This is a follow up to an entry I made several weeks back on Lessons From The Course.
I once again had the privilege to serve as caddie for my daughter as she played in another local golf tournament. If you recall from earlier this month, my last experience as caddie was less than perfect. So the question is: Did I learn from that experience?
Before I get to the answer to the question, I need to set the stage for my state of mind as I was driving her to the course on a blustery (the winds were blowing 15-20 mph) Sunday afternoon.
In addition to serving as my daughter’s caddie, I also co-coach her youth league basketball team. Her last game of the season was on Saturday. The season had been full of intense games – almost too intense for “church league” hoops for 3rd and 4th graders. The team had some good wins, including one with a game winning shot as time expired to snag victory from defeat. There were also some tough losses in which there was some unneeded tension with opposing coaches and officials. And during all the games, there was lots of sideline coaching – I dare shamefully call it “micro-coaching.”
Our routine for the prior 7 games was to gather the players 10 minutes before the game and go over strategy and plays. Remind them to set screens on offense, get rebounds and how to fight through screens on defense. Half-time was spent going over what was working well, talking about shooting percentages and begging them to get more rebounds. For the last game of the season, my co-coach asked me “so what do you want to tell them for pre-game?” I paused for a moment and said “Nothing, other than go have fun.” So that is what we told them – “Go Have Fun.” No talk of screens, or spread offense sets, or help defense. As the game unfolded, we yelled very few instructions from the sidelines, and for the most part we just let the girls play. We provided words of encouragement when they came out of the game and provided some individual guidance as we rotated players but the “micro-coaching” was no more. Surprisingly they called out plays, set screens, got rebound after rebound and helped each other on defense – all without two “forty-something” coaches constantly yelling out instructions at them.
It ended up being the most enjoyable game of the season – more enjoyable for the players; more enjoyable for the coaches, and I think even more enjoyable for the parents watching the game. Our girls ended the season with a 22-12 victory. More importantly, after two months of practice and playing they were able to do it without constant coaching from the sidelines. They had reached a point where that that was no longer needed. These young girls were becoming self-sufficient on the court.
Fast forward to Saturday night, a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to an article, Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids? The article basically argues that parents of Gen Y kids (those born between 1984 and 2002) have been consumed with protecting their children to a point where Gen Y kids are not prepared to be self-sufficient adults. It goes on to say that parents of this generation do everything possible to make sure their kids do not fail. Essentially it states that many parents have been micro-managing every aspect of their children’s lives, carefully orchestrating each moment to create the perfect childhood. It was a thought provoking article – not only because my own kids are in the tail-end of that generation but also because the older kids of Gen Y are becoming more common place in the work environment. My initial reaction was that the article was directionally correct but not spot on to the point where my kids and certainly not I as a parent could be included in that generalization.
So now fast forward to Sunday afternoon and that drive to the golf course. I had my mind set that I was not going to be the overbearing caddie/golf advisor/dad as my precious 9 year old daughter navigated yet another challenging golf course. As she warmed up, I kept my distance. I handed her club after club and she went through her pre-round warm up – but I said little other than the occasional “nice shot” comment. The first hole was a long par 5, into the wind, with a water-carry in front of the green. What a way to start a round. You could tell the group in front of her was grinding through the hole and her group found it a challenge as well. But I was trying hard to keep my word and not micro-manage her play, so I kept my guidance to a minimum. After a penalty stroke for making a splash and a brutal 3-putt, she painfully recorded a triple bogey on the first hole.
The next three holes would test my promise to not be all in her business, to not direct her every move. I could feel the urge to line up every shot for her, to tell her how hard to swing on each stroke. And I think she could feel it too. The 4th hole was especially painful; a pretty drive took a bad bounce to the left and ended up in a greenside sandtrap. A bounce to the right and she would have been looking at a 10-12 foot putt for an eagle. As she entered the trap, I could not resist reminding her to not over hit the shot as the green was small and on the other side of the green was a steep slope down to a creek. So she blasted it out of the sand and ended up off the green on the other side of the hole, down the hillside, resting inches away from the creek. I could feel myself shaking my head, basically saying without saying “I told you not to do that.” A decent pitch from the edge of the hazard and a follow-up pitch had her on the green “in 4” – about 15 feet away from the hole. Four putts later, each with more and more verbal direction from me, she finishes the hole.
As we walked to the next tee, I started telling her how important it was to make good chip shots around the green and that 4-putting was just a killer. She finally looked at me with those sweet brown eyes of hers and said “Dad, I know what I need to do. How about for the rest of the round, you just let me ask you for advice when I think I need it.” How could I respond to that, other than to agree and think to myself how pitifully I had failed to uphold my promise to not micro-manage her round?
So on the next hole, I handed her the driver and quickly removed myself from the tee box. She lined herself up and hit a pretty drive, she followed that up with a great approach shot into the green and then two-putted for a par. The only advice I provided was when she asked “9 iron or pitching wedge?” on the approach shot.
All I could do when that par putt drop in the cup was to hug her and give her a big ole kiss. Not because she made a par, but because she once again taught me a lesson. She showed me that there are times when you have to let go and give your kid a chance to succeed or fail on her own. She was becoming self-sufficient on the course and little by little in her life as well.
So you know I like to somehow tie these back into the world of business, so here goes. Much like I as a parent have to let my kids fly on their own even if at times it ends in failure, I as a manager have to let my employees fly on their own as well. I have to provide employees with training and instruction on what to do, make sure they have the right tools, and put them in situation where they can succeed. But assuming those things are in place, it is up to the individual to actually execute. I should be there to provide advice if asked, but I cannot micro-manage every aspect of that server configuration, that line of code, or those detailed tasks during a midnight network maintenance. Employees must ultimately execute the tasks assigned to them without constant manager intervention – even it at times the results are less than perfect. We learn so much more from successes and failures when they are actually ours – and that is how we become better at our jobs.
So back to the question: Did I learn from that previous experience on the course?
I think the answer is “Yes.”
But I learned from this one as well. I once again feel more enlightened after spending time on the course with my daughter. Perhaps I should encourage her to enter more golf tournaments – at this rate I might become the wisest man on earth.