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Navigating New Leadership Transitions featuring Chad Schultenover

“Leadership isn’t just about directing people on what to do. It’s about inspiring them to see what they could achieve and helping them unlock that potential.”

In this episode of Executive Evolution, our host Craig Anderson is joined by Chad Schultenover, GM and COO at Meridian Hills Country Club, to share the critical importance of mentorship, strategic patience, and emotional intelligence in successful leadership.

Join us as Chad shares how leadership roles require not only understanding organizational culture but also effective communication, relationship building, and the ability to inspire and empower others.

After You Listen:

Key Takeaways:

  • Whether you’re climbing the leadership ladder or already at the top, find a mentor to provide you with guidance and a different perspective that is crucial for personal and professional growth
  • Understand your team’s and stakeholders’ needs to help craft more inclusive and effective strategies
  • Embrace change and strategic patience for gradual and accepted improvements without alienating the team

Things to listen for:

  • [02:03] Lightning round with Chad
  • [07:48] Leadership means recognizing potential in others
  • [11:53] Mentorship, promotion, and transition in leadership roles is key
  • [18:55] New leaders should cautiously implement changes
  • [24:03] Emotional intelligence increases hospitality
  • [22:11] Advice Chad would give to his younger self
  • [24:00] Craig’s takeaways

Chad’s Transcript:

Craig P. Anderson: And just about a month into my great brilliant new initiative, it turned out to be a total failure. Welcome to Executive Evolution. I have over 25 years of leadership experience in corporate America. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way, and I created this podcast so that you won’t have to. At one point in my career, I had the opportunity to move into a position with a company that I had a lot of opinions on, and I thought I knew everything that was going on and all the things they weren’t doing right.

So I immediately came in, hit the ground running and. After looking at some of the challenges said, I think this is the strategy. And I outlined the strategy, got some pushback, but I knew, right. I knew best because I was the boss. And so I pushed it, I pushed it onto the sales team and we launched that new initiative and about four weeks in it blew up in our face, our competitors turned it around against us and it actually cost us and hurt us business in the short term, so we had to pivot.

In today’s episode of Executive Evolution, I interview Chad Schultenover, the general manager of Meridian Hills Country Club. And one of the things we talk about is strategic patience, which is something I could have learned at that point in my career. So let’s move on to the interview.

Chad Schultenover: Chad. Welcome to the executive evolution podcast.

Thank you, Craig. Good to be here.

Craig P. Anderson: Yeah. I’m just glad we had that opportunity to meet. we had a bit of a conversation about leadership and I’m super excited to kind of dive in and have you as a guest today. I’ve not had. Anyone on who is in the hospitality industry. So it is a very different leadership world. I’m sure for you.

Chad Schultenover: Oh, it definitely is. I mean, you know, I’ve been in hospitality almost my entire career and, being in hospitality. I think there’s 1 thing that’s, maybe new or different is things today just are not the same as what they once were, 5 or 10 years ago. And I think today leadership is more needed, than ever in our industry.

Craig P. Anderson: Well, let’s dive in. As you know, we always dive in with the lightning round. So are you ready to jump through the first three questions?

Chad Schultenover: I am prepared.

Craig P. Anderson: right. Question number one, what is the best leadership book you have ever read?

Chad Schultenover: my favorite was leading change by James P. Cotter. read that book, when I was in college, it’s what got hooked me into organizational leadership and, management and, absolutely loved it. Right. I mean, there’s so many books out there. I’ll call them love, soft, feely, storytelling, leadership books, where you, we learn a lot from experiences of others.

leading change is really about tactical leadership. And, to me, there’s several things in there that, point out what you need to have in terms of a guiding coalition, making sure that a hundred percent of your managers are on board when you’re making change and just how important proper communication is in making sure that any change effort is done successfully.

Craig P. Anderson: cool. So was that part of a college curriculum course that you took?

Chad Schultenover: Yeah, it was. It was actually my favorite, my favorite professor. He was a Rockies fan.

There’s about 15 of us in the class and, we would go through these all day long and he’d like to make sports references, which is great. Cause I, I love sports. And so it just kinda, connected, how would,you do this?

