Afriend and I were watching “Caddyshack,” laughing hysterically at Bill Murray’s portrayal of assistant greenkeeper Carl Spackler. But when my friend wanted to know if “a lot of guys in your industry are like that,” suddenly the “Cinderella story” wasn’t so funny.
Whenever I speak to superintendents, I make the point that we are the Rodney Dangerfields of the industry: We don’t get any respect. I suppose it’s because we get our hands dirty that the public perceives us as little more than gardeners, ignoring our mastery of agronomic science and the countless hours of work we put in – largely without acknowledgement or thanks – to keep their golf courses healthy, beautiful and playable.
But I also believe we have mostly ourselves to blame. I was reminded of our “own worst enemy” syndrome recently while reading Jon Gordon’s “The Hard Hat.” Based on the success of the 2004 Cornell University lacrosse team, it is a story about leadership and management, with emphasis on team success. The author lists 21 traits of a great teammate, from which I found eight that have particular significance for what we do, where we do it and who we do it with.
In a nutshell, being a good teammate means giving and earning respect. And your “team” isn’t just people but could include facilities, local and regional associations, and our national presence. As you read these eight traits, ask yourself if you are doing all you can to be a great teammate.
Be A “Come With Me” Teammate
Do you set the tone? Do you clearly articulate your vision? How good are you at influencing those around you? You must be able to explain how “we” will get things done properly. Then, working side by side with your crew, you must show them you know how to reach your stated goals. The more you work and the more you sweat, the more you’ll get out of your team.
Well Done Is Better Than Well Said
The better your course looks and plays, the more people will seek you out for your opinions, your expertise, and perhaps other jobs and opportunities. You gain respect as you prove yourself, which leads to more chances to be regarded as an expert.
Be A Difference Maker
Be involved. Don’t shy away from opportunities to be seen and heard. Talk to and listen to members. Accept industry challenges. Speak up on important topics. Take a stance.
First To Arrive, Last To Leave
Again, lead by example, by working longer and harder than anyone else. But don’t be a martyr: If you never take any time off, your work – and health – will suffer. Work hard, and work smart.
Stay Humble And Hungry
Humble: The minute you think you’ve arrived at the door of greatness, it will slam in your face. Hungry: The hungrier you are, the more you can improve. Staying humble means not hogging all the glory, not taking credit that isn’t yours and remembering that you’re part of a team. Staying hungry is always wanting to improve not only yourself but your people, your course and your industry reputation.
Superintendents have a lousy image: We’re never happy, always bitching about something whether it’s the course, the weather or the members.
If this sounds like you, make the effort to change your attitude. Become the “half-full” guy, hard as that might be. Look forward, be positive and rather than blame, explain. If you’ve got a gripe, don’t grumble but lay out the facts, explain what needs to be fixed and make it happen.
Show You Care
Care for the three Cs: your course, your crew, your customer. Make sure those three constituencies are taken care of and you’ll gain respect for yourself as well as all other superintendents. Caring also means being more approachable, willing to talk to others about whatever concerns them.
Pay It Forward
If you want respect, give respect. There may be no more powerful example to set than as someone who cares about others and shows it, who acknowledges someone else’s job well done, and who expects everyone else on the team to do the same.