Monday, August 4, 2008

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

This week is the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) tournament, the 4th “Major” golf tournament of the year. It is named for the thousands of teaching professionals in golf. The tournament pays tribute to the professional golfers who spend their lives leading and teaching all the rest of us who play this game as a hobby.

Can a golf-pro teach a CEO something about running a company successfully? The answer may surprise you. James F. Bracher of the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership wrote about this in 2006. I’d like to build on some of what he wrote.

Successful PGA golf professionals not only play well but also relate with many different people, maintaining commitments to the highest principles of golf. 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.

They understand and model the behaviors required to play golf at a consistently high level. They are golf professionals because they are able to:
> Create a game plan and follow it. They have it written down so they and their support staff (the caddy) are always on the same page.
> Assess circumstances continuously, both opportunities and risks.
> Concentrate, relying on individual routine throughout performance.
> Stick with decisions, visualizing and executing without uncertainty or fear.
> Control emotions, including anxiety and tension, quieting the mind.
> Stay in the moment, concentrating - leaving bad shots behind.
> Maintain confidence and rhythm; sustaining balance and calm.
> Remember to see, feel and hit the ball - with confidence and intensity.
> Work with the best people to keep their skills at the highest level.
> Keep score with integrity. Golf is self policing and professionals not only follow the rules, they help teach others about the rules and the reasons behind them.

Are you starting to see the similarities for the performance requirements of a CEO?

The next time you play or watch golf, be alert for the leadership behaviors and think how you can model your CEO or senior executive behavior.

Added Note:
By now we know that Padraig Harrington won the PGA and the way he did it is a perfect example of the above behaviors. In the final round, Harrington was tied with Sergio Garcia for the lead as they approached the 17th green. Harrington’s ball was 10 feet away, Garcia’s 4 feet away. Seems like an advantage for Garcia.

However, you may recall that Harrington is coming off a win at the British Open and Garcia who has never won a major tournament faded at the British Open and lost in a playoff last year there to Harrington.

The pressure should have been on Harrington given the relative distances of the putts. But it wasn’t. Harrington followed the attributes above and sank the putt. Garcia missed his and Harrington went on to win.

A very good example for CEOs and other senior executives.


John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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