Ideas take teamwork

Columns - outside the ropes

June 8, 2022

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Key to being a great superintendent is being a good leader. And key to being a good leader is acknowledging and embracing the good ideas from others on your team. If you think you’re the only one with good ideas or don’t encourage, credit and embrace the good ideas coming from others, you’re hurting your course, your staff and yourself.

If all the good ideas are yours, then you’re probably doing a bad job encouraging others to contribute. If all their ideas are bad, you’re probably not properly communicating what their jobs are and what’s expected of them. If they’re not contributing any ideas, they are scared of you. Those situations are problems you need to fix, pronto! You, the course and the crew all benefit only when work is a collective effort. Real improvement only comes when good communication is coupled with innovative solutions, solid decisions and shared credit.

One of the greatest leaders — and hockey players — I’ve ever witnessed, Mark Messier, said, “People cannot only act in different ways, but they can think in different ways than I ever imagined. From there I realized that intolerance is often due to a person not being able to recognize this fact.”

In other words, not only is each of us unique, how we think is unique. How can you secure and implement the best ideas from your team?

Listen. No, REALLY listen.

  • Finding a great idea starts with being open-minded and willing to listen to all input.
  • A new idea might sound foolish at first, but that is not a reason
  • to immediately shut it down. Use it as a springboard, a first step to finding a better idea buried inside.
  • You’re not the only one who should listen; your staff should too. Then when ideas are shared among the group, get them bouncing off each other, looking for more and better ideas.

Never settle on one thought

  • One idea or a single way of accomplishing a task may not be enough.
  • Multiple thoughts from your team will contribute to creativity and opportunities for success.
  • As the leader, steer your team toward a common destination.

Look in unusual places

I experienced this firsthand during my years at the USGA when then-executive director David Fay challenged staff to search “high and low” for the next big thing, no matter where it came from.

  • A good leader always attempts to cultivate attention and curiosity.
  • The next “big idea” could come from anywhere, even something as everyday as watching an old movie or poking through the kitchen cupboards.
  • Unusual places can also mean people. Believe it or not, someone in the pro shop might have a good idea regarding course maintenance. But you’ll never know if you don’t ask.

Support your staff

A senior advertising executive once said that a new idea “can be killed by a sneer or a yawn.” That means along with remaining open-minded you must watch your body language, facial expressions and other physical reactions.

That same ad exec added that “pragmatic people often shoot down the creative ones who keep generating ideas.” Again, that means being open-minded, but especially if you’re more of a “get it done” person than a “what’s a better way to get it done?” person. And if you don’t have any “big thinkers” on your team, you might want to find some.

Personality vs. purpose

Can a great idea come from someone you dislike or don’t respect? Of course! Don’t let your first response be dismissive or you may miss an opportunity.

  • You don’t have to like someone to like their idea. Put away your prejudice and consider the idea rationally and dispassionately.
  • Don’t fall back on “consider the source.” This may end up hurting you and your staff.
  • Someone doesn’t need to have an agreeable personality to come up with ideas you can agree with.

Take your ego out of the game

Do not stop others from being their best because their ideas are better than yours. Swallow your pride, listen and remember the ultimate objective.

I learned the hard way that my ideas aren’t always the best, even though I still think they are!

Tim Moraghan, principal, ASPIRE Golf ( Follow Tim’s blog, Golf Course Confidential, at or on Twitter @TimMoraghan