You know, if you needed to change the Rockies, you baseball organization, how are you going to do it? and then we got to break off and talking groups do things, but it was just the conversation, I think that took place during the classroom experience. It just got me hooked. I was like, this is where I’m supposed to be.

This is what I’m supposed to be doing. I love it. It never felt like work when you’d have to go home and write a paper felt like, you know, effortless and fun.

Craig P. Anderson: nice. I love it. because one of the things talked about is, in college, you don’t teach enough about leadership and it’s just the numbers or the process or how to market. But leadership is the most difficult thing to really pull off when you get out of school, even if it’s a very low level leadership role.

I think it’s tough.

Chad Schultenover: it is because it’s a lot of, EQ versus IQ, right? I mean, you have to have that emotional intelligence. and you got to be able to really understand people. And I think to do that, you have to slow yourself down and realize you got to listen first, right? you fail to do that, you’re going to fail to be a good leader.

Craig P. Anderson: Perfect. All right. Question number two, who is your leadership crush?

Chad Schultenover: So I thought about this, for a long time and, you know, it’s so hard to say that I have just one leadership crush because anytime you listen, you read a new book, right, you go listen to a speaker, you know, you’re inspired immediately. You’re like, Oh my gosh, I need to add that to my bag of leadership skills that I want to continue to work on as I grow as a leader.

Coach Krzyzewski is a big name. he comes to mind. but I have two really good friends that I grew up with playing basketball with that are coaches in their own regard at the high school varsity high school level that, have gone on to have very successful high school careers, coaching kids and to me, coaching kids, being a leader in that environment.

Doing those things is, really difficult, but probably the one person that I talk to, the most andprobably share leadership stories with is a gentleman by the name of Brian Dana. he’s a counterpart colleague of mine our industry. And, he’s the GM at country club of York and York, Pennsylvania, and, does a fantastic job.

anytime we need to talk, battle stories or talk about, Hey, how would you handle this situation? He’s the first person that comes to mind and the first person I dial. So, he is definitely probably my leadership crush at this moment in time. So don’t tell him that let it go to his

Craig P. Anderson: We’ll block him when we put the podcast out, so he’ll never hear, you know, and it’s so funny, Chad, because when we do this, people kind of go one of two ways, right? It’s a personal leader that they know, or it’s kind of like these aspirational, national leaders that we read in a book. And so often they’re mentors, right?

We don’t talk enough about how mentors are a really important, you know, And on both sides, right? You know, are you willing to do the time and are you willing to, you know, who’s willing to reach out to them? So it sounds like you have found this person. Did you work for him at a certain point? Is that how you two connected

Chad Schultenover: We actually connected coming up, you know, to become certified club managers in our industry at various different education. And, we just, you had a friendship, stayed in contact. And, we both were kind of in similar positions at the same time. had a lot of really good mentors.

I really was kind of thrust into that limelight and had to figure it out for myself and didn’t have the greatest of mentors, especially at first. he was one of those voices that I could call upon and he’d tell me how his mentor would have done it or, how he may have handled the situation.

And I found all of that extremely valuable. And I think the biggest thing I took away was, having a mentor like that, or having somebody in your life really kind of fills your tank again, I think as a leader, . We, give so much to everyone else. we think about others first.

we want to make sure that everyone else is successful around us. know, and oftentimes we just deplete our own energy levels. And, it’s a great way to be able to just connect again and just feel like I’m doing the right thing. And, you know, I just need to keep going down that same path.

Craig P. Anderson: Okay. Last question in 10 [00:07:00] words or less, how would you define leadership chat?

Chad Schultenover: I would say inspiring others to do things otherwise thought not possible, that’s our job as leaders is, You know, you see a bunch of talent and, expertise or whatever it may be across the room from you or, you know, at the table.

And sometimes I think they don’t know that, , there’s things that they can do that are even possible. it’s our job, to get that out of them, to show them, hey, look, you are capable of so much more than what you’re currently doing. and I want to be able to give you the tools, the space and, the comfort level to be able to do so it’s okay to make a mistake, right?

