I have to admit that I have a serious affliction that affects almost every aspect of my life. I’m certain my health insurance company considers it a pre-existing condition. My disease is my addiction to the game of golf. And there’s no cure for it. (Which I’m okay with.) The reason I’m addicted to golf is that it’s a game that can’t be mastered. And I enjoy that it’s an individual challenge – it’s just me, alone on the golf course. I am ultimately responsible for every decision, every swing and every putt – good or bad.
Golf is a metaphor for life. Just like you’ll never find the elusive “meaning of life,” you’ll also never find “the secret to golf.” All you can do is constantly learn to adapt and develop new skills to keep moving forward. In fact, just when you think you’ve figured out the game of golf, something goes horribly wrong with your swing and you’re forced to step back and re-analyze what’s happening. Where’s the problem? How do I fix it? It’s very humbling.
And while this disease might sound like an evil plague, it’s counterbalanced by the occasional feeling of pure ecstasy. All golfers know that feeling during a round of golf when everything goes perfectly with your game. It might just be a hole or two, but you feel like you could compete with Jack Nicklaus in his prime. It’s the only sport I know where an amateur can realistically beat a professional at the same game with the same rules on any given day. I’ll never be able to return a single tennis serve from Roger Federer, but Dustin Johnson better lookout if we ever meet at the first tee. I’ll take DJ down at least once during the round.
One of the many lessons that I’ve learned from golf is that everyone needs a coach. And I’m not just talking about a golf coach. There are coaches that can help you with every aspect of your life. It’s worth reflecting on why I use a coach for my golf game.
First, the coach can see things that the student can’t see. The perspective of standing back and watching another golfer’s swing allows the coach to see mechanics that the golfer can’t see or feel. Recently, my golf coach quickly fixed one of my problems by just telling me where my club was at the height of my backswing. The entire correction only took two or three minutes, but it was something I couldn’t fix without his help.
And a coach has experience with hundreds of golfers. It’s highly unlikely that my coach will see something in my swing he hasn’t seen before. He also knows what teaching techniques work for different personalities. I could probably read a dozen books on golf and never come close to gaining the experience and insight of a professional golf coach.
And finally, he holds me accountable for making the changes in my game that need to be made. I’m making a commitment to improve my game with an investment of time and money, why wouldn’t I follow his directions? And more importantly, I know he cares about my development as a golfer. My progress ultimately reflects on his ability as a coach, and it probably satisfies his personal purpose to help others succeed.
If coaches are so great, why aren’t coaches more common in business? A coach sounds exactly like what all our team members need – someone that has a unique perspective to observe actions and behaviors, deep experience and knowledge on a specific subject, and a commitment to hold you accountable and benefit from your success.
Most companies are filled with managers, an outdated term from a different generation. My dictionary defines a manager as, “a person responsible for controlling or administering all or part of a company or similar organization.” The word that jumps out at me in that definition is “controlling.” With the speed of change in our world today, do we expect our managers to be able to “control” all the actions of their team? I don’t think so. Imagine if my golf coach was a “golf manager” responsible for “controlling” my swing on the course. How effective would he be? I believe in business it’s a better approach to have a “coach” that is responsible for actively developing each of their direct reports to be the best version of themselves that’s possible.
If you want to replace your managers with coaches, a great first step is to read Michael Bungay Stanier’s latest book, “The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever.” In this insightful and short book, Michael provides a simple set of questions that can start anyone down the path of being a great coach in the business.
Another book that reinforces this new approach to leadership is Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia’s book, “Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family.” In their book, they share Bob’s lengthy journey to discover that traditional management techniques don’t work as effectively as taking a sincere interest in growing and caring for your team members.
There may not be a cure for my golfing illness, but I know that having a golf coach is a great prescription to lessen the pain associated with my game. Ultimately, I may never reach my goal of being a scratch golfer, but I know I have a better chance with a coach.