Early one morning last weekend I went walking with a good friend and vacation house neighbor, his name is Jack and he is one of the best business owners I know. It was a cool, damp, overcast early September morning and we decided to walk the golf course across the street. Both Jack and I are on the board of the golf club which is in the process of being sold to private investors who are changing the club from a private golf club to public resort course. The transaction has yet to be finalized, however, the prospective new owners have been running the course this season as a public course. As Jack and I walked the course (with his dog Izzie running ahead chasing deer), I commented to Jack on how good the course looked. It is in much better shape than in years past and I wondered out loud how this could be since we had the same golf pro running the club, the same superintendent, and many of the same greens keepers. Jack said that he had the same question and had spoken to a couple of the greens keepers he knew recently and asked them. There are lessons in their answers.
When Jack complemented greens keepers on the course condition and asked them what was different from last season to this season, the first thing they said was they got uniforms. Really? They were very proud of the fact that they were a part of the club and the uniforms gave them an identity, part of a team. The second reason was that they now had only one boss. Apparently, in a private club there are a lot of people who feel entitled to tell others how to do their job. It was not uncommon for these greens keepers to get their instructions for the day from the superintendent, start on the task, then have a board member saunter by and give them new orders, start on that, have a golf member come up and ask them for something else… you get the point. There was a lot of wasted time and everyone involved was frustrated. The bottom line, the course wasn’t in that great of shape. With one boss and one set of priorities, there are better outcomes and everyone is happier – throw in some uniforms and you get people proud of their accomplishments and to be a part of a winning team.
So what is the lesson here? I took away two. The first is that clear direction, expected outcomes, and timeframes that are agreed to by all will produce the best results and improve efficiency. Second, creating an identity helps people feel like a part of the team and when the organization is well run, inspires pride and great results. I see all too often that business owners feel they need to hire more people and invest more money to get better results. Many times, they have all the resources they need, they just need to lead/manage better. Better results don’t always equate to more resources and spending more.
Oh, one more lesson, never pass up an opportunity to go for an early morning walk with Jack and Izzie.