“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated. It satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening—it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” Arnold Palmer
I believe business is very similar.
Like a lot of people, the profession and industry I have worked in for nearly 30 years is not the one I dreamed of being part of. My dream as a kid was to be a professional footballer (soccer for you Aussie and American readers). In fact, if you’ve ever asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, you will have heard me say that I was going to be the next David Beckham – even before there was a David Beckham! I was a good footballer, but a phone call at 16 saying I hadn’t made it, scuppered my dreams. With this devastating news, I decided to take up golf. Quickly addicted, I played at every opportunity and fell in love with the game, the rules, the etiquette and the whole essence of the game.
When it comes to golf I’m a romantic, also loving the discipline the game demands. If you are to have any chance of becoming a good player, you need to understand that golf is played 95% in the head.
“Success – He who is king is he who truly rules his kingdom, the 6 inches between his ears!”
The same is true to become a successful leader. Tough calls and decisions, responsibilities that affect both the business and the team involved. With a focused mind, great leadership comes down to being cool and calm under pressure, believing in, and backing your decisions. Throughout my career I have been fortunate to work alongside and be mentored by some great leaders.
My experience of great business leaders is that they are competitive, very competitive. It’s this driver that forces them to get up in the morning and compels them to be the best. Before I became a half decent businessman I became a good golfer, (Yes that’s me in the picture above), I was lucky enough to play in some high pressure matches, club championships, pennants and match-play finals. This later afforded me the opportunity to play with some top businessmen who were also good golfers, which created the fascination on how my opponents reacted under pressure. The slightest nick in their mental armour could mean a downward spiral on the golf course, and I believe the way people react under pressure during the game of golf is a direct correlation of how they act in the boardroom.
So let’s look at the traits of a few “types” of players:
- The detail seeker– these people are never content. On the golf course they analyse the mechanics of every part of their swing. They hit a tee shot 300 yards down the middle of the fairway to applaud from their playing partners, only to moan that it wasn’t a great shot or didn’t quite come out of the middle of the club! In the boardroom they’re the ones interrogating every aspect and finite detail, never completely satisfied and always pushing the team for almost impossible results. This isn’t a terrible trait but can get in the way, slowing opportunities down and hindering success.
- The hot head– these are the people who fly off the handle at the slightest miss hit. On the golf course they swear, bluster and throw their clubs at any shot that doesn’t go their way. Acting negatively, even though it’s only one shot, to the detriment of their whole game. In the boardroom these people curse, shout and bully their team at the first sign of a bad result. They’re not big picture thinkers, they only see short-term effects and are reactive with short-sighted answers and actions.
- The competitor– this person is the full package. On the course they are there to have fun and compete. Relaxed and chatty during the round, but when it’s time to strike the ball, they prepare and focus. Picturing the shot, dismissing negative thoughts of duffs and shanks, to find that one true shot each time, knowing the outcome before stepping up and delivering it. When a shot goes astray there’s no panic. It’s just one shot out of a whole round. The bigger picture is always the final score. Thriving on the challenge, the competition, the thrill of the cause and the glory of the win. In the boardroom these people are the inspirational CEO’s or leaders that the business needs to drive results and success. If not already a leader, they are the up and comers, with a natural talent to attract followers who will easily believe in their cause and abilities to stay focused on the end result.
The business world is like the golf course, always changing and affected by the environment. The weather and the condition on the course in golf, the political and financial playing field, amongst others in business.
As a golfer and a leader we must navigate the hazards and choose our best play to achieve the results we desire based on the changing environment, adapting to ensure we don’t fall short. So when you are back out on the golf course or in the boardroom remember that your actions and behaviour reflects who you are!
Let me know what kind of player you are and how you think that behaviour reflects who you are in business?