Mentoring – A Job For Life

A silhouette of a woman getting a golf lesson from a golf professional and instructor. Themes of the image include golf lessons, instruction, short game, sport, game, practice, teaching, learning, lesson tee, driving range, golf professional, chipping, evening, model, young, woman, attractive, side view, 30s, helping, assisting, and golf academy.
A silhouette of a woman getting a golf lesson from a golf professional and instructor. Themes of the image include golf lessons, instruction, short game, sport, game, practice, teaching, learning, lesson tee, driving range, golf professional, chipping, evening, model, young, woman, attractive, side view, 30s, helping, assisting, and golf academy.

I started my first club management position 35 years ago at the young age of 22.  My memory does not serve me as well now as it did years ago, but I can vividly recall feeling, admittedly, overwhelmed and confused. It’s like that classic 1965 Beatles lyric: “When I was younger oh so younger than today, I never needed anybody’s help in any way.”

I imagine if my 22-year-old self-had been asked, “would you like a mentor?” my mind would have conjured up an older club manager telling me stories or legends. I suppose I wanted someone to give me the answers to questions I didn’t even know I had. I was fortunate that finding my mentor happened organically when he hired me, that naïve 22-year-old hospitality-school graduate. Now, 35 years later, he is still my go to for professional advice.

Left to right – Frank Stover, Chris Coulter and Jeff Isbell.

It’s natural to wonder what the value or role of professional mentors might be, especially in the hospitality industry. Using a baseball analogy, think of it this way.  There are not many players who are the best in all aspects of the game.  Either you are a good hitter, but an average fielder, or vice versa.  If you are from Boston like me, you know that Ted Williams, arguably the greatest hitter of all time, was just an above average left fielder.  The Boston Red Sox hired a coach to work with Ted on his defense. They recognized the asset that they had, he possessed amazing talent as a hitter and were willing to “coach” him in other areas to develop a well-rounded and successful major league ballplayer.  As a point of reference, Major League Baseball now has an average of 11 coaches per team, everything from strength and conditioning to nutrition and psychology. The management of the game has evolved, and the game has much higher expectations of their players.Why shouldn’t the same hold true for club managers? Like baseball, not all managers are great in all the disciplines of our “sport.” However, there are many who are great at 2 or 3 disciplines and fine with the rest.  Just like baseball, club management has changed, and there are greater expectations from club leadership.  Clubs have made an “investment” in their management and must be willing to provide coaching to their players.   I am certain that those managers who have gone from “good” to “great” have at least 4 things in common:

  1. They are able to admit they need help.
  2. They are willing to ask for help.
  3. Humility is in their genes.
  4. They have the drive to improve and to be better.

There is not a single club manager out there that would not benefit from a mentor at some point in their career.  But, one size does not fit all.  As I researched mentoring, I have come to the conclusion that there are anywhere from 3 to 9 types of mentors .  I have settled on 5 types of mentors, best described by Anthony Tjan in his book Good People:

  1. The Master of Craft – The best of the best. This is someone who has the experience, knowledge, patience.  “They should help you identify, realize and hone your strengths towards the closest state of perfection as possible”.
  2. The Champion of your Cause – This is someone who is invested in you and who will always have your best interest in mind. You could also call them the cheerleader.
  3. The Copilot – This is someone who you play off well and possibly a coworker. You can bounce any idea off of them and they are not afraid to be honest.  They will always have your back.
  4. The Anchor – To me this is the most important – this is the person who keeps you focused on who you are. Moral compass, your keel and rudder through life.
  5. The Reverse Mentor – This most likely is one of your mentees or a younger professional. Someone who is open and honest and willing to provide you feedback on your leadership style.

I am fortunate to have a mentor who has the characteristics of The Master of Craft, and the Champion of my Cause.  Throughout my career, I have had other mentors who fit other styles.  I hope you have had this same fortune.  There are many gifted leaders/mentors in our association and in the world of club management. Do not hesitate to reach out to those people. Remember, we are all in this together, especially during such a challenging time in our industry.The greatest recognition I have ever received is to have been called a mentor.  It is fulfilling to give back and natural in our profession to want to give to others.  There are many who are eager and willing to guide.  Self-assess and focus on areas you need coaching or guidance, then identify someone who can help.  If that seems daunting, give me a call and I will help you through the exercise.  You will want to work with someone you trust and feel comfortable to set short- and long-term goals.  Whether it is a coach, a confidant or just someone who will keep you on track, we all need those mentors.The Dali Lama once said, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others and if we can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them”.   All of us at the McMahon Group are here to help.  We have been where you are and understand the complexities of club management.  We may not be your mentor, but we are here to take your call, listen and provide advice.  Do not hesitate to reach out.  We are here for you.

Share This Article

About Christian W. Coulter, CCM, ECM

Chris joined The McMahon Group after 35 years in private club management, spanning 2 continents and 2 islands.  Chris provides consulting services for strategic planning, membership surveys, facility improvement programs, and general consulting expertise on club needs.  In addition, Chris also provides specialty consulting in operations, buyouts, capital fundraising, facility conditions and membership.

Prior to joining The McMahon Group, Chris served as the CEO of The Westmoor Club, Nantucket – a Platinum club. Prior, Chris served 20 seasons as the General Manager of Bald Peak Colony Club, a seasonal private club on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in the lakes region of New Hampshire.  Prior to that, he held senior management positions with St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco – the largest yacht club in the world, Boodles of London – one of the oldest and most established city clubs, and the Harvard Club of Boston – a Platinum alumni club.

Chris earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, earned his CCM designation in 1999, was awarded the ECM designation in 2001.   He is an active contributor and prominent leader in the industry having served on the CMAA New England Chapter Board and multiple CMAA National Committees.

Chris is married to his college sweetheart and best friend,  Jennifer, and together they have 3 daughters, Sarah, Hannah and Abby.  When not working, Chris enjoys the outdoors in New Hampshire and producing boutique maple syrup, as well as rooting on his beloved Red Sox and Patriots.

Originally published in: