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Matt Leverich: Career & Technology Interchange


Presentation Tips: How to Engage Your Audience

Posted in communication 31 March 2017 · 535 views

Guest Post by Greg Wojick
 
Our industry has always been about so much more than growing grass. Eventually everyone has an issue arise, either agronomic or elsewhere in the operation. My belief is that whenever you're in trouble -- and even before you are in trouble -- you better be able to communicate well.
 
I'm usually impressed with superintendents' technical competence and professional conduct. If only that were all you needed for success! The reality is that a major part of your success as a superintendent is having the ability to present yourself and your ideas clearly and effectively before your Green Committee or general membership.
 
Unlike the casual conversations you have with your colleagues, crew, and golfing membership, presenting to a group requires thought and preparation. It's your opportunity to enhance your image as a confident, knowledgeable, and likable professional and to win favor on a proposal or idea that might not otherwise be taken seriously.
 
You'll find a lot written about the mechanics of composing and delivering a presentation. I want to talk, instead, about another aspect of presenting that I feel is equally important to a presenter's success -- and that is how your thoughts are divided among several things and which one is critical to your success.
 
...even the most pertinent, hard-hitting information can fall on deaf ears if you fail to connect or make contact with your audience.
 
I see presenters who give most of their attention to themselves. They are visibly self-conscious, their gestures are not natural, and they worry more about the technique of their presentation than the results.
 
Other presenters concentrate mostly on their messages. They try to produce perfect sentences and end up stumbling over their words. They search for the perfect word and end up saying "uh". They look at and talk to their visuals to a fault. 
 
The best presenters give the highest percentage of their attention to their audience. They connect or make contact with their audience by first taking the time to know their audience and then tailoring their presentations to their needs and concerns. Let's face it, even the most pertinent, hard-hitting information can fall on deaf ears if you fail to connect or make contact with your audience.
 
So how do you engage?
You make contact and connection with your eyes, your voice, your gestures, and your body language. This means you must look at the audience -- not at your notes, sound sincere and committed as you speak, use gestures to emphasize your words, and appear confident and secure with your stance and posture. Practice these skills until they become natural and you appear to be just "having a conversation with the audience." The more prepared you are and confident you feel about your presentation, the better you'll be able to respond to unplanned situations.
 
Practice your speech out loud -- even record it to help you spot areas that sound strange or unnatural, it's easy with phones now. But don't practice gestures and facial expressions in front of a mirror. If you rehearse too many gestures, that's exactly how they'll look. Rehearsed. Let them come naturally to you.
 
Get yourself prepared and comfortable so that you pay only minimal attention to yourself. Rehearse adequately so that you are thinking about the delivery of your message and not the message. When you can spend less time thinking about yourself and your message, you'll have more time to focus on what's most important in the room -- and to your success: the audience.

 




Tech Tip: Online Password Management Solution

Posted in Technology 20 February 2017 · 743 views

This topic isn't specific to the turfgrass industry but we are all adding more and more technology into our daily operations, which typically means new logins and passwords for various software or websites. Add to that your personal accounts for bills, family activities and more, and it can get frustrating to remember all of them. As of today, I have over 50 logins! 

 

When it comes to daily organization, I have written in the past about my use of Wunderlist, a free app for making lists and a lot more. I honestly couldn't function without it and would have had to hire an assistant long ago. If you missed that blog post, you can check it out here

 

Why am I talking about Wunderlist when this article is about passwords? For years, I kept a list in Wunderlist of all my usernames and passwords. I used to use Apple Keychain as well, but keeping them in Wunderlist was easier for me as I have it open constantly every day, and Keychain didn't work for my PC or phone. Wunderlist was a simple solution, but not very secure and I still had to reference the list every time I needed to login plus keep it updated manually. 


So, recently I stumbled upon a great series from a tech blog I follow, 9to5Mac, and software called 1Password.It has really made my online password management a breeze and has made it extremely secure. The premise is pretty simple - login with one password and it works for all of your other ones. You can add all secure information too, like bank accounts, alarm codes, etc. and it works on any operating system or device. You'll quickly see how amazing it is to just have the one password that works for everything, and their encryption is extremely well done. They even have a feature called Watchtower that alerts if a site has been hacked and can reset your password for you with their Strong Password Generator. There are options to add it for your whole family as well which is very convenient. 