I mean, we all make mistakes in our life and know, I love it when, my team makes a mistake because we’ve obviously put ourselves in a place to be uncomfortable and from there we grow from there we learn continue to get better.

Craig P. Anderson: no, that’s so true. And there’s great and terrible privileges about being a leader. And I think one of the great privileges is is when you can see something in somebody, they don’t see in themselves and bring them around to that and see not that [00:08:00] manipulative way of, you know, I know you can work harder.

You can produce 10 more widgets. It’s, I can see in you The ability to lead. I can see in you the ability to move from an inside sales rep on the phones to an external salesperson. Right. I can see you managing this part of the club in your case. And I love to see that light bulb go off. because a lot of times they don’t believe you when you tell them that you can see it in them.

Chad Schultenover: No, it’s too true. And we’ve got some really, wonderful young leaders right now that coming up through the ranks are new, you know, not just to the industry, but the leadership in general. And, I’ve always told him, Hey, my door’s open. You, just have a conversation with me and I’m sure whatever, you know, is going on in your mind, we can work through it together.

And, oftentimes it’s getting them to realize that you probably already have the answer. Yeah. you’re just looking for that kind of sense of, okay, I am going down the right path.

Craig P. Anderson: perfect. So Chad, let’s go back. Let’s talk about in this industry you’re in. what was your first real leadership role that you had when somebody tapped you on the shoulder and said, Hey, you’re able to do this.

[Chad Schultenover: first club I was probably at Stonebridge country club, the Western suburbs of Chicago and Aurora, Illinois. Was definitely really my first leadership role. I had plenty of management roles, but not one where I was, thrust into kind of this leadership position. So, there I was, you know, asked by the board of directors.

I received a promotion from a food and beverage director position up to, the club manager position. And from there, right. I sat in board meetings and help lead the board strategically. at the same time working, having another foot in operations and management, and it’s a very different role. all the clubs.

I’ve manager what we call 501 C 7 tax exempt private country club and Those are typically member owned. so you’ve got however many members you have, that’s how many bosses you have, \, each and every day. but really, I report to the board and, you know, that was very, different being in the boardroom for the first time and listening to people with MBAs, entrepreneurs, physicians, speak at a level that I wasn’t used to yet.

That was an eyeopening experience. definitely really enjoyed it, but I realized I had a lot to learn very quickly.

Craig P. Anderson: So, what steps did you take to start to catch up? Because that can be \ I’ve never been in the boardroom now I’m in the boardroom and they’re both telling me what to do, but also looking to me for insights. But I also don’t speak this language. how did you prepare yourself to kind of level up?

Chad Schultenover: Yeah. So, I mean, one, I had probably the most gracious president that I could have asked for, when I was asked step into that role, his name was Mike Foster Mike Foster did a great job of just, also being there for me as a mentor, as well as, being someone that I reported to, but he wanted to see me be the best possible version of me.

And I could be. And, he knew I had the leadership skills necessary. he wanted me to challenge them in the boardroom. bring ideas and thoughts forward and be more of a thought partner versus just being someone, you know, oftentimes in the role of a GM or a COO in a private country club, you become what I [00:11:00] call a yes, man, right?

Their owners tell you this is what we want and you say yes. And, oftentimes that’s not the right thing to do, especially in our industry. And sometimes you have to steer them the other way. Or get them to consider other options. And it takes someone who’s willing to speak up and put themselves out there, to be able to do that.

Mike was really good about making sure that I had a space in the boardroom. to be able to voice that opinion and get them to consider other options, which I think led us down, the right path, 90 percent of the time. But, you know, the biggest thing that I struggled with was just written communication, right?

You, you go from communicating with servers, bartenders, dining room managers, you golf pros and superintendents all day long to all of a sudden you’re, communicating with people who. Don’t communicate at that level anymore. And, you have to really learn to adjust that. And he did a great job of just kind of guiding me along the way and teaching me some best practices in terms of communication.

