Value Your Values

Core Values Signpost Meaning Integrity Ethics Principals And Accountability
Core Values Signpost Meaning Integrity Ethics Principals And Accountability

When developing their Strategic Plans, most club leaders quickly tune into the process of developing their Mission and Vision.

It is a long recognized part of the direction-setting process and generally gets the thoughtful attention that it deserves. Ok, some directors still have to be pulled kicking and screaming into the discussion, but that is fodder for a different article. While the Mission and Vision are important, there is a third, very important element in clarifying a club’s purpose – identifying its Core Values. Identifying the Core Values is a critical piece of the puzzle, but one that often gets short shrift.

In most cases, the group hears the word “values” and wants to quickly run through a list of qualities like integrity, honesty, excellence, etc., and move onto other subjects. However, as Patrick Lencioni details so well is his excellent book, The Advantage, Core Values are just a handful of behavioral traits that lie at the heart of an organization’s identity. He feels so strongly about Core Values that he equates them to a human being’s conscience. They are that deep. A solid understanding of its Core Values is especially helpful for a club, as adherence to them will assure it attracts the members and staff that are the right fit and repel the ones that aren’t.

During the preplanning portion of a recent strategy workshop, a club’s leadership gave us a long laundry list of vanilla values including integrity, excellence and respect. They then piled on by adding friendliness, kindness, fairness, quality service, financial responsibility, community and stewardship. Of course these are all great and honorable qualities; but frankly, if a club is not already operating in this manner on a day-to-day basis, just how long will it last? Lencioni calls these “Permission to Play Values” since they represent the minimum behavioral standards for any group or organization. So unless you are running a Ponzi scheme, you already have to have them. They are not points of differentiation.

Identify your Core Values

To identify your Core Values from the run-of-the-mill, you need to probe an initial laundry list of qualities to separate out the Core. In the case of the club mentioned, an intense and honest group discussion about what really represents its special behaviors led to the following:

  • We treat fellow members and staff with dignity, respect, warmth and appreciation
  • We contribute actively and personally to building the club’s community
  • We surround ourselves with the best people
  • We realize how lucky we are to be at this club and we enjoy our experience here to the fullest

When at this club, the Core Values listed above are palpable. There is a difference in how they treat one another and the staff. There is a clear expectation of everyone to get involved (members and staff) to work to build the community. Frankly, it is unacceptable to sit in the grill room and complain. You either pitch in to fix it or move on. This environment definitely helps this club attract the best members and staff; and at the end of the day, they, like members at most clubs across the country, thank their lucky stars for what they have and show appreciation for it.

So whether you are developing your first Strategic Plan or updating an existing one, spend some extra time on your Core Values. Because like magnets, you will find that they have the ability to attract and repel. Both of which are important forces in developing organizational clarity.

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About Frank Vain

Mr. Vain provides consulting and planning services to private clubs throughout North America. Through use of specialized services including membership surveys, strategic planning, operational analysis and facility long range planning, Frank assists club in developing individualized strategies for their unique situations. 

Mr. Vain joined McMahon Group in 1988 and has more than forty years of experience in the management and development of hospitality properties including country clubs, city athletic and dining clubs and residential communities. Frank is Past President of The Country Club of St. Albans, a 36-hole country club located in Missouri, and he is a former partner in Concord Sports Club, a 1,700 member family athletic club in St. Louis. Frank was elected to the Board of the National Club Association in 2011 and served as Chairman in 2019-20. 

Mr. Vain is a native of Philadelphia and graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is a featured speaker at the annual Club Managers Association of America World Conference, National Club Association National and Regional Conferences, Major Golf Associations and a regional chapter meeting of club managers and leaders. 

Frank is a regular contributor to industry leading publications like Club Management, Club Director and BoardRoom. He was named the Gary Player Club Educator of the Year for 2012 and 2015 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021 by BoardRoom. He is also a co-author of McMahon’s Club Trends, a recognized industry benchmark on the trends and issues affecting private clubs. 

More articles by Frank Vain
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