How big are you willing to go?

Columns - game plan

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November 8, 2021

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Did the fact that Jack Nicklaus won only 18 majors in his career limit Tiger Woods’ greatness?

It’s a question Dr. Bob Rotella, the renowned sports psychologist, poses in the opening pages of his most recent book, “Make Your Next Shot Your Best Shot.”

Rotella’s question is not meant to set up a debate about which is the game’s greatest player. Instead, his argument is that by setting his goal at Jack’s total of 18 majors, Tiger may have placed his bar too low. “What if Jack had won 22 majors? Wouldn’t Tiger’s goal have been 22 and wouldn’t he have won more than his current total of 15 by now?” he reasons.

The point, Rotella says, is that golfers should set incredibly ambitious goals for themselves. “A huge advantage of high goals is where you end up if you get it all, but another big advantage is where you end up if you don’t get it all,” he writes.

A 12-handicapper might set a goal of being a scratch player. If, after a year or two of hard work, belief, patience and discipline, he or she is only a 4-handicap, that’s still an incredible achievement; and a 4-handicapper is better than 90 percent of golfers at most clubs.

Shouldn’t the same kind of ambitious thinking and goalsetting apply to people other than athletes? To superintendents, GMs, F&B managers and directors of golf? And to the clubs and courses they maintain and manage?

It’s that time of year, when we look ahead to next year’s plans for course maintenance, capital improvements, F&B, amenities and member services. But before we close the 2022 plan, let’s add another page – one for personal improvement. And let’s get honest about our leadership skills and abilities:

  • What are my strengths, and more important, where do I have weaknesses?
  • How effective am I as a communicator?
  • Am I a careful listener?
  • Do I delegate the right tasks at the right times?
  • Do my actions and words consistently inspire my team?
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    You’ll probably have a few more questions like these. These kinds of questions deserve conscientious introspection. Find a quiet spot early one morning or after you leave for the day, away from the course where you can fill a few pages in a notebook with thoughts and reflections.

    During this exercise, you’ll find that some things rise to the top of the list. These are the areas where your personal goals and the goals of the club or course intersect. These become your priorities.

    Let’s say the course plans to change from bentgrass to Bermudagrass greens, a project that’s sure to elicit lots of heated discussion among members. And let’s suppose that communication skills are an area of self-improvement that you know you want to work on.

    Your BHAG (Bold, Hairy, Audacious Goal) might be that you’re going to be the course’s best communicator on this subject. That your written explanations in the club newsletter and your presentations to members will not only outshine those of your peers but also increase acceptance of the plan. That’s an ambitious goal for someone who doesn’t consider themself a strong communicator.

    But you get busy … you ask a member who teaches at the local college to critique your first draft of your newsletter story, you take an online class to polish your PowerPoint skills and you get your kid to help you shoot some video. And with the same dedication that Tiger has pursued Jack’s record-setting 18 majors, with the hard work, belief, patience and discipline that Dr. Rotella says is critical to shoot-the-moon goals, it’s one that’s within your reach.

    And if you come up a little short — maybe, in your honest opinion, yours is only the second-best communication effort among department heads, but it contributes to members’ understanding and acceptance — you’ve still outshined most everyone at your facility.

    Now it’s time to set a new, even more ambitious goal.

    Henry DeLozier is a partner at GGA Partners, trusted advisors and thought leaders. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors of Audubon International.