Craig P. Anderson: So it was really kind of goes back to that mentor theme. We were talking about before of that person who kind of clears out the way for [00:12:00] you says, you know, here’s some things to think about. kind of interprets it a little bit for you and smooths out that way a bit. I love it. so you also said, and this kind of pops up a lot for the young leaders that we target here with the podcast is you were promoted within the same country club from this level to now here.  So now all your peers. Are your subordinates, what was that transition like for you?

Chad Schultenover: I was excited for it. I was ready for it. think I wanted it more than probably told myself I did. And, you know, I was willing to step up and do it. But along the way, you make mistakes. you do various different things that you probably wouldn’t normally do.

it’s like the Peter principle and management, right? What got you to where you’re at is not the same set of skills. that’s going to get you to where you need to go. And, I knew that, but doing it is a completely different, completely different thing. And I think you have to really stay humble, learn to listen, and take advice of others.

And, that’s really hard to do as I think as a young leader coming into this. is to not be so critical of yourself to the point where basically put up roadblocks that you can’t get over. Right. And I think we do that a lot where it’s like, shoot, I shouldn’t have done X, Y, or Z, or I should have handled that situation a little differently.

instead, you really just need to think about it, learn from it, grow and move on. And, don’t let that experience, monopolize your time or take too much of your time over.

Craig P. Anderson: That’s great. as you look back on that time, how do you rate yourself? How do you think you did in that first role over the, the first year or two you were in it?

Chad Schultenover: if you would ask me then I would have gave myself 10 out of 10, right? I was the greatest leader there ever was. no, I’m kidding. But, um, you know, looking back today, I was just so inefficient. That’s how I look at it as a leader. I did everything, I tried to do instead of delegate.

instead of listening with the intent to understand and grow, I listened with the intent to accomplish the next thing, And I don’t think my ears were as open as I probably needed them to be. if I were to go back again today, I’d tell myself to slow down, really take those times where you have a moment to build a relationship and do that.

And, uh, instead of trying to move on to that very next

Craig P. Anderson: yeah, yeah. And, you know, as you kind of progress then through your career to where you are now, what was the big lesson from that first leadership role in your industry that you really would pull away? Is it this delegation and the slowing down? Was that like the big revelation for you or was it something else?

Chad Schultenover: it really was, I mean, from, Stonebridge, I went to a larger club out in Pennsylvania, Berkshire Country Club and had an opportunity to really Really, I think growing on my own, I needed to move on from Stonebridge. And I didn’t realize how much I needed to until I left. And I needed that opportunity to kind of, see who I was as a leader with other individuals, that I was not familiar with.

Right. And when you get promoted from within, the good thing is, you know, all those people, the bad thing is, you know, all those people, and you don’t really grow as much as you should, because we all stay in our comfort zone. and it’s so easy to allow complacency to set in. So it was really a career growth opportunity for me to move to another club.

and really kind of, see what I had as a leader to try to, change and, help motivate and put that club, you know, in the right position as well. And, successful story. And, from there I wanted, more growth. I wanted to continue to challenge myself and push myself, but, along the way I’ve really learned, yes, listen first and really listen, don’t just listen with the idea that, I’m trying to get something out of this.

Listen with the fact that this conversation may not have any little nuggets, but it’s, I’m building a relationship with someone else that’s going to help me later in the future. And then two to delegate more, you know, as a leader, I think, biggest change shift you have is from management to leadership when you get put in those roles and you have to learn how to rely on others more and inspire them really.

I mean, when you delegate, that’s great. I’m going to give you a task to do, but really, , to inspire those individuals to do it to the best of the [00:16:00] ability, that’s where leadership really comes out and shines.

Craig P. Anderson: Yeah. Now let’s, move forward to your current role. Again, you’ve come in kind of cold, right? You, you interview, you get in, you don’t know anybody in the club. Now I come in, I have hundreds of members that are kind of my employer. I’ve got a board that’s my employer and I’ve got a whole new team that I have to kind of get to know.

And you talked about the importance of listening. So as you’re kind of coming into that role, how do you prioritize Where you spend your time and as you’re kind of adjusting with all these stakeholders that you have to kind of connect with.