 

That's it. Seems silly to me I didn't know about it until now but it has worked so great for me I wanted to pass it along to you as well since this blog covers technology now and then. You can check out full details on it at https://1password.com/

 

 

Note: Just in case you don't know - its not a good option to just have your browser save your logins/passwords on websites because it's not that secure, and more importantly, you should be clearing out your browsing history and cache frequently for a faster experience and for security purposes. 




Critical checklist for your online presence...

Posted in communication 09 January 2017 · 747 views

The very first article I wrote for TurfNet back in 2013 covered the many potential dangers of an online presence. I'm sure most of you have forgotten it and it's only gotten more important in the years since as social media continues its rise in our daily lives. As 2017 starts, now is the time make sure your online presence is working for you in a completely positive way. Here are some key things to consider:


  1. Ensure your security settings in Facebook are heavily restricted. Great info on this at https://www.wired.co...ivacy-settings/
     
  2. Lock your Twitter account down so only those who you approve can follow you and the tweets aren't public. I can't stress this enough for job opportunities, it really is a major factor I have dealt with in the industry.
     
  3. Be very careful what you post. The world of golf has a certain view of how one should behave and, like it or not, compliance leads to better future opportunities. And while it may be fun to commiserate with peers about member antics or turf-care difficulties, it is probably not a good idea for success long term.
     
  4. Have your maintenance blog hosted on the private members' website. This ensures only members can view it and you can freely communicate about issues on the course without worrying about other clubs seeing it. This gets very critical if and when you decide to apply at another club. The committee will scour your information for any sign of distress, trust me. Even if your blog shows you communicated an issue very well, it still has them thinking that you are not Mr. Perfect candidate who never has issues. If you don't have an option for a private blog, make sure the public one is clean of any bad course conditions or issues and send those out through email blasts instead, which will reach more members anyways.
     
  5. Do promote your career website or online portfolio with your membership. This is one area where you can work to push your online presence because it has been carefully crafted to make you look your best. A large percentage of your membership really doesn't know much about you and your career at the vast majority of clubs. Why not get ahead of any future issues by creating a more professional image of yourself and educating members on your extensive background and education? Once you have your career materials complete, leave a small notecard with a link to them at the front desk, send an email with a link to all members, include in a blog post and many other ways as well to show members your career background.

 

Using these five tips will ensure that when it's time for your next career opportunity, you'll be ready and protected from potential online harm.




The Course Set Paradox...

Posted in communication, Technology 30 November 2016 · 788 views

by Greg Wojick, Playbooks for Golf
 
Many golf course workers can now be thankful that setting up the course is over for the season (not so for the sun belt guys and gals). Course set-up is that recurring job that golfers can easily understand but it can also become a tedious chore for the worker routinely assigned to this hugely important duty. Day after day this set of chores is expected to be done with perfection lest the superintendent will hear about it. If a violation with course set-up is consequential enough and not detected in time by a staff member, (i.e. hole location on a slight slope) golfers may never forget it!
 
Lets take a look at just some of the detail of a comprehensive daily course set routine:
  • Clean and set up tee markers (for all sets of tees)
  • Fill divots with seed/soil from previous day
  • Fill divot boxes
  • Empty broken tee containers
  • Pick up any trash on course, around buildings
  • Set up the practice area tee/position locations
  • Check club cleaning units/towels
  • Check practice area signage
  • Check practice ball supply
  • Check on course restroom facilities
  • Set hole locations on the practice green(s)
  • Check the ball washer fluid and towels (if you have them) at each location
  • Clean and reposition benches on tees, at the practice area too
  • Check ropes, stakes, scatter mechanisms
  • Clean plaques on tees, in the fairways
  • Check and reposition signage
  • Decide on where to position hole locations on each green
  • Repair a few ball marks
  • Check bunker rake placement
  • Empty garbage receptacles
  • Check on divot containers for caddies, in divot-concentrated areas of fairways, in golf carts
  • Making note of and communicating weeping sprinklers or sprinkler heads stuck on
  • Repairing damage from overnight animal burrowing
Golfers will comment with some degree of authority about most all of the items on this list of daily chores (most often hole location) and many have specific thoughts about how the work should be done.  As an example, many golfers feel that the tee marker locations should deliver variability but also end up with an overall yardage about the same as what the scorecard indicates.  Additionally, golfers typically want each par three hole to play at different yardages so that the same club (i.e. 7-iron) is not used for each of the par three holes.  This requires that tee marker location combined with hole location be in the correct synchrony.  Seems easy enough but just try explaining that to the recruit who you hope is competent enough to handle the course set duties.  
 
