To escape the rigors of the job, Brian Stiehler purchased a violin and started taking lessons.

At the age of 14, I got my first job working on a golf course and by age 15, I was committed to the profession that I knew I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I was lucky in that regard, but it could also be viewed as a detriment. I wasn’t very open-minded to alternative ideas and areas of study. However, I was very fortunate to have numerous mentors who guided me on decision making when it came to college and doing internships. They explained to me the pros and cons of the business and helped me in ways I never could have imagined.

During the next couple years, I made the most out of this time. I worked at several different clubs in different parts of the world. As a young person enamored with the potential of this business, there was a lot of different aspects of this work that I didn’t see just yet.

After graduating from Penn State and receiving my first “real” job as an assistant superintendent, I began to see some of the aspects of this profession that I wasn’t privy to in my past job experiences. Work-life balance is one of those terms we hear a lot about it. Personally, it’s something I strive for but recognize that I often fall short on. I’ve learned that some folks in the business are naturally better at this than others. Having the ability to separate work and your home life is a desirable skill to have in this business. At the same time, being focused on work at all hours of the day can be beneficial in your professional life, but it certainly takes its toll on you personally.

Growing up, I had a father who was an electrical engineer and worked as the general manager of maintenance at a specialty steel corporation in Reading, Pa. I can remember him leaving for work early and returning at 6 p.m. every night. It was a great example for me to see a man committed to his job, yet more committed to his family. By most standards, he worked long hours, but when he was home, the focus was on family. We always had dinner together. He had the ability to put work beside and focus on the task at hand – us.

Unfortunately, as I worked my way up through this business, it didn’t always come that easy to me. Balancing my family and life is something I feel like I’ve had to work hard at. Here are a few examples of things that I’ve done to help myself become a more balanced and well-rounded person.

Collecting model trains helps Brian Stiehler boost his work-life balance.

Become better at managing your time. This can mean many things. I constantly remind myself that I am not a superhero able to be all things to all people. I focus on those things I am good at and rely on help from my staff by delegating other tasks that I’m not so great at. Like most superintendents, I am a morning person. I found it’s better for me to hit the less desirable daily tasks I have head on, in the morning, while I am most energized. I save those tasks I enjoy more for late morning or afternoon. It is important to recognize when you are at your best and take advantage of those times.

Keep looking forward. As a young person in the business, our successes were more frequent and life-changing. However, once settled into a position, it becomes our responsibilities to stay engaged and challenged. A quote on my desk reminds me, “What would need to happen in the next two to three years for you to look back on that same time as a success?” We need to look ahead and believe the next three years will be the most important and successful of our lives.

Take time off. To keep a positive outlook on my work, it is necessary to get away from time to time. Working a marathon-like schedule of 30 to 60 days (or more) without taking time off doesn’t do anyone any favors. My family and I developed an annual trip where we pick a city we’ve never been to and then go there. This allows us, especially my 14-year-old daughter, to experience different cultures across the country. In addition to these types of trips, we’ve always made our chapter’s (Carolinas GCSA) Conference and Show as well as the Golf Industry Show a family trip. Not only does it get us out of town, but there is nothing like networking with colleagues to put our business lives into perspective.

Find a Hobby! We all need something to occupy our time with outside of work. Hobbies can get your mind off work and energize us. It gives us something to look forward to and work toward. While the game of golf has always been important to me, I find that playing at the course where I work can be stressful and not relaxing. I find myself beating myself up, and like many of us, our worst critic. As a child, I played violin for five years. Last year, I purchased a violin and started taking weekly lessons. Playing the violin along with model trains (also a hobby from childhood) gives me plenty to do outside of work. These are activities that I thoroughly enjoy and give me something to focus on besides work. Make the time to do something you love and give it the time it deserves.

Allocate enough resources. This is a tough one in the golf business. We all are doing more to show our value to our employers and many of us are forced to continue to take on more roles within an operation. At the same time, it is important to learn to say, “no” when you are asked to take on additional responsibilities if you know it isn’t realistic. Don’t be a martyr. When you try to do everything perfectly and resist help, you end up creating more stress for yourself and ultimately your family. Furthermore, a staff of five will never be able to do the work of 15 regardless of the amount of overtime worked. Make sure your team understands what the priorities are. This can save a lot of wasted time. As leaders, it’s important to be diligent about constantly setting priorities and helping our teams understand what they are.

Keep an eye out for each other! Keeping an eye on the entire team can make everyone happier and more productive. Promote a healthy work-life balance at your course and start by setting the example. Hold your team accountable for taking the time off they are allotted. Encourage your staff to use that time off and away from work. In a business where many are continuing to do more with less, this many sound impossible. However, it is critical to develop creative work schedules to allow staff to get time off. There are some really good people in this business who have developed creative working hours for their team.

Finally, keep in mind the definition of the word balance. Life will never be perfectly dissected down the middle with 50 percent of your time focused on work and 50 percent focused on life. The goal is to achieve a healthy balance of the two over time, recognizing there will be times when work does consume your time. The goal is to achieve a balance and never let one of them monopolize your life.

Brian Stiehler, CGCS, MG, is the superintendent at Highlands Country Club in Highlands, N.C.