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The Challenging Task Of Hiring A Chapter Executive Director

Jim McLoughlin


It is recommended that last week's blog message entitled, "The Indispensable Role Of The Chapter Executive Director" be reviewed before reading the blog message below.


Appropriate job descriptions for a chapter Executive Director define the job as a COO (Chief Operating Officer) level assignment. (See Jan. 18th blog message.) However, be cautioned that hiring at the COO level is one of the more challenging personnel assignments throughout the small business and corporate worlds because it requires experience to execute effectively.


Yet, this challenge has to be met because at this point chapters are routinely hiring Executive Directors without appropriate job descriptions and, accordingly, are hiring Executive Directors in name only without the necessary qualifications to act as stewards of their chapters' mission statements.


Consequently, job security with all its related issues and much needed outreach program counseling support remain unrealized goals throughout the profession.


The Good and Bad Search Approaches To Hiring A Chapter Executive Director


1. Best Approach: Hopefully, GCSAA will soon establish an in-house "chapter counseling department" whose primary duties would be:


a. To counsel chapters through the process of hiring Executive Directors making sure that chapters rely on the job description presented within the January 18th blog message when hiring an Executive Director.


b. To counsel/monitor newly hired Executive Directors' early job performance as stewards of their chapters' mission statements.


c. To establish online educational programming to prepare chapter Executive Directors for their assignments once hired.


d. To evaluate the possibility of establishing a GCSAA driven chapter Executive Director certification program.


2. Weak Approach: Hire a search firm to identify a number of quality candidates to interview and then to lead the interview process. Not the best approach because it could be expensive and because search firms have traditionally had too little experience within the golf industry to be effective hiring agents.


3. Guaranteed To Fail Approach: The chapters would continue to hire Executive Director themselves. This is a proven failed approach because of the historic chapter track record of 100% failed hirings through the years. Hiring an Executive Director is a lot different than hiring an assistant, or a mechanic. These are two different worlds.


Because this approach is where inexperienced search committees consistently flounder, it is suggested that chapter search committees refer to the "Qualifications Check List For Interviewing Executive Director Candidates" that is presented later in this blog message to establish a valid list of issues to question candidates about and to identify the better candidates.


Detailing The Search Process

Regardless of which one of the above three hiring formats are used, each would benefit from the practice of hiring retired military and retired corporate executives as prime candidates for the position of chapter Executive Director because they are mature, experienced leaders with pension plans in place that would negate the necessity of paying unwarranted high salaries and they would love to have the job.


To implement any of the above three search approaches place the following type ad in some combination of the following: the regional Wall Street Journal, regional  golf magazines, market web sites and local newspapers. This initiative should produce all the qualified candidates needed.



A regional golf association is looking to fill the newly created position of Executive Director. See association web site (www.golfassn.com) for a listing of job qualifications and job description. Retired military and corporate executives encouraged to apply. Interested parties should forward a 350 word statement summarizing how their experience correlates with job profile along with a resume to: P.O. Box 235, Golftown XX xxxxx.


Reminder: If a chapter is too small to justify hiring an Executive Director for itself, hire one Executive Director to serve two or more neighboring chapters.


If golf course superintendents are perceived to be the indispensable work force in golf, then their properly qualified chapter Executive Directors should be looked upon as the equivalent of well-trained "sheep dogs" who successfully meet their responsibility of corralling and moving the flock to its intended destination.


Meanwhile to begin to allow readers to become familiar with the key role chapter Executive Directors must play as defined by the previously above referenced model job description in the January 18th blog message, read the immediately following, "Qualifications Check List For Hiring a Chapter Executive Director" below. Understand that the world is full of people who would kill to find a job in golf like this.


FYI: Only about half of the chapters have hired an Executive Director to date and none of these were engaged based on the Qualifications Check List presented below; consequently, these hirings are not realizing their intended goals.


Now, after reading through and becoming familiar with the check list below, imagine the kind of job security support a well-qualified Executive Director will be able to deliver to his chapter members at some near future time.


Qualification Checklist for Interviewing/Hiring Chapter Executive Director Candidates


Personal Qualifications (3 points each):

  • Innate leadership potential.
  • A neat appearance in person and dress.
  • A personal demeanor that commands respect.
  • A demonstrated self-starting enthusiastic approach toward work.
  • A profound belief in the unique role of the golf course superintendent.
  • Familiarity with the public and private sectors of golf.
  • An ability to become an effective spokesperson for golf and the profession.
  • A commitment to play golf regularly with a USGA approved handicap.
  • A Rules Of Golf literacy.    


Primary Skill Set Qualifications (5 points each)

  • An ability to develop and support chapter mission statements. 
  • An ability to be a spokesperson for the career welfare of chapter members. 
  • Familiarity with employee outreach programs. 
  • The ability to develop/present seminar programs. 
  • Effective publication writing capabilities.
  • Web site development and maintenance (updating) literacy. 
  • Database development, analysis and data distribution literacy. 


Secondary Skill Set Qualifications (4 points each)

  • Familiarity with chapter/industry orientation programming.
  • Experience in writing effective job descriptions.
  • Sound management and budget experience.
  • Investment management experience.
  • Professional counseling experience.
  • Community service experience.


No candidate is expected to possess all the experience profiled within the above check-list. Accordingly, candidates should be evaluated based on their weighted cumulative qualifications. 


FYI: An Executive Director with a total evaluation score that approximates +/-62 will do an exemplary job; that approximates +/-47 will do a good job; and that approximates +/-35 will do a mediocre job.


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