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I recently had a conversation with one of my mentors who said, “I don’t know why it has to be a work-life balance. Isn’t work part of your life?” We hear that term so much in our industry and I am sure you have heard one or more of the following from various people speaking or writing to superintendents:

  • Make sure you keep a good work-life balance.
  • I’m changing jobs for more of a work-life balance.
  • I could never work the hours you do because I like having more of a work-life balance.
  • I can’t believe you work seven days a week. I could never do that.
  • You are going to miss your kids growing up. You really should find a better work-life balance.
  • Maybe it’s better to say that because work is part of your life, it doesn’t have to be one or the other, just simply “life balance.” Think of it like eating a balanced diet to stay physically healthy: you can and should lead a balanced life to keep you mentally healthy.

    We all know people who dread Monday mornings and can’t wait until Friday evening because their entire life is spent not liking their job. As a superintendent, driving to work you hear someone on the radio counting how many days are left until the big three-day holiday weekend. You think, “I’ll be working all three days, because it’s one of my course’s most important tournaments of the year.” As we all know, a career in golf course management is a lifestyle, not a job.

    The old saying if you find a job that you love, you will never work a day in your life comes into play here. One of the greatest things about being the head superintendent at a golf course is that you usually have the ability to make decisions all day, every day to either positively or negatively impact the golf course, your career and your quality of life. In other words, you are in control of your life and how much time you allocate to each activity that you do.

    The best superintendents work very hard at getting the right team of people in place. Depending on others allows you to share the workload when you chose to be away from the golf course. If you try to do it all yourself and call every shot at work, at home or in other groups you are a part of, life becomes too stressful and overwhelming. Some superintendents may not have the budget or resources to build a team of more than two or three people. In this case, they better be two or three really good people. If not, you need to help the management and/or ownership understand why they need to invest in quality people instead of doing it all yourself, getting burned out and then becoming unhappy. In that case, if your boss expects you to do it alone, maybe it’s time to work for a different facility.

    I think what people mean when they say work-life balance is that you never want to focus so much on one aspect of your life that you miss something else. It’s similar on the golf course. If you only focus on having great greens, you might suddenly realize the tees have very little grass on them – and then you are rushing to repair them.

    Here are three examples you could try to implement to improve your life balance. Some may fit your situation, others may not:

    1. Find a “career assistant.” Mentor someone and help them gain the knowledge and skill to become a great assistant superintendent. The days of requiring a turf degree and past golf course experience are over. Find a great person who is willing to learn and achieve these things with your help. (Take a close look at your existing crew to see if he or she is already there.) Maybe they can become a “permanent” assistant superintendent to help balance out your workload. Not everyone wants to be a head superintendent, especially if you can pay them a fair salary they can live on. You can still have other team members that come and go every three to five years if you want to. It’s great to mentor people and see them move up and on, but maybe one of them could stay for a while and help you. This person should be able to fill in for you when you are not there.

    2. Become a better leader. Recognize that the more your staff knows, the more they can help you and you can rely on them. You don’t have to show them you are the boss by being the one who makes all decisions. If your staff knows how to make some of these decisions on their own, and you encourage them to do so, you won’t feel like you need to be everywhere at once. This may even allow you to put down your radio and phone while you are trying to type that important email or work on your budget. They know you are the boss. Share responsibilities. It helps others grow and gives you more time.

    3. Utilize technology to become more efficient. There are so many tools available now to improve efficiency in the workplace. If you can communicate with staff, share information and access information faster using these tools, then why not do it? It can be scary to change your tried and true methods, but those who are utilizing technology are making their jobs easier and saving themselves time. From irrigation management to fleet maintenance records, agronomic planning tools, digital job boards, social media to communicate with golfers, there are numerous ways to become more efficient.

    The bottom line is find a job that you are passionate about and balance your life. Rely on your team to support you when you leave the course to attend an important event for your kid, a grandparent’s milestone birthday, backyard BBQ or a family weekend getaway. It’s about quality time spent with family, not quantity. If you force yourself to take a certain day off for “family time,” but you are either sleeping on the couch or feeling like you should have been at work, then it isn’t time well spent. Don’t be ashamed if you went in for a few hours and then spent quality time the rest of the day with family or friends.

    Remember, the key to finding that “life balance” isn’t necessarily cutting back to 40 hours a week or taking all weekends off. It’s about being happy and being in control of your life and your schedule so that you can allocate your time as needed.

    Greg Cormier, CGCS, is a former golf course superintendent who works for Massachusetts-based Tom Irwin, Inc. He’s the GCSA of New England’s newsletter editor.