Cage the Demons

Gregg Patterson, President

“Tribal Magic!!!”

The Demons

After 33 years as a one-club G.M., I’ve just transitioned from “everyday operations” to “no-ops.”  From 100 club related e-mails per day to none.   From “fully employed by someone else” to “fully employed by myself.”   From General Manager to Member.

My Transition Journey was fairly unique—33 years as a one-club GM, a “love fest” for decades.   Ours was a partnership, and when I left, bridges were built—and none were burned.  Although few managers have driven the road I’ve traveled, lots of managers have moved to new positions having had a GREAT relationship at the club they’re leaving and having HELPED their club manage the transition from “long term beloved manager” to The Newbie.  How we “The Happy Transitioners” helped is a lesson worth learning.

At my club, those of us who were “Transitioners” —Me as GM, the Board, the Committees, the Members, the Staff, the Newbie, the Newbie’s Family, the Purveyors, the Neighbours and the sub-contractors—had demons chasing us in the form of fuzzy, ill-defined concerns about our role in The Transition.   We needed—but didn’t’ have—a road map, a transition FAQ Sheet to Cage the Demons and smooth the journey.

Fortunately, The Club and I were partners during the transition, committed to doing it right, and between us and our Head Hunter, the right questions were eventually asked, the right answers were found and the Club “done good” both in hiring The Right Manager and transitioning me from Manager to Member.   We “caged the demons” one question at a time.

Phased Caging

During our management transition, I learned that the most important role a manager can play is to ask the questions that’ll stimulate the conversations that’ll provide the answers that’ll quell the fears and cage The Demons.   A Transition FAQ Sheet is needed for each of The Transitioners.

Every “Good Transition” occurs in phases and each phase has questions specific to each of the Transitioners—which will be answered differently by each club depending on personalities, culture and circumstance.  The following are the Transition Phases we faced and the “Manager Specific Questions” we asked and answered.


Phase I—Anticipating “The Need”

What questions should be asked by the GM WAY in advance of the transition?

  1. Will the GM prepare a White Paper identifying the expectations of a great manager, the signals suggesting “It’s Time to Go” and the steps involved in both a “Planned” (retirement or opportunity) and an “Unplanned” (death or firing) transition?
  2. Will the GM create a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet for each of The Transitioners—the Manager, the spouse, the kids, the Board, the Committees, the members, the staff, the neighbors, the suppliers and the contractors?


Phase II—Deciding to Exit

What questions should be asked once The GM has decided “it’s time to go”?

  1. Will the GM write an “I’m Going and Here’s Why” White Paper with a specific “exit date” for distribution to the Board, Members and Staff?
  2. Will the GM write a “Here’s How The Club Will Handle the Transition” White Paper for distribution to the Board, Members and Staff?
  3. Do the Board and GM agree on the terms and conditions of the “exiting package”?

Phase III—Finding Candidates

What role will the GM have in the search process?

  1. Will the GM sit on the Transition Committee?
  2. Will the GM investigate how other clubs have conducted their search?
  3. Will the GM communicated the search process to the membership and staff?
  4. Will the GM solicit input from the committees, the general membership and staff on the qualities they feel are needed by the next G.M.?
  5. Will the GM communicate the opening to the manager community?
  6. Will the GM recommend “Head Hunters” appropriate to the search?
  7. Will the current General Manager sit in on the Head Hunter interviews?
  8. Will the GM meet with the Head Hunter and provide a background White Paper on the club’s culture?

Phase IV—Interviewing The Candidates

What role will the GM have during the interview process?

  1. Will the GM identify and hire an “interview coach” to educate The Committee on doing interviews right?
  2. Will the GM assist the Committee in selecting candidates to be interviewed?
  3. Will the GM send semi-finalists a package of background information in advance of their interview?
  4. Will the GM meet and talk to the semi-finalists on or before their interview day?
  5. Will the GM conduct the “club tour” with the semi-finalists?
  6. Will the GM sit in on the semi-finalist interviews?
  7. Will the GM debrief the candidates following their interview?
  8. Will the GM generate a White Paper addressing the Club’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for review with the finalists before the final interview?
  9. Will the GM provide finalists an interview “on their turf” and will they, when visiting, have a social dinner with both the spouse and finalist?
  10. Will the GM generate a problem for the finalists to analyze, document and present to the Transition Committee and Board?
  11. Will the GM participate in the finalist interviews?

Phase V—Choosing the Newbie

Will the G.M. be asked by the Transition Committee to provide input into the selection of The Newbie?

Phase VI—Contracting

Will the GM solicit contracts and “letters of termination” from other managers to assist the board in drafting the Newbie’s contract?

Phase VII—Preparing for the Arrival

What role will the GM have in preparing The Newbie for the GM job?

  1. What regularly scheduled mailings (Minutes, newsletters, financials, etc.) will the GM send to the Newbie?
  2. What background readings will the GM provide the Newbie before arrival?
  3. Will the GM schedule regular pre-arrival upbriefs with the Newbie?
  4. How will the GM prepare the staff, members and committees for The Arrival?


Phase VIII—Arriving

What role will the GM have in “orienting” the Newbie to the club culture?

  1. Will there be an “overlap” period when both the Oldie and the Newbie are at the club?
  2. Will the GM give the new manager the same “new member orientation” as is given new members?
  3.  Will the GM give The Newbie the same “new employee orientation” as is given any new employee?
  4.  Will the GM introduce The Newbie to committees, members and staff?
  5. Will the GM introduce The Newbie to area club managers?
  6. Will the GM generate a White Paper outlining the established habits, behaviours, routines and activities of the club community?

Phase IX—The Oldie Exits

What questions should be asked of the GM before exiting?

  1. Will the GM draft a “good-bye letter” for distribution to the membership?
  2. Will the manager be given an exit interview?
  3. Will the manager be given an “all members invited” retirement party?
  4. Will the outgoing manager be available to “mentor” the Newbie after exiting—and if “yes” for how long and for how much?


Phase X—The “Oldie” as “Newbie”

Sometimes the GM retires after decades of good service, is embraced by the club and an Honorary Membership is given.

  1. How long should the “Oldie” stay away before returning to the club?
  2. Will the “Oldie” be allowed to sit on committees?
  3. Will there be any restrictions on “visit frequency” or “activities allowed?”
  4. Will the “Oldie” pay dues and assessments?

It’s Coming

Transitions happen.  Managers leave.  Newbies arrive.  Questions will be asked.   And Demons will surface.

Managers who’ve experienced a Love Fest and are leaving their club with goodwill in the bank account want to be a partner in—and a resource for—the Good Transition.   Creating a Manager specific FAQ Sheet is a critical first step in that Journey.

So………Ask the questions.  Find the answers.  Cage the Demons.

And enjoy the journey!




Contact us

Questions, issues or concerns? I'd love to help you!

Click ENTER to chat