Business Lessons from the Golf Course
Golf can be an incredibly effective means of networking; and in business, “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” so golf and business have had an intertwined relationship since the inception of the game. But along with the contacts that playing the game can produce, there are plenty of lessons to be learned on the course that can help in the office or the boardroom.
Play by the Rules
Golf is a sport that is built on honesty and trust and is the only sport in which a player can call a penalty on themselves. There have been tournaments that have been won and lost after a player deemed his own play as illegal and voluntarily taken a penalty. There is a level of trust that is developed during play with a partner, and regardless of skill or ability level, a breaking of that trust will likely result in a change of partners in the future.
Trust is crucial to creating shared value and finding creative solutions during a negotiation. Breaking a counterpart’s trust will likely result in them no longer wanting to continue the relationship, and cause harm to a business’ long-term future. Just like in golf, it is important to conduct in an honest and straightforward manner, following the rules to earn a partner’s faith.
The Most Important Shot is the Next Shot
After hitting a tee shot into the rough, there is nothing productive about dwelling on what was wrong with the last swing, or how the lie ended up as it is. The best golfers know that they can’t go back and change the last shot, and rather than agonizing over what happened, they focus their attention toward making the best of the lie they have.
This is equally important in dealing with a business decision. Looking ahead, without looking at the past, needs to be the focus. There is no way to change the past, but future decisions are the most important. That doesn’t mean forget the bad shot, but learn from it. It’s important not to make the same mistakes over and over, wasting time on a failing endeavor.
It was the legendary golfer Ben Hogan who said, “The most important shot in golf is the next one.” Don’t get bogged down in mistakes and instead learn from them.
Play the Course, Not the Opponent
Contrary to popular belief, while on a golf course, a player’s partner is not the primary opponent during a golf match; rather, the course itself is what needs to be beaten. Understanding the landscape of the terrain, which direction the wind is blowing, how fast the greens are playing, and which iron to hit on an approach are all factors in building a strategy to tackle a round of golf. Likewise, business decisions require consideration with respect to the environment in which the deal is operating, such that the focus is on the big picture rather than on direct competitors.
Drive for Show, Putt for Dough
Pulling the driver from the bag and cranking out that 300-plus yard drive is always impressive, but if that is followed up with a chunked approach or a three-putt on the green, it’s all for naught. Golf is a game of precision and requires skill on every shot, not just the flashy ones. The same holds for business, as a splashy ad campaign or big PR announcement will create a buzz, but if they aren’t followed up with quality decisions and actions, they will not produce any results.