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There once was a man from Nantucket...

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Sorry, no limericks here. Just me. I've got a question for y'all.

For those of you who are new, or don't remember, I am a green Ski School Director in South Dakota and this season is LOOMING over me. It's coming waaaay faster than I'm ready to deal with. I'm not sure my instructors are ready for me either, that makes it doubly nerve-racking.

Question is this: Are instructors ready for new programs/training/techniques right away? or do I let some of the old slide and progressively introduce "my" dogma into the mix? Have any of you been in situations where a new director turned your whole teaching world upside-down? Was it good? Bad? Disastrous?

I've only been in situations where I moved to a new school and took a step up, so I don't really remember anything other than greedily devouring any and all new information. I DO remember, on the other hand, some instructors who defy change at every turn.

Talking on the tele' with some of my returners, I get the impression that training leaned toward the technical and there wasn't a ton of it. Do I assume that they are hungry for information? Or do I wait for them?

This may seem trifle, but this is one of the things that I have quickly identified as a potential problem. This school is made up of people from an area that is not too well versed in skiing lore, so to speak, and I'm not really sure how to approach training. I hope I've asked a coherent question and I would love to hear from the big hitters,(that means you).

Little help here.


Spag's quote of the day:
"He's a podantic, pontificating, pretentious bastard. A belligerent old fart. A huge, steaming pile of cow dung... figuratively speaking."
- Jim Carrey in "Liar, Liar" - [img]tongue.gif[/img] [img]tongue.gif[/img]
post #2 of 20
I can empathize! You are already succeeding when you are able to identify your challenges as you are.
Changing or modifying the culture of your department as the FNG is best done with carrots and sticks, a clear and verbalized vision and some patience.
First of all assume the role. You are the leader (and you travelled more than 50 miles so you are an expert). Be confident in your vision. Then listen. Every returner and newbie have something to offer. Position yourself in their eyes and in reality as their advocate.
The ones willing to change will, the ones stuck in their own sh*t (because it really is warm and comfortable) either will yield to locker room dynamics or attrit themselves.
Call me and I will direct you to my "12 step program for ski school directors". Say hi to Michelle.
post #3 of 20
I don't really know anything but would offer that Bob's book laying around and referenced often could help build a common 'language' and spark some good discussion. ?
post #4 of 20
Okay...how many other people here know what FNG stands for? Very appropriate I think, though.... You're between the proverbial rock and a hard place, Spag. Speaking as a member of the rank and file, I'd say there is no easy answer to your question. We have about 200 PT instructors here at my little hill in PA, and there's a group that would fit into each of your scenoarios! I'd say that I agree with Robin that you have to establish the fact that you are now in charge and that things are going to change, while at the same time trying to create a feeling of inclusion. It's tough to fight the "us vs. them" mentality. I'm no school director, but I do feel that one good thing you can do is to try and form a strong training cadre that is representative of your staff. If you can estabish your credibility with this core, it will be much easier for you to gain the respect and acceptance of the rest of your staff. At the same time, you'll be able to gauge what you're people need and what they want. Just a few thoughts from one of the peons...

post #5 of 20
Having been both 'in the ranks' many times when management changes happened, and management myself . . . I'd advise that you just be sure you don't put in any changes just for the sake of making changes. Its easy even to unconciously fall into doing this.

Really evaluate the parts of the program that your predecessor(s) had in place. Think about asking the instructors what they think worked and what didn't work. Remember that some of them will *be skeptical* of any change. Remember not to EXPECT any respect simply because of your title, if anything it means you must work even harder to earn that respect. There may be folks who have been there as long or longer than you have - pull them aside and say "xxxxx I know you've been hear longer than me and have seen a lot of things happen, I'll really value your input and observations as I work into this new position".

And, most people in that position get the idea that the instructors are working for you. But you don't own the ski area, you are not actually producing any $ at all - they are the ones serving the customers and making the money. Your job is to help them in any way you can to do their jobs effectively, and enjoy their jobs . . . which will assure that their customers enjoy the job they are doing!

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ October 12, 2001 12:38 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Todd Murchison ]</font>
post #6 of 20
Some observations from a parallel industry. In fitness, sometimes we will get a new director who will have many ideas about the type of programs they would like to see taught. Enthusiastically, they will give us professional workshops, which we really appreciate. In most cases, anything we learn can easily be incorporated into an existing class format, in the same way a PSIA instructor can incorporate some concepts of PMTS.

The problem comes when an existing class that was already popular becomes COMPLETELY CHANGED into something new. Often, there is resentment from instructors and teachers alike.

I wouldn't worry too much, Spag. You know you're going to win them over with your great personality!
post #7 of 20
Spag, I've worked at exactly two resorts for the last 30 years, and I've had a dozen different ski school directors as my boss.

The ones who seemed to gain the most support from the staff (an awful lot of instructors have come and gone in those years too) were those who focused on making lessons better for the customer while recognizing the two most natural concerns of instructors: The chance to take a mid-day break and the chance to earn a little more money or get more benefits for their family.

If you approach the need for training as the means to the end of giving a better lesson, and point out the side benefit of improving the instructor's own skiing, most will come to accept it.

I'd start with some preseason meetings if you can get them together. Maybe a session to clear up all the employment paperwork like W2 forms and employee handbook distribution, etc. during which you do a little dryland training. Perhaps another session to get everyone's photo in a uniform jacket for a board you're going to put up next to the lesson sign-up desk, and then spend some time exploring lesson philosophies (the Hyperchange Cafe sort of thoughts, maybe).

