Paradox Series I: Understanding & Applying the Growth Paradox

As we all proceed into a new year, I am excited to begin a series of articles that will be called the Paradox Series. To set this up, let’s define the word “paradox.” This word is a noun that is defined as “a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that, when investigated or explained, may prove to be well founded or true.” In other words, a paradox can seem like a “contradiction in terms” but under reflection, it can be enlightening and valuable to understand and apply. With that in mind, let’s look at our first paradox, The Growth Paradox.

The Growth Paradox

“Growth takes a much longer time than you think, and then it happens much faster than you ever would have thought…growth happens gradually, then suddenly…when you realize this, you start to do things differently.”

– Sahill Bloom

Another take on this paradox is one authored by Verne Harnish, the Owner and CEO of Scaling Up: A Gazelles Company who wrote about The Growth Paradox in with a focus on start up/entrepreneurial businesses and their growth patterns.

Ask yourself these three questions: 

  • As the business grows, are you working longer and longer hours?
  • Does every employee hired and customer acquired actually tire you out?
  • As your team grows, does it feel as if you’re the only one pulling your weight?

Did you answer yes to more than one of these? I’ll bet you’re wondering what’s happening.

What you’re experiencing is the Growth Paradox: the belief that as you scale the company — and increase your dream team, prospects, and resources — things should get easier. But they don’t…Things actually get harder and more complicated…Scaling a company is both exhilarating and very difficult. The truth is, only one out of nine companies manages to sustain even a minimum level of profitability growth in 10 years. So what’s happening here? What is the difference that allows some companies to scale, while others cave under the weight of their own growth?” 

– Verne Harnish

Certainly, when considering The Growth Paradox in the business world, especially in relation to startups, it makes sense. But, what if we apply this Growth Paradox concept to that of a golf professional who is growing in areas like responsibility, authority, leadership, and influence?

Ask yourself these three questions (adapted from Harnish’s questions above): 

  • As your career path “grows,” are you working longer and longer hours?
  • Does every employee you manage/supervise added to your “care/supervision” actually tire you out?
  • As your team grows, does it feel as if you’re the only one pulling your weight?
  • Does every customer gained as a student or similar actually tire you out?

If you answered yes, you are likely experiencing your own growth paradox. If you have gone from an Assistant Professional role to a Head Professional role, or even to a Lead Assistant, you know from experience that as you grow, things get more complicated and more complex. For those who go to the General Manager level, the complexity goes up even more when you add multiple departments, department heads, committees and significantly more stakeholders to the mix. 

In each of the above scenarios, the conversations involved are a significant part of the increased complexity, and they get more complicated as the “needs and wants” of those you deal with grow.

Now, you may be thinking, “How do I counter this Growth Paradox?” The answer is to address these issues of complexity in three fundamental areas (that can be barriers) including:

Build Your Leadership Skills: 

  • Proper Focus: Check out “Four Disciplines of Execution in a Nutshell” (Watch Video Here) and then focus on the “Wildly Important Goal” (WIG) for your team, your organization, your club, department, etc. Once you have that WIG defined, put it in front of your eyes, your team, etc. as often as you can. How would you do this? Here’s an example: I know of one GM at one of the best clubs in the Greater Seattle area who created a “custom internal placemat” that goes on the table in front of every person so they can keep their club’s WIG (and their mission and vision) in front of their board of directors and team leads for every meeting.
  • Define the WINS for those you lead. If you, as the leader, or the leader’s “#2” haven’t made clear what a win is or isn’t, the team will make up its own (or they will determine the outcome that is acceptable for them vs the leader). You won’t have a team, and instead will see a group of individuals who have gotten a job in the same place. (Note: these wins should drive, like a lead measure, the WIG for the club, organization, team, etc.) 
  • Define and develop team wins over individual wins. Every team member doesn’t get to decide on his/her own system. Great teams are filled with “players who know their roles” and who know their strengths with an understanding of how they contribute individually and drive the team wins (that also drives the WIG).

Be Intentional About Building Scalable Systems: 

  • Define Your Team’s Systems by ensuring that strong systems drive Day-to-Day Operations:
  • Momentary changes “on the fly” are rarely ideal. The more complex the situation, the less likely “shooting from the hip” is not going to create a breakdown.
  • Instead, be a leader who collaborates with others to create well-defined and consistent systems that create automatic wins through consistency. They’re tried and true. In golf, the script works to deliver the experience.
  • Decide Ahead of Time, What Won’t Be Done: Good strategies are often derailed by a team member’s refusal to live within “the system.”
  • Improve Communication Systems: (Your ability to be part of every conversation, be present for every key conversation, etc. 

Build More Leaders Under Your Care:

  • Teach & Model Every Day: Deliver consistent effort, and give your best to your team. A good leader models what they expect. (If you want respect, want followers…model respect and humility.) Your “players” will mirror you. Feel like your team isn’t giving the effort desired, perhaps that should tell you something.
  • Half-hearted, half-baked effort ruins the best plans. Start with a great recipe, then choose poor ingredients, don’t follow the instructions…get what you deserve (not what you hoped.)
  • Good leaders take the time and create training situations to explain “the why” for the system. Knowing the system, and the why behind it, actually allows for freedom to perform, freedom to deliver with authenticity, freedom to anticipate. “A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.” (Jim Rohn)
  • Model “Not Settling” for The Same: “Good is the Enemy of Great” is a tried and tested philosophy of Jim Collins. Are you modeling Professional Development? Or are you accepting your “good enough?”

Equip Every Day: 

  • Repeat, Repeat, Repeat & Repeat: A good system, a good script allows for great execution (delivery) under pressure (baseball teams have spring training so the team DNA, player’s reactions are ingrained in their mind and muscles)
  • If we value our system (our script) we will put it in front of our players. If we don’t value it, why would they? Remember, the urgent too often crowds out the truly important.

Don’t Like Your Current Situation: The first step is to stop making excuses for poor results as that is “Triple A” level leadership (vs being a Major Leaguer). Stop blaming others, your employer, your staff for your lack of success. Maybe your players are still in “Triple A?” What can you do to help them make the most of their talents, tools? As they improve, how can you honor their efforts to grow? It could be as simple as a high five recognizing the right attitude, a “coachable spirit” or similar puts value where it belongs.

Empower & Delegate Every Day: Give your best to the “right activities” that drive empowerment in your team. Back to the Wildly Important Goal (modeling effort on the lead measures that drive the WIG). Are your “leader activities” (aka Lead Measures) driving the WIG for your team? If not, maybe you’re giving the “best of your time” to the Lag Measures that are really just the reporting about history that has already happened, and can’t be changed, affected or improved!

In the next installment of this series, Paradox Series II, we will look in depth at “The Persuasion Paradox”. If you have some insights and/or wins that you’d like to share with me after reading this article on The Growth Paradox, or similar, I would love to hear from you about them. If I can assist you with your career, help you with your compensation or negotiation, or anything else, I would be honored to do so. (And, Happy New Year!)

Monte Koch, PGA Certified Professional, CIC | 206.335.5260

PGA of America | PGA Career Services | Career Coach & Consultant​

Certified Interview Coach | Certified Predictive Index Practitioner​
Based in South King County, WA

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