Love and leadership

Features - Management

The workplace is changing faster than the turf. Carlos Arraya, CGCS, offers his secret to managing different generations on your team.

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January 10, 2019
Carlos Arraya, CGCS
© Kevin Carden | Adobe Stock
One of Bellerive CC's regular safety meetings.

You may be wondering what this article is all about? Honestly, it’s two-fold. First, I must admit I’m repurposing my own writing as this article was published in our local superintendent newsletter. The feedback was so positive, and many colleagues requested I share it with a large-scale audience. So, here we go. Secondly, my hope is it’s something new for you to ponder or at the very least enjoy.

The purpose of this article is to allow myself to be vulnerable. Yes, you read that correctly. A person (in my case, being a man), admitting he wants to be vulnerable. My vulnerability centers around sharing with you my own professional secret that has allowed me to achieve great success in the area of building and developing teams (culture).

Am I able to grab your attention long enough to share with you my secret so you can apply it in a fashion that may fit you? Are you vulnerable enough to admit you want to read further and not get frustrated by a peer’s opinion on a sensitive topic? If so, keep reading.

There is a mighty ever-growing challenge in our workplace and it’s not turf related. It has nothing to do with erratic weather patterns or perfect greens. It has everything to do with the people. Yes, the people are the new age challenge. In my view, they represent our greatest opportunity to further cement our greatness as superintendents. Long gone are the days where folks were frustrated over who is assigned to mowing the rough and who is always favored to rake a bunker. Also, long gone are the days where you provided a uniform, lunch and benefits package to employees and you were in good shape. These basic employee benefits 10 to 15 years ago resulted in new applications overflowing our desks.

Employee recognition events are key parts of the management program at Bellerive CC.
© photos courtesy of Carlos arraya

Believe it or not, the day has arrived where people will take less money for the right fit for themselves and a desire to work in a great culture. That’s right. A clash of the titans is occurring in our workplace. It is documented that currently in the workplace there are four different generations represented and working on a golf course at the same time: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z. It seems impressive until after careful review. Significant challenges are driven by behavioral differences of individuals representing each generation.

In more general terms, we are crossing old-school managerial expectations with the need for autonomy, more time off, connectivity and self-worth with the new school. All of us are experiencing this at such a rapid pace that we are either blaming a labor shortage on our labor issues or choosing to ignore the fact it’s hard to recruit and retain staff that are clashing without authentic leadership.

What might be happening is that we are having a trouble recognizing leadership skills necessary to change and meet the needs of the people, whether it’s Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y or whatever other great label attached to our lovely folks. And we still must deliver impeccable golf conditions! Honestly, let’s embrace it, because it’s not going away and gaining traction in the entire world outside of our golf courses.

So, how do you lead the various personalities clashing like titans at your facility and create a work culture that is cohesive, self-motivating, and produces extrinsic and intrinsic benefits for everyone on your team? How do you handle old school vs. new school workers?

Members of the Bellerive CC green committee participate in "teaching days" with the staff.
© photos courtesy of Carlos arraya

My Secret

Remember I told you my purpose was to be vulnerable. So, my secret is vulnerable because it’s not conventional. I aspire to be a leader. My behavioral skill sets clearly define me as an organizational change agent and a hard driver for success. I have been blessed, like all of you, to be cursed by the love of turf and have established a reputation to deliver organizational workplace cultures that are transcending courses.

My success is in my secret. My professional secret is summed up for you as a four-letter word. Not the four-letter word you would expect, but the most powerful four-letter word in our world: love. Love has almost become taboo in the golf industry. But, love the old school – and love the new school. Love to manage or lead using your authentic being. Love yourself to know when you’re right, yet love yourself as much, if not more, when you are wrong. Love enough to recognize and educate to the world how hour industry is hard, but it’s rewarding. Educating the world isn’t so burdensome, as some like to communicate via social media platforms.

Love your staff and dedicate the appropriate time getting to know them beyond who is the best at cutting cups or mowing greens. Love team members enough to value their views and perspectives of your operations. Love in your own authentic way that grows a culture focused on people’s growth and conditioning as much as the turf receives growth and conditioning. Love to set your department as the example at the club no matter the staff size. Some of you are already loving in this way, although you may not term it love. I do, because it frees me to be different and it allows my team’s culture to feel distinctively different.

This a two-part secret. That love is not only mushy, gushy or a rah-rah speech, which I get accused of on social media. Love will deliver exceptional expectations and accountability in your facility. Love enough to terminate and free anyone who is a bad fit for your team. Love the lifer employee. Have faith in love in the workplace. Be a leader who loves. Love is the most powerful four-letter word. It’s an action that will develop. Most importantly, love will help tame the clash of the titans in the workplace. Let’s lead, be free and love.

Carlos Arraya, CGCS, is the director of agronomy and grounds at Bellerive CC in St. Louis, Mo.