Sunday, 21 July 2013 14:53

Mini-Golf and Management

I've never been much of a golfer. I remember my dad telling me he wished he had played more. So today when I drove past a mini-golf course on the way to pick up my son, I decided to surprise him with a quick 18 holes.

As we were in line, I watched him look over the maps of three available courses and decide which course to play. We debated the ball color we wanted, picked our putters and headed off to the first hole. As we approached the hole, we heard what seemed to be an explosion and saw a flame shoot up out of a man-made volcano. My son jumped and then smiled from ear-to-ear, anticipating the next burst of flames with the excitement only a 7 year old can exude. He carefully placed his ball down on the pad, looked at the hole, and then drew his putter back, and back, and back. He hit the ball with the vigor of Phil Mickleson at an Augusta t-box. The ball went sailing past the water hazard, past the smoke blowing dragon and landed in a bush beside a small pond by hole #3. He looked at me and said "your turn".

It dawned on me that we had never really talked about putting. I gave him a club, without discussing the rules, the way to hold the club or the mechanics of putting. Instead I just assumed he would know what to do. How many times have we as managers done that same thing with our employees? We give them the tools to do the job, tell them the basic "rules" they need to follow and then let them manage on their own. they may have the club we give them, but they have no earthly idea how to swing it.

Employees want to succeed. Very few people start a job thinking about failing. They want to meet expectations and move up within the organization. However, if we don't explain what our expectations are, what they need to do with the tools we give them, we are setting them up for failure. They are going to hit the ball the way they always have, the way their old boss like them to, rather than how we want them to.

So how do we change that behavior? There are three tips I give my clients to help them with this transition:

  1. Clearly state your expectations. The employees need to understand what they need to do and where the boundaries lie.
  2. Provide coaching to your employees. Help them make the right choices and constructively correct their behavior when they miss-step.
  3. Hold your employees accountable for their actions. If they don't adjust their behavior with the coaching you provide, it is time to put them into a progressive discipline model: Awareness counseling, verbal warnings, written warnings and termination.

My dad always told me golf wasn't about how hard you hit the ball, but how steady you were when you hit it. That is true with management too. Employee management isn't about getter a bigger hammer or hitting harder to persuade your employees to do what they need to do. It is about the "long game". The steady, consistent communication and coaching that enables the employees to hit the ball with finesse.