Verbose: using or expressed in more words than are needed.
“much academic language is obscure and verbose”
synonyms: wordy, loquacious, garrulous, talkative, voluble
And in the dictionary, next to the word “verbose,” is a picture of a golf course superintendent.
Get my point? If not, try this: I’ve concluded that, as a rule, we superintendents:
- Talk too much
- Offer too many details
- Use too much science when talking to laymen
- Like showing off our knowledge
As a result, we lose our audience —and with them, our credibility.
Let’s not get too dramatic about what we do. After all, it’s just grass, right? Certainly, many of our constituents — golfers, members, committees, other staff — feel that way, and while I generally hate that attitude from the uninitiated, sometimes they are right. We open our mouths and in a matter of seconds you can see that they don’t care, can’t follow and can’t tolerate the abundance of information that comes across as being smug.
How do we earn their respect? By learning to explain the basics of agronomics (turf care, course conditioning, irrigation, pest control ... whatever!) in terms that anyone can understand. But that doesn’t only mean being clear and succinct: It also means telling them things that mean something to them and apply to them. (Self-interest, by definition, is someone’s golf course. If you haven’t learned that yet, get out of the business.)
Because we’re often seen as being at the bottom of the golf club totem pole — we’re just the guys who mow the lawn and have dirt under our fingernails, after all—we feel the need to prove to others that we’re just as smart, if not smarter. Not to get petty here, but I’d match our degrees against almost any member. Still, they’re the ones with the glamour jobs. So, we feel, not incorrectly, underappreciated and unloved. Which leads to showing off, overdoing the explanations to prove ourselves and our worth. Then people’s eyes glaze over, they lose whatever interest they might have had, and, at the end of the day, they still never quite understand what it is that we do.
Then again, they don’t have the education or experience that we do. The secret is to use that education to figure out how best to talk to them the right way. Just because our industry has become more scientific, more technical and more strategic about how we do our jobs doesn’t mean you need to share every last detail about why you did or did not do something on the third green.
I get it: Superintendents are evenly balanced ... we have chips on BOTH shoulders. That’s not a good enough reason to be a know-it-all.
Instead, learn to get to the point, quickly and clearly. Here’s how:
- Reduce “tech speak”
- Use unpretentious analogies
- Listen to what others say and use this information to your advantage
- Don’t oververbalize. This holds true when you’re speaking, writing (even e-mails), on the phone, any and everywhere. Live by the “KISSS” rule: Keep it simple/short, sweet!
- Don’t waste your time in minutiae. Stick to the basics.
- Be professional, but don’t overpolish your appearance or delivery
- Keep it real
There are a few guys who have been in the limelight and are experienced at dealing with media and high-profile private clubs. These guys — Jon Jennings (Shinnecock Hills), Shawn Emerson (Desert Mountain) and Chris Tritabaugh (Hazeltine National) foremost among them — have a great deal of experience in front of the camera or boards of directors. But trust me, it didn’t come naturally. They had to work at it and learn. Now they know when to start, how to give a sound bite and, most importantly, when to stop.
And here’s an admission: Sometimes you even lose me — your most ardent advocate — when you send voluminous emails or leave lengthy voicemails. I want to help, but I’m less likely to get involved if don’t get to the point. Save the long-form version for when I’m in front of you and ask for it. Then we break bread.
My point? Get to the point! Be brief, be real, be honest, stay on point, and you’ll stay out of your own way.