When Scratch is Not Good Enough

The best amateur golfer that I ever played with had an official handicap of zero (0) – also know as a scratch golfer.  We only played once, paired together at a charity tournament and when I asked how many rounds he played a year he admitted that he played more than 90.  If I played that much golf, my boss would wonder how much time I was actually in the office and it turns out his boss was the federal government and he worked from home or on the road, giving him plenty of time for golf.

Like we all do when paired with a great player, I wondered whether he was good enough to play professionally.  He was young enough and a good enough athlete – what would it take?

3 less strokes per round – at least.

I arrived at this number by checking the handicap of the best Canadian professional golfer that I have ever played with – Adam Cornelson from Langley, BC.  Adam has an official handicap of +2.8. and won for the first time on tour in 2016, his fourth year as a pro, and earned a spot in the Web.com Tour which is the next closest level to the PGA tour. And he did this by playing on much harder, longer courses than an amateur scratch golfer.

And in the world of professional golf, 3 shots a round is a huge number.  On the PGA Tour, the difference between a top 10 player and the player at number 125, just barely holding on, is 1 shot per round.  And most players feel lucky if they can improve their game a half a shot per round per year.  At that rate, the scratch golfer may just be ready for the first level of pro golf in 6 years and making a living playing golf 6 years after that.

Like these golf pros, good managers should be trying to get incrementally better every year.

Similarily, success as a manager is not something that comes easy.  There are no great leaps forward into a better understanding of how to manage people, yourself or your boss.  It’s all incremental.  One inch at a time.  One performance review, one project schedule, one hiring session, one team meeting and one little thing to make someone happy that adds up to being a good manager.

I’ve been lucky to work in a sales environment at many good companies,  and in each one sales success is all about the incremental .  What revenue are you going to bring in that is new for us this year?  You did great in 2015 with $1 million in sales and we gave you a nice bonus to recognize it, but that was last year.  How are you going to get better this year?  What new industry are you going to develop as a sales channel?  What new product line are you going to upsell into your best accounts?  What are you going to do differently to push that huge, game-changing account across the finish line after 3 years of pitches?

In managing, what one new thing have you added to your repertoire, or what existing skill have you improved or what knowledge have you gained to make you a better manager than you were a year ago?

In golf, the magic elixir for most amateur players is to improve your short game – chipping and putting as they represent 50% of the shots you take every round.  If your regular score is 90 and you can make a 10% improvement in the 45 shots you take with a wedge or a putter by chipping it closer to the hole and holing more putts – you can drop 5 strokes pretty easy.

For a manager, the short game equivalent to improve as a manager is to Become a Better People Mgr.  

Your ability to make things happen on your own is finite – there is only one of you and only so many hours in a day.  But once you begin to see yourself as a people manager first and a “doer” second, then the possibilities are infinite.  Recruiting, developing, managing and promoting people is the easiest path to successful projects, departments, companies and careers.

Start with owning the fact that your primary job is as a people manager and spend a larger percentage of your time each month on managing your team as opposed to “doing” your own work.  An incremental change of one additional hour per week “managing” can make a huge difference between now and this time next year.  I’m writing this in October and if you started now and added one hour per week each  month, you’d increase your managing time by 10% before Christmas.  Think your team would notice?  They’d wonder what the heck was happening and then just roll with the new you – and you’ll be thrilled with the results.

When you take small steps like that over time, one day you will look up and find that you are a pretty good manager.  And like golf, where there are new courses, new equipment, and new teaching methods, you can always get better.  Your situation  is always changing – new projects, new people, new companies, new customers – the dynamic is never the same and you have the opportunity to learn over and over again in order to be just a little better today than you were yesterday.

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