Newsflash: “The Golf Business Is Not that Easy…In Fact, It’s Pretty Tough” (No kidding right?) However, no business, industry or line of work is easy. For every advantage in a given career, there are trade-offs. While technology continually advances and things are supposed to get easier, the pressure to perform and to produce results grows.

Our employers in golf (even if we’re the owner) need more from us in 2020 than in 2000. In the past 20 years, the focus of our business, like so many others has been to build “higher performance cultures.” However, staffs and communities overly focused on performance may not actually produce the best, or be the healthiest or most sustainable team model. The problem in being overly focused on performance to drive results may not seem obvious, but I invite you to watch the Four Disciplines of Execution for a simple explanation.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution in a Nutshell

In the video, Chris McChesney presents the difference between two types of indicators of success: lead measures and lag measures. Lag measures track the success of your goal. “They’re called lags because by the time you see them, the performance that drove them has already passed.” In our business, our measurables are things like rounds of golf, dollars per round, or number of dues paying members, etc. and these results fall into the category of lag measures.

These lag measures are scorekeeping components on the performance of our facility, so yes, they are important. And because they’re so important, leaders can overly focus on them. There’s a problem here and we’ve all likely experienced it in our work life. According to Tony Schwartz, (the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working), “…a performance-driven culture often exacerbates people’s fears by creating up a zero-sum game in which people are either succeeding or failing and ‘winners’ quickly get weeded out from ‘losers.’”

Do you know of anyone (or have you ever thought yourself about) hiding, rationalizing, minimizing, covering up or denying a bad outcome, a weakness or a mistake just to get the “result that is desired?” That is a result of the fear present in a performance-driven culture.

Schwartz suggests that in a growth-based culture, results still matter (because they have to). However, “in addition to rewarding success, (growth cultures) also treat failures and shortcomings as critical opportunities for learning and improving, individually and collectively.” A quick thought on your leadership style (or mine) might be to evaluate where we’re focused. Are we overly focused on the results or “lag measures”, unwittingly creating a fear of failing in those we lead, and even ourselves?

Let’s grab hold of the concept that results or lag measures are just that, a result of doing the right things. They are, in fact, predicted by the lead measures. In the Four Disciplines of Execution, lead measures are intentional, accountability based activities. “Lead measures track the critical activities that drive to lead to the lag measure.” Put another way, results don’t cause results.  In golf, my follow-through doesn’t result in a golf shot…how could it?

So, what does generate results? I am suggesting that growth culture behaviors, made into values and accountability between members of a staff, of a service team, are the lead measures that actually predict the results that we care about on the bottom line.

What would creating a growth-centric team or staff culture look like? I suggest we look to Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, co-founders of “Minds at Work”, to see what they suggest for build a “deliberately developmental culture.” They suggest we will need a blend of individual (people who get the why and buy into it) and organizational (we know our why, we have a noble cause/purpose) components including:

  1. A work environment that feels safe, fueled first by modeling (leading by example) of the facility’s top leaders – be willing to role model vulnerability and take personal responsibility for their shortcomings and missteps. (Hint: if your team won’t “own their mistakes” it’s a sign the leader doesn’t do it very well either.)
  2. A focus on continuous learning through inquiry, curiosity and transparency, in place of judgment, certainty and self-protection. (Hint: refer to #1 – are you curious, are you self-aware…are you seeking, with an infinite mindset, to be better this year than last? If those you lead are not what you want them to be – go to your own mirror first.)
  3. Time-limited, manageable experiments with new behaviors in order to test our unconscious assumption that changing the status quo is dangerous and likely to have negative consequences. (Hint: are you willing to allow the team to innovate? Is “your way” the only way?)
  4. Continuous feedback — up, down and across the organization – grounded in a shared commitment to helping each other grow and get better. (Hint: encouraging those you lead to give feedback, especially about the person who supervises them, is a sign of strength, of confidence and of self-awareness. Oh to be a professional willing to “look into the mirror of self-awareness, confident and self-assured enough to do so while looking through the lens of hope and optimism.”)

To close, Schwartz makes a good point in distinguishing the fundamental difference he sees between a performance culture and a growth culture. He says, regarding a growth culture “that fueling growth requires a delicate balance between challenging and nurturing. Think about a young child beginning to venture into the world. The infant crawls away from its mother to explore the environment, but frequently looks back and returns periodically in order to feel reassured and comforted. We are not so different as adults. Too much challenge, too continuously — without sufficient reassurance — eventually overwhelms us and breaks us down. Too little challenge — too much time spent in our comfort zone — precludes our growth and eventually makes us weaker.”

It’s this delicate balance, where the boss carefully, and gently has the difficult “coaching conversation” with the staffer, not because they’re a command and control leader, but because they want to ensure the staffer knows “they’re worth the risk, worth the difficulty” of this conversation, and they are valued by the leader and the whole team.

Creating a growth culture is not going to be easy, but does it have to be. If you’re interested in creating or building a growth culture in the place you have influence, let’s connect soon and start growing together.


Monte Koch, PGA Certified Professional/Player Development | Career Consultant
PGA Career Services | PGA of America
Serving PGA professionals, employers in the Pacific NW & Rocky Mountain PGA Sections
Email: Cell: 206/335-5260