Well-trained assistant superintendents oftentimes get the course set assignments but because of the increasing demands on assistants (spraying, fertilizing, watering, etc) I have seen staff other than assistants performing course set on most all of the courses I visit. More specifically I have noticed that many of the workers are foreign language speaking who may or may not have command of the English language, which adds to the challenges of perfect daily set up.
 
Have you ever been notified about a ball washer that is dry or a rope that is drooping?  Has a worker ever inadvertently left tee markers in the same place or forgot to change a hole location?  How about the cart arrow sign pointing in the wrong direction or the Snickers bar wrapper blowing across a fairway?  Criticism is sure to follow these mis-deeds much sooner than would a fertilizer spill or a spray skip.
 
The myriad golfer gadgets that are now commonplace with golfers should give us a strong clue in the quest for daily course set perfection.  Golfers love their gadgets!  Yardage plaques can now easily be checked by golfers range finders (and caddies).  Other yardage markers like the 150, 100, etc can be critiqued with accuracy.  Smart phones can actually detect the slope on greens and also can have daily hole locations pre-set on an app (our own ezPins system does this) that golfers can see before and during their round of golf.  With all the complexity that overall course presentation entails, specific course set up remains the most often criticized part of what the golfer can confidently discuss with turf pros. Superintendents should never minimize course set.  Similar to setting up a restaurant for fine dining, the slightest indication that something is 'off' can start a downward spiral of course comments.
 

Similar to setting up a restaurant for fine dining, the slightest indication that something is 'off' can start a downward spiral of course comments...

 
I know a few supers that will set the course themselves each day to avoid issues.  I know one superintendent who sprays a small dot on the tees and greens each morning to help his staff with the decisions about where to place markers or holes.  Everyone has their own procedures for course set and most don't let the uninitiated ever perform the task without proper guidance and experience.  I have found that the weary and glazed-over worker who is asked, because of his/her sense of doing things well, day after day to set the course eventually learns to avoid risk.  This risk avoidance becomes manifested with hole locations in similar spots time after time.  It also shows up with tee marker locations in the middle of each tee.  Ironically, by trying to avoid risk of criticism, the worker creates a noticeable sameness to the course set up.  Sameness of set-up leads to criticism.  There is the paradox!
 
Consider this as a New Year's resolution or simply as a holiday gift to yourself and your staff: create a set of SOPs (standard operating procedures) for course set up.  This document of procedures can be distributed to your green chairman and his committee, to the golf staff and caddie group if you have a caddie program.  In the SOPs detail, the reasoning as to how the hole locations are selected and how each worker is trained with the responsibility of setting pins. This doc should be clear and approved by the chairman and committee.  Additionally, an automated computer system for selecting hole locations is a very realistic, affordable solution to hole location nightmares, with more courses opting for this all the time. I can provide more details on how this works great for all parties involved -- green committees, pros and superintendents -- from direct experience at clubs I have consulted at in the past year. Just contact me directly if interested. 
 
Perfection in course set up rarely happens each and every day throughout the entire year, but when the occasional mishap occurs, communication with respect to procedures can go a long way towards understanding.  And maybe with this extra effort more workers can be properly and confidently trained to set the course.




Tech tip: Image headers in Word for a professional look

Posted in Technology, communication 18 October 2016 · 1,084 views

I would estimate that close to 100% of superintendents have and use Microsoft Word for creating various documents for use around your clubs, and personally as well. While there are limitations to the software, one thing that works great is how it handles headers. There is a little bit of process to it, but in the end you can have a very nicely designed document that you can then edit on your own. 
 
Let's say that you have had TurfNet design a header for your blog and you'd like to use it on some documents as well. Or you had someone design a custom look for you. As part of my career services we create a custom header for resumes anyways and we include it in the Word file for the base cover letter in this manner. Yet another option would be that you want to have your club logo with your name in large text at the top of any notes to the membership on course conditions, articles, green speed, etc. These are all easily set up as headers in Word. 
 
