Friday, July 27, 2007

As in Golf So in Management: A Mind Up to Speed With the "Game"

After a thrilling British Open in which Ireland’s Padraig Hamilton outwitted Sergio Garcia, we’re awed again by Hunter Mahan’s opening round of 62 at the Canadian Open. While most of us are content to boast a hole-in-one once in our amateur golf careers, Hunter racked up three eagles in a game. He attributes his current round of success with improvements to his mind. In his words: “My mind is kinda catching up to my game.”

Based on the post British Open tournament press interviews, we can conclude Padraig gets it, Sergio, not yet. The latter blamed divine intervention for his almost win. Padraig stuck to hard work, some mental toughness when the chips were down and mental agility along the way. Lots of humility there.

In golf, so in managing and leading in the truest sense. The “game” is as much about “feel” as technique. It is not behaviour modification, such as “I must do active listening more”. It is a deeper sense of how you think and learn, how others do and making the link accordingly. Educators call it “deep learning”. Very much akin to the journey from novice to expert. This is no easy task.

The reality in today’s work environment is sobering. In 30 Reasons Employees Hate Their Managers, based on the opinions of 50,000 employees in Canada and the United States, Bruce Katcher cites a litany of employee woes about managers:
-don’t listen
-don’t respect us
-don’t appreciate us
-don’t give us enough authority
-will punish us if we make unpopular suggestions

All of these laments are solvable if managers better understand their own minds. To be at the top of their games, pro golfers practice “deliberate learning”. That is, they practice self-observation and feedback followed by practice based on their new insights. The discipline of constant improvement, a deep learning process, is understood as vital to being at the top of their game more often than not. Deliberate practice is essential to great management too.

Note, it’s not technique only or the tasks at hand. It’s about relationship. If you begin to see the world from another’s point of view and you accept it, as a starting point, without judgment, you are on your way to learning and improving. Top pro golfers and other elite athletes fight first with themselves to raise the bar on performance. So relationship with self, in the context of management, is as crucial as relationship with others.

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