[00:16:33] Chad Schultenover: Yeah, I mean, your first year in any club, at least in this industry, it’s not impossible, right? But you just spend so much time with people. That’s all you can do. You have to invest the time into that because if you don’t, you’re going to end up, you know, missing. I think some of the things in the future because you didn’t build.

those relationships up front. I tried to spend time in the dining room on the golf course, you know, at the tennis courts at the pool to try to, meet, greet and say hello to members and try to get to understand them and what they want. further meet with my team and, in those 1st few meetings, right?

As you’re building any team, right? Forming, storming, norming, performing, you’re getting to understand who they are as individuals and what they’re capable of doing, where their strengths lie, where their weaknesses lie. You know, if I have too many people with. everyone wants to be, you know, a small EA.

Well, that’s great. But I also need, people on the other end of it, that want to serve and bus and, take care of things. So you’ve got to have a nice balance of people who can be relational, but you also have to have people that can be transactional as well to be able to get things done.

so it’s understanding that and, understanding the board and what their priorities are and really in your first year as a club manager. Your job is to listen first and understand and try not to shake up, too much change because you need to understand the traditions of the club and what’s really important to the membership.

Craig P. Anderson: Yeah. And so you’ve done this a couple of times, kind of moving into a new club. when you’re moving into that new leadership role as [00:18:00] kind of the CEO of the organization, what are the pitfalls you’ve learned to avoid? In that transition.

Chad Schultenover: I think the first one is don’t change too much, too quick. as leaders, oftentimes we’re type a personalities and we’ve been very successful in our past. And so. You want to take those same set of things and apply it to the new club.

Well, it could be a very geographic, different location. The traditions that may have been important at your prior club may not be important at this club. you really have to kind of take a step back and just see, what’s important to this membership. do I deliver the best possible service to these individuals?

and I think that’s where you know, being a well rounded leader serves you very well. because you, don’t try to affect too much change too quickly. that’s really, I think, been one of the staples in, in my career path as I’ve, progressively moved my career along is just, just be patient. I can always make that change tomorrow, but don’t make a decision until you need to make the decision type

Craig P. Anderson: Yeah. yeah. That’s really important. Cause if you go in and just blow things up right out of the gate as the new leader, I’m coming in, they brought me into change and I’m going to drive all this change and then. You start blowing things up and you’d be suddenly find, Oh, here are all these things that I didn’t know about yet.

And all of these undercurrents, right. And suddenly, man, did I make a series of mistakes and it can be a problem. but it’s attention, right? As you said, I’m a type a, I got here by doing things and then to slow yourself down mentally and say, no, I’m going to take three or four months. I’m going to learn what’s going on.

I’m going to get the rhythms down. That takes a lot of discipline. I would have.

Chad Schultenover: Yeah, it does. I mean, it doesn’t happen overnight. And, slowly over my career, I’ve learned how to be a little bit more patient. And understanding. But I mean, when I first came up, when I was first promoted at Stonebridge, was okay. I’m the guy in the driver’s seat. Now these are the changes I want to see made.

because I think this will, affect the club in a very positive way, whether it was for my team or for the membership. And that’s great. But when you move into a completely new place where you don’t know anyone and you don’t know the traditions, you don’t know the history, you don’t know the members, you don’t have those relationships, You can get yourself into trouble. You don’t have that social equity yet with that membership and with that team that you need to build and, building that is critical to your success and longevity in a club.

Craig P. Anderson: so talk a little bit when you. You’ve kind of gone through that process. You’ve gone through your listening phase, your discovery phase. you’ve gotten your feedback from the board and now I’ve got to get this vision going. How do I say, okay, you know, maybe we’re not changing it 180 degrees.

Maybe we’re only changing things 40 degrees, but you still have to kind of get people aligned with that vision. How do you start building toward that consensus when you have such multiple stakeholders that you deal with every day? Perfect.

Chad Schultenover: Yeah. I mean, to say it’s a political is an understatement. I mean, you’ve got to really know your constituents and understand, what motivates them and, how to get everyone going. Right. I think I have two pieces know, one is my team and the staff, the 100 plus employees that work for us, getting them on board is so much easier than getting the Board of directors on board.

