Club Trends Winter 2021