Leader Volume 9, Number 12
Sand Traps: Tips from the Links
Walinskas is a professional engineer, speaker and freelance writer
in Dallas, Pennsylvania, who helps people and businesses that want
to communicate more effectively through The Speaking Connection (www.SpeakingConnection.com;
phone 800-807-0759; email@example.com).
What a wonderful
day in central Florida it is.
The sun is shining, a woodpecker gently taps on a nearby
cypress tree, and Iím standing on the first tee at Diamondback
golf course, ready to light up the scorecard by shooting in the
low eighties. I use a
three iron and stealthily launch a perfectly placed shot in the
center of the fairway. This
is going to be big. My
next effort is a four iron, safely landing 75 yards from the
bunker-guarded green on this short, but hazardous, par five.
Suddenly the heart palpitations are fast and furious, my
palms begin to sweat, and Iím feeling the heat because two
people Iíve never seen before, who my partner and I were paired
with, are awaiting my magnificent approach to the green.
I skull the sand wedge into the woods, and suddenly the
little setbacks that every person who has ever played this game
has faced start to loom larger and larger.
I make it off the course alive four and a half hours
later--sweat under my arms, sand in my shoes, and expletives
escaping my lips about the 110 I just regurgitated on this
golfers, I spend hours psychoanalyzing every failure of my
performance, and realized that I failed to manage the golf course
that was set before me on this day.
Bad things happened and I exacerbated them through a series
of seemingly orchestrated miscalculations and poor decisions, and
I came to an epiphany, an understanding that todayís
organizational managers and wanna-be leaders do the same things. Since many from this set are familiar with the game of golf,
I provide the following comparison and advice for consideration.
in the Bag
On the links, the
ego can cause a disruption in common sense and discretion. When
confronted with a 525-yard par five during the Florida fiasco, I
was fortunate enough to get off the tee and into the fairway for
about 250 yards. That leaves 275 to the hole.
What does the sensible angel on my left shoulder tell me to
do? Take a mid-iron
and lay the ball in the fairway about 120 yards out, then take a
full wedge to the green to make it on in regulation.
So what do you suppose the evil ego on my other shoulder
tells me? Hit a much
more difficult three-wood across a water hazard in front of the
green that I cannot reach anyway, leaving myself, even if I make
it across the swamp, a difficult up and down chip shot.
Bad call. I
fade into the water, take multi-stroke penalties and earn a
resulting eight for the hole.
How many times do
you make decisions that impact your organization to gratify your
ego? Do you call
meetings just so you can give a speech and impress, or does it
benefit the people who will hear you?
Are opportunities missed with customers just to prove
youíre a hard-nosed negotiator?
Do you dump good money after bad into a losing project just
because it was your baby from the beginning?
Sometimes we can win the battle and lose the war, but as
long as the ego is satisfied, we can rationalize these decisions
as the right thing to do. Iím
not suggesting that risk or tough management styles are bad;
theyíre not. Just
make sure its calculated risk, well thought out decisions with
help from your support team, and the worst score youíll card is
a bogey. Most of us
can live with that.
Golf and Misalignment
Cart golf is when
you and your partner hit shots in similar locations (hopefully the
fairway!) to prevent excess travel and shorten the game.
If your shot slices to the right and your playing partner
hooks left into the adjacent fairway, comic theater results as one
of you gets dropped off with a handful of clubs and the other dude
finds his ball in a land far away.
Maybe youíll meet up again at the green.
Often we lead in
different directions than the troops are going, and weíre lucky
to get back on the same page.
Oh, the goals might be the same, but if weíre not
careful, the practices that we use, the roads taken to reach those
goals, can diverge. Just
like in golf, everything will eventually come together in the end,
but at what expense and waste of time and energy?
Leaders need to constantly engage feedback systems to let
them know when key functions of a company become misaligned.
Engineering is designing cars and Sales wants to deal in
jet planes. Knowledge
of the divergence will steer you toward corrective action, getting
back in the fairway and proceeding together.
This has a bit of
ego management in it as well.
On the golf course, not enough club means you have
underestimated what it takes to get the job done, in this case
making the green on your approach shot.
You think if you can just catch it right, you can hit that
six iron 170 yards--but you fail to account for the wind, or the
level of the green, or the thickness of the rough, or a hundred
other things that can affect the shot results.
You come up woefully short of the mark.
Youíre chipping when you should be putting.
Leaders do this
to when confronted with tasks.
Sometimes we think that things take place by the force of
our own wills and fail to plan for the contingencies that can and
do happen. Murphyís
Law reigns supreme. What
we get is the under-funded project, the implementation without
enough training to make it happen right, and the embarrassment of
answering to the board for not delivering.
When driving change, it is critical to make sure that you
get an accurate resource analysis done before you begin.
Many failed projects would never have started if the
required capital, people and other resources were clear from the
beginning. The cost
to benefit ratio would be too high.
The better the
golf course, the more hazards youíll face.
The reward of doing well must be counterbalanced by the
risk of the game. Diamondback
had over 90 sand traps (bunkers).
Thatís more than five per hole, and that is a lot.
Water hazards were everywhere too, and thereís no coming
back from them. Then,
of course, comes my personal favorite--trees and woods, some of
them in the bunkers! The
thing that golfers good and bad learn is that you will eventually,
find a hazard or two. Even with the best-laid plans, execution will never be
then, comes from how you respond to encountering a course hazard.
The good golfers quickly shake it off and just try to get
back in the fairway, penalty stroke and all, and possibly save
bogey. The hackers
like myself throw a party around the hazard, playing in and out of
it over and over, trying to punch the ball through a six-inch fork
in a tree and wondering why we donít achieve success more often.
The golf mind focuses on whatever the dominant thought is,
and as I found out in Florida, whenever I inwardly whined,
ďDonít hit it in the bunker again, stupid!Ē Guess what
come at you the same way, whether itís the quagmire of
negotiating the union contract, dealing with a problem employee,
or losing that major customer.
True leaders recognize them for the bumps in the road that
they are and donít hold vigil over them.
They move on and cut their losses, knowing that you donít
win every day, just as long as you donít lose too big.
Business hazards may ruin the moment, but they donít cost
The fine game of
golf is amazingly symbolic of the challenges that leaders face.
Pay attention to what works in your golf/business game,
whether itís checking your ego, your alignment, picking the
right tool for the task, or dealing with the myriad hazards. Those solutions will provide you with keen insights for
leadership on the job.