Leadership on the Links: Birdies and Bogies

In Harvey Pennick’s Little Red Book:  Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf, the author shares a story of a brief conversation with someone he met at his church.  The story goes like this:

A woman at church remarked to me, ‘Harvey, that game you play doesn’t make sense.  You hit a ball 250 yards off the tee and it counts [as] one stroke, the same as for a three- or four-foot putt!

Pennick himself admitted to the fellow churchgoer that many a golfer has long-been challenged to explain why all shots count the same in golf.  And while most golfers will also admit some shots seem to count more, the fact remains that all shots count–and that in itself is a lesson we should all draw much from.

In life, like in golf, everything we do actually does count.  And when we pause and consider the frequency with which the ‘little things’ actually significantly fill our day, we soon realize that the little things are in fact every bit as important as the bigger actions we make.

Let’s go back to the golf analogy for a moment.  A 250 yard shot off the tee requires much to accomplish:  The player must assess the field laid out in front of him or her.  The player then must consider their level of play, including their consistency in the use of one club or another, and they must not under- nor over-estimate their calculations.  Too much club can be as damaging as too little; and failing to consider hazards that exist between the beginning and the end can lead to disastrous results.  Most importantly, a well-calculated and executed shot must be capitalized upon by making that 4-foot shot that remains.   What makes that next shot one that will be approached with confidence?  Many golfers will tell you that practice and vision.

Leaders will tell you the same thing.

This is because the leader of an organization understands the importance of being able to support their teams by anticipating what the future may include.   By creating a vision for opportunities for success after a significant stride by the organization has been made, the leader then ensures that the next step someone on that team takes will bring them all to a new level.  Leaders help their colleagues continue to ‘read’ the surface and conditions of their environments, and teach their organizations to constantly remain prepared to make adjustments–even anticipate changes in direction–likely to occur before they all arrive to their intended destination.

It becomes very clear as each of those steps and actions are taken to complete a project, program or assignment, that we must also periodically record our efforts.   This is important, because we can learn much from our previous performances through benchmarking as well as assessments of our future performance in similar or new arenas.

Finally, the leader of the developing organization, like the dedicated golfer (see, “Redundant Phrase”), will find many opportunities to allow for those skills in need of improvement to be tested, re-evaluated, and developed again.  The leader will also help colleagues to learn new scenarios to assess their progress.

As the saying goes, “The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.”  For the leader of the learning and progressing organization, successes found during preparation inevitably lead to larger successes during implementation.

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