3 Things I Learned About Leadership At My Golf Lesson

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At a recent golf tournament, my goodie bag had a coupon for a free golf lesson. If you’ve watched me play, you would strongly recommend that I use the coupon! This week I took Mike up on his offer and spent an hour with him on the driving range. As often happens, I was amazed by the parallels between what I learned as a golfer and the leadership principles that I use with clients. So, as you prepare to unplug and relax over the Christmas holidays, allow me to share three leadership lessons that Mike taught me while swinging a piece of metal at a little white ball.

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know. My lesson was enabled by incredible technology. A video camera, a computer and a swing analyzer tablet recorded and analyzed what happened when I swing a club (called ‘Trackman’ for you curious readers). After hitting 12 balls (and far too much turf) Mike told me that he had seen enough and we sat in front of the computer. He then introduced me to about 25 different metrics of my swing. There were terms I had never heard of like smash factor, spin rate and attack angle. But more importantly, Mike also told me that we were only going to focus on 2 of these 25 metrics because they were the most important fixes that would improve my game.

Leadership Application: Are you brave enough to admit that you don’t know? We all have blind spots – in fact, research tells us that you have an average of 3.4! It takes humility to admit you don’t know a lot of things? Are you actively working to lower your leadership handicap by trying to know more about what you don’t know?

  1. Multiple perspectives give perspective. Being able to observe my swing on video from two different angles gave me a perspective on my golf game that I’ve never had. Mike’s on-screen swing diagrams gave me a baseline to measure against. Now when I swing my club, I can visualize my posture, my club angle and work to avoid my turf-digging hip slide. I can’t tell you how many little things I have attempted to teach myself over the years as I have worked to improve my game (watch the elbow, check the stance, are my wrists open or closed…). I suspect that many of them helped. However, in retrospect, they were a lot of little things. In contrast, a lesson with a knowledgeable coach provided me with the big picture. Now I know what to work on first (and it’s not my elbow!).

Leadership Application: Few of us are good at asking for help and I praise those of you who do so! While you can improve your leadership game on your own over time, your perspective is based on your own personal insights. And some of them are not even correct! An outside perspective (or several) will provide you with a different look at your leadership. Others can help you differentiate between the little things and the big things. Do you intentionally get perspective on your leadership from others?golf-swing-2

  1. Practice. Practice. Practice. I only got to hit the ball for about 15% of my golf lesson. The rest of our time was spent watching my swing on video, learning how to balance my posture and swinging my upside-down club at a giant beanbag. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t nearly as sexy as I had hoped. However, Mike’s coaching reminded me that playing the game well is a byproduct of a lot of practice. In fact, by the time we were done the lesson Mike had me hitting 130 yard shots with one hand! Just imagine what will happen with practice.

Leadership Application: Whether it is taking time for education, being a voracious reader of asking a lot of questions, your leadership success is also contingent on practice. What are you doing to practice and improve your leadership game?

To conclude, I’ll also offer a plug for Michael Maggs – he is very good at what he does. If you’re in the desert and you need some coaching to help you get rid of your slice or add a few extra yards send him an email and tell him Jeff sent you (mike@maggsgolf.com or his website). Merry Christmas!

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Dr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Cover Photo: Jeff Suderman (PGA West TPC, La Quinta, CA)

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