Golf Anyone?

It's summertime and I bet that some of you are golfing more than you're working. I don't golf often, but when I do I'm struck by the similarities between golf and leading change.

The first time I golfed I was nervous because I assumed that everyone on the course would be a good golfer. I figured that, if someone invested hundreds of dollars in clubs and clothes, plunked down a lot of money to play and then went to a public course to do it, that they would probably know what they're doing. Not so.

I soon learned that there are lots of novices like me who have clubs, enjoy the game but .will never be mistaken for Annika Sorenstam. Sadly, the same scenario exists in most organizations; there are lots of leaders involved in change initiatives, but few real Change Champions.

At work or on the golf course, the right tools are key to success. You wouldn't use a driver around the greens, or a putter in the rough. But I see people routinely reaching for their command and control 'club' when a softer, more elegant communication approach is what's called for.

And, speaking of being in the rough, and place I visit often on my way to the flag, getting out of the rough with minimal strokes can, as they say, really separate the men from the boys. Teams in transition will inevitably spend time in the 'rough'; that in-between place where people and processes aren't like they used to be, but aren't yet what they should be. It's a tough spot to be in and, just like the tall grass and trees that make up the rough on a golf course, leaders need finesse to move themselves and their teams through the uncomfortable parts of a change . The rough requires a sound knowledge of: your clubs (options) the terrain (yourself, the objectives and the company's change-readiness) and your tolerance for risk (that seems to be the same in golf or in business).

Another parallel between playing golf and leading change is that the task is never the same twice, no matter how similar it looks at first glance. Even if you play the same course every Saturday morning, each time you step up to a tee - it's a new shot. Today the wind is a factor, last time it wasn't, or the greens are dryer and so landing a shot is harder. Good golfers understand this. At each hole they check to see where the flag is; they know that flags, just like people or processes, can be in a different spot than they were last time they took the same shot

I don't get out on the links or practice much so I'm at about the same skill level I was when I first took up the game. Oh, I've always been able to drive decently enough, but it's my 'short game' that's well, less than it should be. So, I like playing Best Ball. Best Ball is a great way to describe the work of a high-performance transition team. Each player (team member) has skin in the game; that is, they all accept responsibility for the outcome of the game.

When you're in a game of Best Ball, you quickly learn who has the stronger drive, putting or the ability to get out of the sand trap, and a savvy team leans into the strengths of its members. Each player takes their best shot in turn, but they know that their team- mates are there to help out when their individual effort falls short. They share the goal, the pressure to perform and ultimately the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.

So, how's your game?

Are you someone who people are thrilled to have lead their team?

Need to brush up on your change-leadership skills?

Maybe I can help. Just don't count on me for golf!