Leadership Lessons from Golf

LESSONS IN LEADERSHIP FROM THE GREATEST GAME OF THEM ALL
Lesson #1:
WHEN THINGS GO AWRY CHECK YOUR FUNDAMENTALS

Tournament Golf like business is a dynamic and volatile affair and change is probably the only constant in the game. For that reason trends, both good and bad, up or down are the order of the day.
When I work with a tournament golfer (any golfer for that matter) the first thing that we check on are the fundamentals such as Grip, alignment, stance and posture. Now consider the fact that these are tremendously simple things to check on when it comes to a golfer of world-class caliber, but know also that these areas tend to run off from time to time due to the nature of the game. When that happens the tournament player typically makes some sort of compensation to still get the ball to the target. It is with that compensation that things start to go pear-shaped. Then as one thing leads to another that very talented tour player can get significantly off-kilter. What we do then is check the fundamentals, ensure that they are correct and from there we identify the compensations that have been made and we trace their ripple effect through the swing.
So when things go awry, make sure that your business fundamentals are on the mark and if not rectify those. From there, identify the compensations that have begun to take place as a result and address those also.
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Lesson #2:
GO TO YOUR “GO-TO”

Every good golfer has an area of the game that he is good at and a good tournament player will make every attempt to put himself in as many situations where he can take advantage of that strength as possible.
Now you need to know that even the tournament player does his own SWOT analysis (to a certain extent) and identifies opportunities where he can improve. The reality of the situation though is that there is not a Silver Bullet and often times the vain search therefore actually ends up being detrimental.
The advice I often give any accomplished golfer is to work on improving weakness and to take advantage of potential opportunities, but in no way, shape or form should this endeavor result in negligence of his strengths. If that happens you will have a tournament player that is always in limbo, working on something new, who doesn’t really have anything to go to when the chips are down.
So identify your strengths and do not neglect them as you do not want them to go away as you strive for something new. Your strengths are valuable and deserve your attention as much as any potential opportunity.
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Lesson #3:
GET EQUIPPED FOR AND EXPECT ADVERSITY

In golf even your best days have a few moments where the momentum can change from good to bad. My dear friend and client, Larry Mize, calls there moments “O.T.E’s” or Opportunities to Excel. One of the keys to be able to make the most of adverse situations is certainly a positive and focused demeanor and attitude, but I do believe that a certain amount of preparedness goes a long way to surviving and indeed thriving in adverse situations.
That begs a question that I address with every tournament player that I work with: Are you prepared for adversity and when it comes do you have the tools to remain calm and sort through your workable options in a systematic and savvy fashion. For a golfer it always just comes back to going to what you know for sure and that is HABIT. When things get rough, it is crucial to know yourself intimately and know your typical response to the “Fight or Flight” syndrome that the body will invariably undergo in times of pressure. That is the best preparation one can have.
In summary, adversity is a given and you need to go into every day expecting it. To make the most of the situation, a poised and systematic mindset is crucial… know your business habits and tendencies as an awareness and an honest consideration of these will help you to navigate the tough times.
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Lesson #4:
UNDERSTAND AND RESPECT THE LAW OF DIMINISHING RETURNS

The economic principle of Diminishing Returns is particularly applicable in the game of golf. Almost on a daily basis I see a golfer who has taken a good lesson and learned something beneficial only to overdo it and have the positive adjustment turn negative.
I often draw the analogy of a plane flying to illustrate this point as the golf ball flies just like an airplane. If you are piloting a plane and it starts to turn to the left you would gently lean on the joystick to level off the wings and fly straight again. You certainly wouldn’t heave the joystick over to the right as you would overcorrect and fly as badly in the opposite direction as you were previously – either way you are not on on-course. In fact I have talked with many a pilot about this very fact and to a man all of them have mentioned that if the plane is trimmed correctly you can steer a plane with a gentle finger-touch.
So just as you would when you adjust the water temperature in the shower or drive a car know where your point of Diminishing Returns is and keep that in mind as you run your business. I certainly try to stress it to my clients – beginner or professional.
Harvey Penick Quote: ‘If the doctor recommends two aspirin you shouldn’t go and take the whole bottle.”
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Lesson #5:
CULTIVATE A LOVE AFFAIR WITH YOUR CRAFT OR YOUR JOB

Playing tournament golf is like being in a marriage – it has its ups and it has its downs – and just like marriage the key to longevity and a healthy union is a deep love that will carry you through the tough times.
This is something that I sadly have to address with certain tournament players who have been grinded to their quick by tournament pressures and failures.
I firmly believe that real love and a deep passion are requisite to success in both sport and the business-world. As a result I try to stimulate an environment on my team where the game of golf is loved more for what it is and stands for than what it possibly could do for the young men. I recommend this to many leaders in business too as sometimes we get so concerned with the bottom line that we forget that we are dealing with human beings who have emotions and feelings – people who if they lose their passion are highly unlikely to give their all to each and every task, no matter how menial.
So cultivate an environment which engages employees and helps them to understand the real nature of the business – if they have this understanding (or if they feel important) they are infinitely more likely to connect passionately to their craft or their job.
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Lesson #6:
CELEBRATE AND CHERISH THE SUCCESSES

Beware of what I call the “Moving Goal Post syndrome.”
I certainly fall prey to this every so often and I have to consciously pull my mind back to the present. Obviously in my work with tournament players I am charged to help them find their very best and as a result our work is directed and defined by a set of goals. The issue with that though is the human being’s indomitable spirit which is encoded to conquer and have dominion. In other words one goal gets achieved and as that happens you quickly move on to achieve the next. The problem with this approach though is that it can have a negative outcome as the player is in a constant state of “strive”. On the flip-side of the coin, that very player never takes time to sit back and contemplate and enjoy the successes that he or she has achieved. Very quickly then a negative mind-set can spring to the fore and as I say to all of my clients “I would rather you lose your swing than you lose your mind.”
So celebrate and cherish every success – no matter how big or small. It helps to breed a winning, successful mindset which in my opinion is as important as anything.
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Lesson #7:
KEEP IT SIMPLE … AND COMMUNICATE

In my opinion simplicity is genius in itself. In my field, too often the next thing is the next big thing so trends and fads are often times the order of the day. That being said, things on the PGA TOUR have to be cutting edge and catchy and as a result teachers and instructors have started to reinvent the wheel in an effort to separate themselves and distinguish their service. The advent of “named” methods is proof of this. In the final analysis the golf swing has a purpose and that purpose is a sound interaction between a golf club and a ball – it was like that in the 1800’s and I am sure it will be like that in the 22nd century and beyond.
So bear in mind Albert Einstein’s famous quote in all of your business dealings:
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”
Also, in your communication remember Einstein’s opinion on dialog: “If you can’t explain it to a six-year old you don’t understand it well enough.”
Finally, I make every effort to open the lines of communication and listen to my student as much as I talk. I constantly ask them questions because I am a firm believer that my message is only as good as what it is received. Further, remember always that communication is measured by comprehension, not eloquence of delivery.
Keep it simple, listen and find a way to communicate in a manner that is sure to resonate with the receiver – you will be surprised at the results.
Thank you and God Bless you.
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