Maintaining credibility and winning the respect of your team is a continuous process. Losing it, however, takes mere carelessness…

Credibility is everything when you’re leading any team. In our world, it’s crucial for success with “front line” staff – who work long hours, deal with demanding customers and represent our brand with every word and action.

As a Head Professional, General Manager, 1st Assistant or even a Director of Instruction, it would seem that “knowing what you’re doing and being well-versed in your area of expertise” is the key factor in success and generating respect from your team (as well as your employer, customers and the Board of Directors). However, respect is also directly linked to leadership credibility with all those people. In my experience, respect and “leadership cred” can be killed by these common mistakes—fast:

1. Act like you know everything.

In my former working life as a Director of Golf at semi-private 27-hole facility, I remember compensating for my lack of knowledge in certain areas—usually, I’d use pride or even coercion as the stop-gap. If I wasn’t 100 percent sure about some new concept or program, I’d still pretend to be knowledgeable in fear of losing face. In the end, I was not helping my case.

A better approach is to admit to being human. Humility and willingness to listen to constructive feedback and advice (especially from subordinates) is very powerful when it’s authentic. Simply put, you can’t know everything about any topic; your team and your customers understand this. Genuinely saying, “I don’t know, but I’d like to learn” is a sure way to earn respect.

2.Point fingers.

We all know this rule, and yet it is one of the hardest to avoid. Somehow, being in charge can morph into a role where you become critical of everything – but that’s not exactly the best leadership trait for supervisors, team leaders or golf professionals.

My Dad told me about one of his mentors who led their sales team very well. When a salesman messed up, their boss would say, “We just paid for some more education.” Everyone on the team knew exactly what he meant. You know what you did was the wrong. I’m expecting you to learn enough from this situation so you won’t do it again! By correcting employees without blaming them, especially not in front of others, you’re saying they’re valuable to you and the team and that their role on the team matters. As an employee, if I know I matter, it will be much easier for me to think, “When I screw up, I need to admit it, own it and learn from it.”

3.Communicate haphazardly or not at all.

Whenever I’ve done a poor job of communicating with my staff, it has caused a huge loss of momentum with them and with the program or event we were trying to launch. Looking back, I realized my haphazard effort actually was communicating something that I wholly wanted to avoid. I was saying, in effect, “You don’t matter and that’s why I didn’t tell you or consult you about this matter.” Not surprisingly, staff (and customer) buy-in was the opposite of what I’d hoped.


To avoid this outcome, follow the Player Development “Wheel of Excellence” (see image) and weave intentional and purposeful communication throughout your process. Throughout the entire process, include your key front line staff, your key stakeholders. Ensure they know the purpose of the program and their role in its success. Include how they can personally benefit.

4. Try to be “Super-Pro”.

(You’ll end up looking like “Skimmer-Pro”). One of the areas golf professionals tend to excel in is productivity. That same ability to “git ‘er done” helped us become leaders of others, but it doesn’t help us motivate, delegate and lead them as we should. All too often, I see golf professionals who don’t trust their people enough to delegate to them. Looking back, I realize I often fell into the same trap.

It’s a vicious cycle, and both parties end up very frustrated. The leader feels alone handling every major responsibility and the subordinates feel untrusted, unmotivated and unremarkable in their job experience. As a result, the leader starts “skimming” to manage the pressure and results suffer. Staffers either slack off or burn out, which further lowers production and the leader’s trust in the team…and around it goes…unless we choose to be different.

“Delegation starts with development of your team and following this simple formula: “Invested Knowledge/Training + Trust = Ownership” by helping them know more about the job area, the event, the program you want them to own. Once they know enough, because you’ve invested your own knowledge in them, step back and trust them and give them the opportunity to own it. As a test for true delegation, you’ll know you trust them and they own when they tell you (politely) to stay out of it when you want to stick your nose back in there.” Stop trying to be Super-Pro and start delegating responsibility!