And, I, I feel very fortunate, you know, at Meridian Hills right now, the board of directors that I have, the membership that we work for is some of the best I’ve been a part of my entire career, but you’ve got nine other individuals in there that have a history at that place and have history of being in voluntary leadership positions on the board.

And they also have ideas and thoughts. And really the thing that I’ve learned most in my industry is you can’t speak with just emotion in the boardroom. You’ve got to be able to bring data to the table. and you know, in hospitality, we think so much about experience and how did I feel? And while those things are paramount, there’s data that sits just underneath the surface of all those things.

that becomes critical to us making decisions. And I think that’s being able to bring that to the table and then also be able to speak to that emotional side when they’re in the boardroom is what gets everyone on the same page and, building a collective vision that we can go achieve together.

Craig P. Anderson: Okay. So last question, Chad, I’m going to give you a time machine. You can pick any time machine from fiction you want. And you’re going to go back in time to Chad on his first day. It’s, I think it was Stonebridge. You said at that first club, what’s the one piece of advice you would give him that would make him more effective, more comfortable, more calm, more efficient as a leader.

Chad Schultenover: I guess a nice glass of bourbon now. I would tell myself you need to listen more and build those relationships. You know, learn how to delegate better. don’t try to do everything yourself. As a leader, your job is not to put everything on your back.

Your job is to be able to, help put your arms around the backs of others and get them to go someplace. And I think sometimes. I could go back, that’s exactly what I tell myself. And I, I think I’d feel a lot better knowing that the future me knows what I’m doing and I’m on the right path.

I just. tweak a couple of these things and go to sleep a little easier at night.

Craig P. Anderson: Love it. All right. Well, Chad, before we close out. Where can people find you? Follow you, learn more about Meridian Hills. How can they connect?

Chad Schultenover: Meridian Hills Country Club, located in Indianapolis, Indiana. private country club. beautiful, wonderful amenities, golf course, racquet sports pool, fitness, and dining. you can find Meridian Hills on LinkedIn. you can also find me on LinkedIn, as well.

I’m also a part of, our Club Management Association of America. and there, I try to play as much of a role as I possibly can. I currently serve on, uh, Our Ohio Valley board of directors, as our education chair, just trying to get back to those, to the industry that’s given me so much.

but you can find us on LinkedIn. can also find Meridian Hills on Facebook as well.

Craig P. Anderson: We’ll drop all those links in the show notes. Chad, thank you so much for sharing the story of your executive evolutions today. I really appreciate your insights.

Chad Schultenover: Thanks, Craig. Appreciate it.

Craig P. Anderson: I really appreciate Chad’s insights.

It’s my first time interviewing somebody in his industry of hospitality to understand the way that industry moves and flows from a leadership perspective. I have some key takeaways that I want to share with you from this interview, and as always, I want to put them together in the areas of confidence, competence, and calm.

In the area of confidence, Chad talked about the importance of emotional intelligence. Obviously, we always want to look at IQ. We want smart people leading our teams. But emotional intelligence, as he talks about, is so important. The ability to understand people and know that sometimes you have to slow down and listen and really understand where they’re coming from and what’s driving some of their challenges before you spring into the answers.

A crucial component for all leaders is to work to develop that emotional intelligence. Second, in the area of competence, as I mentioned in the introduction to the show and as Chad talked about, strategic patience. It’s important to know when we’re observing and when it’s time to take action. As leaders, especially new leaders in new roles, we tend to want to jump in and start driving change.

But very few successful 90 day plans have intense amounts of change in the very first two to three weeks of that role. Strategic patience is realizing that sometimes it’s better to take time in order to make time for success on the back end. And then finally in the area of calm, he talked about the important role of kind of a peer mentor that he had.

Someone who he could share war stories with, who he could share, Insights with to get opinions from and really just a place to kind of burn off some of that anxiety and nervous energy that we all have in leadership roles. So I really appreciate how Chad talked about the importance of those kind of peer mentors that you can find even today in your worldview.

So great episode of Executive Evolution. Thank you so much, Chad, for sharing your story. As always, you can go from being an accidental leader to the greatest leader of all time. All it takes is developing your confidence, competence, and comp. See you next time on Executive Evolution.