Leadership & Communication: Thoughts From The Sofa Watching The Presidents Cup

What I learned about Leadership while laid out on the sofa watching the President’s Cup!

Sunday was a great day to be outside here in Vancouver – the sky a perfect winter blue, the mountains around us covered by the first snow of the year, and the air, while cold at 4°C, was crisp and fresh.  And the view from the 4th Tee at Pitt Meadows Golf Club to the northwest, simply awesome to say the least.

As all good days on the course do, the round and post game chatter ended and I found my self home, on the couch with the fireplace warming the outside of my body much the way a wee dram of 25-year-old Dal warmed my insides.  As importantly, everything I could think I might need over the next few hours was carefully arranged within arms reach: The President’s Cup, live from Royal Melbourne Golf Club, was on and I was intent on watching it from start to finish.

As I watched thoughts and ideas to think about, maybe toss away and maybe to write and play with later began to emerge.  What follows is an “as it came to mind tracking” of my thoughts as they related to leadership, management, communication, engagement and maybe even golf…read on at your own peril as this is not going to get a full edit for the time being…

Two Differing Leadership Styles

The International team is well behind in the matches (13 points for the US to their 9) and needs to do the near impossible:  win 9 of the 12 matches today. Team Captains Greg Norman and Fred Couples couldn’t be more different in their styles of play and leadership.

  • Couples being a rather laid back looking guy out for a round with the boys …
  • Norman the exact opposite…who earlier in the week said “I’ll be rather more dictatorial this year in my decisions” (or something very close to that).

Motivation, Visioning and Individual Differences

Greg Norman apparently gave a great motivational speech after the losses of the previous day – to pump the players up for the Sunday round ahead.  Asks them to think about the best comeback to win round of their life, to go home and think about it some more, dream about it and come out ready to win today.  I wonder if he didn’t make a big mistake – telling them to do that.   Each person he spoke to will interpret that order differently. For a player like Jason Day, who seems to get overly hyped at times and down on himself even more-so, would a bad start trigger increased self pressure and tension, leading to poor performance? How might someone like Luke Donald, with his rhythmic swing and attitude interpret the task?

What if Norman had asked each of them to share their best experience story with each other right then and there….and asked them to focus on what they felt physically and emotionally, on  the images they remember most, and without saying anything about it talking about anything but technique and mechanics (things that many good players default to when under stress / pressure….my gut says they all would have left the room with a much more positive and capable team, that their thinking that night would have been much different and they may well have been that much tougher on the course….

Have to find out what Couples said the night before…my guess…”guys…the goal is to go home with that trophy  …. we’ve done everything we can so far to make that a possibility and you guys all know how to play this game….just go do your thing.”  Full support, trust and empowerment given to each player….

In Your Face or Face to face…

Norman face to face with Robert Allenby before Allenby begins play…Norma’s hand holding Allenby’s cheeks….in his face more like it….may have been saying all the right stuff but…personally I’d have tuned him out as soon as he grabbed my cheeks and started to do that Grandfather talk thing…

Allenby didn’t look comfortable…would be cool to find out it what impact the talk at really had on him…did he think about performing or playing or about technique, imagery …. did whatever Norman said to him resonate in a meaningful way?

Intent and Purpose

Luke Donald operates at the perfect speed, always considers the goal, his strategy well planned, the current environment / conditions considered – gets the data and inputs he needs from his caddy and then goes.  Every movement seems to have intent / purpose.   It never changes from hole to hole, shot to shot…tempo and routine…not fast, not slow….when he hits a good shot he rewards himself, is rewarded by his caddy and the fans…and then moves on to the next shot….preparing instantly it seems.  And when he hits a lousy shot – learns from it if there is a learning and moves on without any further thought of the mistake, just the goal.

KJ Choi..the same….Jason Day…not so much

Change…Focus and Personal Development

Tiger Woods is back and going to go on a tear.  His swing looks fabulous and will improve as his putting improves….once that happens his irons will be pin-seeking weapons again….now think about what he went through on a personal level (put aside for a moment any bias with respect to beliefs about the affairs, bringing himself, he deserves it and all that (hard to do isn’t).  Can you imagine having your name and picture on the top story list of virtually ever media output there is…. A couple of critical injuries which forced a swing change….the focus and personal development needed, wow….it would be cool to get a discussion going on going through change based on what we the public saw – ups, downs, forwards,  backwards, change order, etc., etc., and what we can learn from (APPLY!)  from a leadership or change perspective

Taking Chances and Moving Forward when things Don’t Work Out as Planned

An “all Phil” birdie for Michelson… there is no way he should have birdied that hole!  Remember….he never give up….likes to hit shots others wouldn’t dream of trying and if they fail, so what…he shrugs it off – his attitude seems to be: “ I believed I could do it and tried…didn’t work, but so what…it will next time so let’s go see what we are faced with now!”

Leading with Values

David Toms rolls along but very focused inside …you can see it in his face… mostly his eyes…he leads by values, beliefs and example…I’d follow his leadership….and in no way is he the stereotypic outgoing Mr. Charisma leader we too often hear about  …think / re-read Good to Great and perhaps write about values and leadership

Self Improvement and Learning

My handicap index is 1.2, which according to whatever source you look at puts me among the top 1 or 2% of golfers with a handicap in the world…in other words I’m not a bad player….if I was on that course they are playing I’m not sure I could break 110….how tough is that place….better thought…those guys are not only good…they are incredible….one day, somehow I am going to get to play in a pro-am with them…don’t know how yet but how cool would that be to have a chance to tee it up alongside the best of the best and learn from them directly….

The work I have put into my golf game over the past couple of years has been significant….the results equally so, but still a long way to go to reach my goals…how much time / effort do leaders put into their personal leadership development…

The Importance of Leadership Through Peers

Jim Furyk talks about how Phil Michelson has really taken on a leadership role for him personally and for the team…support, coaching, friendship…that’s a topic that can’t be written about enough!.  Furyk had not been playing well coming into this tournament – he said it was Phil’s leadership that enabled him to play so well in the President’s Cup

Imagination and Visualization

Their use of imagination and visualization is phenomenal…a good lesson for all leaders….any given shot has multiple ways of being played….but once the decision is made the focus is on making it happen..

Aaron Baddeley has to make the chip to extend any hope of the International team winning or tiing..looked at 2 or three options…once he decides he commits to the decision he goes…..another good lesson

Did I mention Tiger is back….An awesome shot from the sand trap on 15th hole…wow…and another win in the bag for him and his teammates only a few holes later.

That’s a wrap…I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on these notes – and even more so on what anyone else picked up on while watching the event…..

For now….cheers and onward!


PS:  Need to get back to the course soon…please rain go away for a while!


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