For people who don’t play golf, the rules and the scoring systems can seem a bit bizarre. One guy who goes sailing said: “I don’t know what it is about you golfers. You’re a shot up here and a shot down there. It was too breezy or the greens were too fast. Always moaning about something. Every single time we go sailing it’s enjoyable. Why don’t you take up a less stressful hobby?” But for people involved, playing golf gives us a chance to feel like athletes – when most of the week we’re chained to a computer screen or trapped in dungeons (AKA conference rooms) where there’s no natural light. So, here’s a short golf story – that applies to all of us (even if you don’t play).
Big Match: I was playing a match against another guy in the club. My handicap is 14 – the other guy was playing off 6 (so, he’s a much better player). The great thing about golf is that the handicaps even up the score and make the game fair. At the 7th hole – I was leading by one. The course was really busy and there were 4 guys playing ahead of us – visitors who didn’t know the course – and they were incredibly slow. In golf, if you are holding people up it’s normal courtesy to call them through (let them pass) and that’s what they did. But, when you get ‘called through’ – you often play really fast and make a mess of that particular hole. I hit a terrific second shot (for once) and it landed on the green, about 8 feet from the flag. But we couldn’t see the ball from where we’d hit which was a long way back. When we got up to the green there was a scattering of golf balls (ours + the group who’d let us play through). In rushing, I ended up playing the wrong ball and losing the hole. Really annoyed at myself for being stupid, it got ‘into my head’ and I lost a couple of holes in succession before steadying up. But, I lost the overall match by one hole. It will now be 2017 before my golfing genius will be fully recognized!
Business Implications: In the business world there are ‘equivalent’ moments to hitting the wrong golf ball. They’re called ‘Losing Key Accounts’, ‘Being Unprepared for Board Meetings’ and ‘Making Quick Hiring Decisions’. These represent key moments that, if you get them wrong, can do a disproportional amount of damage. We all make mistakes (Blips) and can be ‘off our game’ at times. But, the trick is not to make mistakes on crucially important issues – hitting Potholes.
Big Match 2: A friend was preparing for a visitor in the multi-national sector. He spent an entire day coaching and critiquing his teams’ presentations – then finished his own slide deck around midnight the day before the visit. I asked him: “Do you always put that much time into preparing for a corporate visitor?” The reply: “Not always. All visitors are equal but some are more equal than others. We have a gold, solver, bronze ranking and this guy was pure gold.” Sorting out the blips from the potholes (or however you categorize stuff) is at the core of executive effectiveness. Knowing the difference – now that’s really smart.
Lighter Notes: Staying with the Golf Theme…
I was playing with this 85-year-old man recently on a course that I was unfamiliar with. On the third hole, I asked him what’s the best part of the fairway to be on, and he replied, “the top.”
Three old men went into the pro shop after playing 18 holes of golf.
The pro asked, “Did you guys have a good game today?”
The first old guy said, “Yes, I had three riders today.”
The second old guy said, “I had the most riders ever. Five.”
The last old man said, “I beat my record. I had seven riders today.”
After they went into the locker room, another golfer who’d heard the old guys talking about their game said to the pro: “I’ve been playing golf for a long time and thought I knew all the terminology, but what’s a rider?”
The pro said, “A rider is when you hit the ball far enough to actually get in the golf cart and ride to it.”
The Pope met with his cardinals to discuss a proposal from the Prime Minister of Israel. “Your Holiness,” said one of the cardinals, “the Prime Minister wants to challenge you to a game of golf to show the friendship and ecumenical spirit shared by the Jewish and Catholic faiths.”
The Pope thought this was a good idea, but he’d never played golf. “Do we have a cardinal who plays who can represent me?” he asked. “None that play well,” the cardinal replied. “But there is a man named Jack Nicklaus, an American golfer who is devout. We can offer to make him a cardinal, then ask him to play as your personal representative. Besides showing our spirit of cooperation, we’ll win the match.”
Everyone agreed it was a good idea and the call was made. Nicklaus was honored and agreed to play. The day after the match, Nicklaus came to the Vatican to report to the Pope. “I have some good news and some bad news, your Holiness” the golfer told the Pope.
“Tell me the good news first, Cardinal Nicklaus.”
“While I don’t like to brag, even though I’ve played some great golf in my life, this was the best ever. I must have been inspired from above. My drives were long and true, my irons accurate and purposeful, and my putting perfect. With all due respect, my play was truly miraculous.”
“And there’s bad news?” asked the Pope.
“Yes,” Nicklaus sighed. “I lost by three shots to Rabbi Woods.”
Final word from Guy McDonnell: 8 out of 10 spanish golf caddies think “F**K” is the Irish for water!
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