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"What they didn't teach you in business school that your golf professional might"

April 2, 2006                              by James F. Bracher*

Article clipping imageCan a golf-pro teach a CEO something about running a company successfully? The answer may surprise you. Successful golf professionals not only play well but also relate maturely with many different people, maintaining commitments to the highest principles of golf. They perform excellently, while simultaneously managing others productively. They teach students of all ages constructively and communicate effectively; while simultaneously mastering their own emotional reactions, intellectual and strategic challenges and performance demands. Playing consistently at or below par defines the scratch golfer, but not necessarily a golf professional. Those at the top of the game can teach more than driving, chipping and putting. They are master leaders as well. First, they understand and model the behaviors required to play golf at a consistently high level. They are golf professionals because they are able to:

  • Control emotions, including anxiety and tension, quieting the mind
  • Stay in the moment, concentrating - leaving bad shots behind
  • Assess circumstances continuously, both opportunities and risks
  • Concentrate, relying on individual routine throughout performance
  • Stick with decisions, visualizing and executing without uncertainty or fear
  • Maintain confidence and rhythm; sustaining balance and calm
  • Remember to see, feel and hit the ball - with confidence and intensity
  • Acknowledge that performance at this level has already qualified those who have the talent and discipline to perform, consistently, at the highest levels. At the professional level, it is foremost about attitude - monitoring and controlling emotions; and, of course, keeping score with integrity.

Second, as managers working with and through others, like other executives, golf professionals exhibit these seven "best-in -class" inspiring leadership behaviors. They elect to be the role model for what is expected from others - all the time; establish goals with clear parameters that encourage innovation, risk and experimentation, leveraging original ideas and creativity. Productive professionals clarify accountabilities, measuring frequently and consistently; reward appropriately for high levels of performance and innovation; and, teach constantly. Leaders replace those, in timely ways, who are unwilling or unable to "be" partners and supporters of high-level client-centered service culture. Golf professionals embrace the entrepreneurial approach with optimism, seeing obstacles as opportunities, with a clear focus on providing goods and services that generate legitimate profits.

You are now halfway through this essay about Golf Professionals and Leadership. Have you discovered many differences between effective golf leadership and general management? The answer is probably no. Ancient Wisdom teaches that "Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power." Golf professionals and effective executives master themselves first before presuming to manage others. So what two additional insights might be learned by observing competent golf professionals?

Third, successful golf professionals are also teachers. Like effective executives, they transfer performance excellence to students or colleagues, of all ages, all the time. They know that teaching with impact involves asking the right questions, after having made, and then confirmed, perceptive observations. Golf professionals and other effective leaders make every effort to incorporate these six constructive actions into their daily interactions. They determine the development objectives of the student - assessing physical ability, strength, coordination and capacity; and, evaluate client expectations against current assets - confirming reasonable goals, while setting legitimate improvement milestones that a professional can justify.

Leaders know how to utilize client-specific tools and processes that accelerate learning - always leveraging the uniqueness of each instructor's assets, both intellectual and athletic. These tools may include: video equipment and data to confirm developmental needs, training aids and golf-swing improvement exercises, varied environments - practice facilities versus on-course play and coaching, and always, keeping records to monitor progress.

Golf professionals and executives make sure clients receive what they want as well as what they need; and, they create improvement plan, with milestones, with recovery steps when objectives are not met.

Fourth, and finally, successful golf professionals communicate competencies, capacities and values. They know that communications effectiveness is almost always about congruence between what one says and how one operates. Once again it is about balancing and integrating the demands of the emotional, intellectual and physical. Communicating is about feeling the message, understanding the requirements of the listening audience and then doing the real work of choosing relationship-building words and presenting them in transforming ways. Both the golf professional and the successful executive know their own strengths and weaknesses and are open about them. Since others observe us anyway, and generally have a good sense for where we are, then why not save the stress caused by denial, and simply be more transparent?

Effective communicators ask for assistance, graciously, and are prepared to provide an elevator speech to anyone, at almost any time, which needs to be about 30 seconds in length, that defines the skills and services for which one is paid. Concise introductions are good marketing. They are also excellent methods to lead others toward developing roles and responsibilities that will support the lead function, streamlining and strengthening teamwork, productivity and profitability. In addition, talented professionals recognize that the leader is seldom, if ever, off duty and as a consequence, being the role model is likely to be the most effective way to communicate who one is, what can be provided, and how well those tasks will be performed. As a consequence they continuously refine verbal and non-verbal communication skills, as the demands and expectations continue to rise throughout careers. For the golf professional or corporate leader, the key to success is continuous learning, whether as performer, manager, teacher or communicator. Listening is essential.

In conclusion, leadership requirements are the same for the golf professional, corporate executive, parent, surgeon, teacher, religious leader, farmer, politician, attorney, gardener or technologist. Professionals always do the job with excellence, helping others learn while consistently communicating with sensitivity and graciousness. Leadership, just about everywhere, is about competence, courage and communication. It begins and ends with listening and, always, with integrity.

*James F. Bracher

Jim Bracher*Jim Bracher is the architect for the renewal of integrity-centered leadership. He created the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership as an extension of his 35 years advising 8000 individuals and 400 organizations. The motivation for the Bracher Center grew from suggestions of clients. They realized that Jim's executive development firm, Dimension Five Consultants, Inc., Monterey, California, was founded in 1980, and had been collecting data concerning effective and integrity-centered leadership. Clients and friends recognized his knowledge could enable those in positions of responsibility to gain insight into their own operational effectiveness as well as that of their organizations – improving service quality and the bottom-line. Member: Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Pebble Beach, California; and, Tehama Golf Club, Carmel Valley, California. Client: DNA Golf, since 1998, learning to play golf at a higher level while studying professional golfers and their leadership responsibilities.

Co-author: Integrity Matters with Daniel E. Halloran, 2004.