If you offer some compensation for the meetings, and offer some for the on-snow training, you'll reinforce your position regarding the importance of the training.

A couple of things that have made training more attractive are offering to pay for certification exam enrollment costs if the candidate passes and/or giving retroactive pay increases for the season's earnings if the certification would have resulted in greater pay.
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
Fantastic! Lots of things in there that you folks have reinforced for me, and lots of stuff I hadn't really thought of. I appreciate it. Kneale, I'm glad you've posted that re-imbursement for passed exams is a GOOD thing. I may just print this page and use it as ammunition for a pending meeting. I've been waiting for someone (who ISN'T me!)to get that in print.

Now I have some advice for all of you... Get ready for the big white 'cuz my porch has 5" of heavy-wet on the rail and I'm expecting more in the next couple of days!!!! Can't wait!

Thanks again and I'm hungry for more if it's out there,

post #9 of 20
Hey Spag, one other little tidbit. If I read you right, you're at a small local area, and you're staff are mostly all local regulars. Very similar to my school here in PA. If that is so, than it's a sure bet that none of your people are doing this to help send their kids to college, or pay the rent/mortgage. They're doing it for the same reasons I am...they love the sport, they love to teach, and they love to improve their own skiing. The order of priorty, and the level of importance, each instructor assigns to these reasons is, obviously, different. However, my experience through nine years and three directors is that mountain management is more concerned with the cash cow (we are a beginner factory, unfortunately...) opportunities and risks. The emphasis is all too often shifted to volume of productivity, and exposure to risk, rather than the product itself. You can't create return business if you don't put out a good product. You can't produce that product if you don't have well trained employees. In the absence of monetary incentive, you can't have motivated employees if they don't understand how they fit into the scheme of things (ie. feel important...), if they don't see the benefits of becoming motivated and focused, and, most of all, aren't having fun. The fun factor and family factor a small mountain ski school has is very important to attracting potential instructors and to retaining veterans. If they're not having fun teaching and learning, what else is there? It certainly ain't the paycheck...

the girthman pontificates...and apologizes...
post #10 of 20
"Know your team and your team will know you"

Give the leaders in your team a chance to rise to the top and let them manage the day to day functions for you.

"Being right is not the most important thing"

"Do not talk shop when drinking"

Follow your heart in dealing with your people and your head in dealing with the day to day finances and senior management.

You will make an excellent director as you are willing to be humble and ask questions.

Good Luck [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #11 of 20
....Who's pole was so long he got stuck on it....

Spag. I would try to feel out the ranks for people 'leaning' in the direction you want training to go. Reward these folks with some opportunities to conduct training at some level. This way you utilize the local knowledge and the message comes from more than just the "figurehead" personality. Of course the whole thing needs to be pulled off diplomatically so as not to totally alienate the staff that has previously been involved with training.

I'm doing something similar, though I'm not new to the ski school. Our management team is creating an incentive based hierarchy and training program where no training program has existed before. I'm selecting people who display the most current trends in teaching and skiing techniques to be the trainers. I'm also bringing in "a hired gun" from outside to do several of our early season clinics. My plan is to get as many people presenting my message as I can so I don't have to do it myself. That way it minimizes the presence of a "personality" to resist against. I will direct it from behind the scenes. I think this has a better chance of working than me just taking people out and telling them what I want them to do.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ October 13, 2001 04:31 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Roto ]</font>
post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 
...Who threw a big 720 and stuck it...

Good idea Roto. I've been working on getting some "biggies" to come out here from Big Sky for early season stuff, and I do have people who can handle training. They'll play a big part for sure.

Oz. Thanks for the encouragement. I looked at your profile and see that you are from NSW. Are you sure your favorite terrain isn't "Sheep" and Deep?

Just playing. Thanks everyone!!
post #13 of 20
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Notorious Spag:
...Who threw a big 720 and stuck it...

He said with a grin, as he finished his spin...
post #14 of 20
And now for my encore I'll huck it!
post #15 of 20
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Notorious Spag:
[QB]Oz. Thanks for the encouragement. I looked at your profile and see that you are from NSW. Are you sure your favorite terrain isn't "Sheep" and Deep?


Need a date try this site http://www.coopworth.org.au/

"travel broadens the kind"
post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 
MMMM. Pretty maids all in a row. I think that Border-Leicester winked at me. Do you know of any sites selling velcro gloves? Robin wore my old ones out.
post #17 of 20

For the hands free approach try gumboots.

post #18 of 20
Yo Spag, you have your personal message feature turned off. I was going to send you some more info about the training thing. In some recent brainwash...I mean brainstorming sessions we have come up with a really cool idea to give training that much more meaning....

I promise I wasn't going to hit on you :
post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 
So let's put this all together now, with help from LM and Roto.

There once was a man from Nantucket,
Threw a big 720 and stuck it.
He said with a grin as he finished his spin,
"And now for my encore I'll Huck it!!"

Hey Roto,
Sorry Cat. Must've been in a hurry and turned it off. As it stands you would've been the first to send me a private message anyway. So it's on now, go for it.

ps. If you ever saw my ugly mug, you definitely wouldn't hit on me. Too many blows to the skull from skiing like an idiot. I look like Bull Shannon in "Night Court"... Especially since I gained weight and started shaving my head!!!! :

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ October 15, 2001 06:35 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Notorious Spag ]</font>
post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 
Oz... GUMBOOTS? That's hilarious! Thanks for brightening an otherwise crap day. Cheers, Big-ears!!

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