Category Archives: teamwork

spiethHe got our attention this year.

Jordan Spieth had already had great success in college as a teenage amateur and won his first PGA tour event at only 19 in 2013. Last year he appeared regularly near the top of the leaderboard, won two more tournaments, played well for the US team in the Ryder Cup and broke into the top 10 of the World Golf Rankings.

But this year as he turned 22, we all noticed him.  He won five PGA tournaments, including the Masters, US Open, the Tour Championship and Fedex Cup, topped the World Golf Ranking three times, earned over $22 million in prize money and dominated all the individual performance awards. His consistently charming, humble and polite manner through it all have won him fans around the world and, not coincidentally, bumped his primary sponsor, Under Armour, to new levels of sales success.

So what he does he do differently to win so often and what can we learn from his approach to golf? He is obviously a talented, hard-working athlete, but so are all the top competitors he is up against.  It has to be more than talent and hard work.

Watching him and listening to him we start to understand where he gets the edge. First, he has mastered every element of the game - driving, approach shots, putting and recovering from trouble. He is near the top in every category and he does it without any drama.  Not the longest, strongest, most exciting or spectacular, just very, very good when he needs to be.  Second, he prepares meticulously to understand every nuance and peculiarity of the course he is playing. Third, he uses all the resources of his support team, including his caddy and friend, his coaches and his family. Finally, he manages his emotions, stays focused and makes good decisions during the round.  Part of that process is continually assessing his performance and adjusting his attitude, his swing or his strategy on the fly. It is part of his style to vent and talk to himself during the round.  No attempt to maintain the stoic, unemotional façade of his competitors. Sharing his emotions relieves stress for Jordan Spieth and provides clear feedback for his followers.

Consider your own management style and you may find opportunities to use his approach for better results in your business.  Remember the simple principles: master all elements of the game, prepare meticulously for every contest, use the whole team, manage effectively based on continuous feedback.

And avoid trouble if you can, but have options if you cannot.

Business is like golf

And Europe wins again, decisively.  How can all the golf stars from America keep coming up short in the team competition against Europe known as the Ryder Cup? Held every two years, it's now 8 out of the last 10 won by Europe.Ryder Cup

Somehow the European players from the UK, Germany, Sweden and France have found a way to play better golf consistently.  My observation is that the Europeans are able to focus on playing their best golf under pressure by focusing on the team and keeping it fun.  The Americans get preoccupied with patriotism, pride and politics  - looking good for their country  - and choke on the pressure.  Not their best golf.

It would be easy to blame it on the nature of PGA Tour golf as an individual sport. For 23 months of 24 (ignoring the occasional interruption for the President's Cup - US against the rest of the world except Europe - and now the occasional Olympic experience) every tournament is about earning some prize money and looking good for the sponsors.  Then suddenly there is a new commitment required to represent your country against very high expectations and the constant questioning of why him, not another guy? It would be unfair to suggest any lack of motivation because of the missing prize money.  This is not the FedEx Cup playoffs worth over $10 million to the winner.

So the biggest challenge goes to the captain of these solitary golf superRyder Europestars getting them to think differently for  the Ryder Cup.  Stay focused and relaxed to perform at your best. Paul McGinley got the best out of his team, Tom Watson did not. Selecting a captain for coaching skills is more important than recognizing past champions for their accomplishments.

Very similar to the Sales Manager trying to manage a group of individual sales reps all focused on making their commissions and bonuses.  Requiring them to be part of the larger team and move together towards corporate objectives of profitability and long term value respecting social and environmental responsibilities.  Not a simple tweaking of sales compensation, but constant coaching to play as a team and achieve winning results.

When the seasons overlap, it's hard not to notice the differences between hockey and golf as businesses.

The PGA Tour is almost unique in that it is owned and operated by the players themselves (maybe ATP tennis is similar). For NHL hockey (and most other major league sports) the owners are often in opposition to the players and their union. It's almost socialism versus capitalism.  Or at least democracy and active participation in the business versus rampant exploitation of the hired help. (borderline slavery?)

So which is better? And for whom? 

For the owners, the PGA is better run and more consistently profitable. Hockey team owners are willing to indulge their vanity with huge losses. For the players, both sports seem to do very well for the top performers.  But the PGA is strictly based on personal performance - you earn what you win.  Thousands don't make the grade for the Tour and work for basic wages at the local course.

For hockey players, they have the protection of team mates helping them win and their agents and the union protecting their earnings.  Still thousands don't make it to the big show and take their lunps in lessor leagues.

What about the paying customers? 

Both sports essentially are selling entertainment to their fans and the sponsors.  It seems to work.  You might argue that fans get more for their money at a golf tournament, but you have to accept that the price is determined by the market and hockey fans (in some cities) are fanatic enough to pay whatever it takes to see a game.  TV audiences and commercial sponsors confirm that the fans are there.  For golf there is the "Tiger factor".  And his new notoriety just adds to the attraction when he's playing.

No conclusion - just observations. Make your own choices. 

In one respect business is not like golf, and that is the element of teamwork. Golf is normally a very solitary endeavor, just one golfer against the course and all other competitors. Very much alone, 100% responsible for the results, no one else to share the credit or take the blame.

But occasionally golf is also a team sport. Typically in college golf, but more notably in the famous Ryder Cup and the President's Cup, which is currently taking place in Montreal. Yesterday was a match of two-on-two with the alternate ball format. That means I drive it off the tee into the rough, you hit it back on the fairway, I hit it back in the rough, you hit it on the green and I miss the putt. And so on.

That was pretty much the way it went yesterday for Tiger Woods and his partner Charles Howell III. Charles had hit one wide of the green into deep rough behind a large sand trap with very little green in front of the hole. Tiger slashed it out with typical finesse, flying high over the trap, landed softly on the fringe and rolled gently to within two feet. Charles stepped up and missed the putt! That's hard on team spirit.

Nevertheless, they persevered and won their match. As Tiger said, "What matters is that we got the job done."

Meanwhile Mike Weir and VJ Singh had a different team experience. Both had been playing well and were holding a slim lead. But Mike hit his approach shot to the green slightly left and it landed in the sand trap. No problem, VJ hit a perfect shot out of the sand, onto the green and into the hole!

Ah the joys of successful teamwork.