I've created a stock header image for myself to use as an example in this tutorial. Here's how it works: 
 
1. Hire someone or find a designer friend to create a professional header image. This will allow you to have the best look that reflects your professional career properly. The image can be various sizes, but if you want it to be really easy, have them set up the image as an 8.5 x 11 file in jpg or png file types, at a minimum of 150 dpi. 
 
 
2. In Word, click on the Insert tab and select the Header section. Then select Edit Header
 
 
3. Select the Picture section in the new set of sections available at the top. This will open a dialog box for you to find the file you want to include. Navigate to where the header image is located on your computer or drive. 
 
 
4. Once the picture is inserted, it must be sized properly. Click on the very bottom right of the top sections where there is a small arrow in the Size box. 
 
 
5. In the Size tab, click on Absolute and enter 11 for the height and 8.5 for the width. 
 
 
6. Click on the Text Wrapping tab and select the box for Behind Text
 
 
7. Click on the Position tab and select Alignment: Left and related to: Page from the drop down menus in the Horizontal section. Do the same for the Vertical options as well. Exit from this dialog box. 
 
 
8. The head has now been sized properly. Click on the Design tab at the very top right of the menu list. Then select the Close Header and Footer option. 
 
 
9. Now you can adjust the margins for the text areas. In my example I have lined up the text with the edges of the header layout for a unified look. You can alter the margins by moving your arrow over the rulers on the top and left of the document where the gray and white meet. 
 
 
10. Save out the file. As you can see in my example, the header image shows up as faded out or semi-transparent. This is how Word handles it. The header will display properly (not faded out) when you export the file to a PDF. I covered the importance of exporting to PDF in my last blog.
 
 
That's it. You now have a professional look for any document you wish to create. 
 




Export your career documents to PDF...

Posted in Career 07 September 2016 · 901 views

 

I have covered this topic very briefly before in a larger article about cover letters, but it's worthwhile to include this as its own feature in our goal of providing excellent and easy to read career materials. 
 
Portable Document Format (PDF) preserves document formatting and enables file sharing. When the PDF format file is viewed online or printed, it retains the content and format that you intended. 
 
Out of all the career files I view each year, over 50% are still sent in a non-PDF format, usually in a Word file  (.doc) format. The message here is pretty simple:
 
ALWAYS CONVERT ANY FILE TO PDF BEFORE YOU SEND IT. 
 
Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, etc. do some funny things to text margins depending upon the version and computer. Especially if you are using tables, I can't tell you how many times I have tried to view a resume in .doc format and I can only view the first page of a tabled resume; everything else is missing. And with mobile devices so prominent, it gets even more complicated to ensure your file retains its original formatting.
 
Each version of Word seems to have it's own variation of save/print commands, but generally speaking you can export to PDF from Word using
  • File/Save & Send/Create PDF
  • File/Save As/ change "Format" from .doc to .pdf
  • File/Print then Save as PDF from the small PDF dropdown at lower left
  • Export/XPS Document
  • or use a free online converter if your computer cannot export to PDF. 
 
Microsoft has instructions for creating PDFs from each Office application and version here.
 
By converting your document to PDF, you are certain that your margins, text formatting and overall page are laid out the way you want, and that all pages will show up no matter what computer or device is used for viewing. The hiring person will appreciate the format and while it's a small thing, it can only help to give you a better chance at success. 

 




Rethinking the Superintendent Search

Posted in Career 28 July 2016 · 2,060 views

Guest post by Greg Wojick, Playbooks for Golf --

 

I recently visited the CMAA (Club Managers Association of America) website. One of the first things I noticed was that more than two dozen executive search firms were listed.
 
I looked further, scanning many of the search firm sites. I saw that there were numerous searches for general managers, most often referred to as COOs and occasionally CEOs. I also saw searches for assistant general managers, executive chefs, directors of food and beverage, golf professionals and golf shop staff, marketing positions, and human resource positions. Though all the jobs listed were for golf club personnel, searches for golf course superintendents were conspicuously absent. None of these websites listed searches for a superintendent! 
 
That prompted a visit to the GCSAA website. Not one executive search firm was listed there.  I even went so far as to track down executive search sites that specialize in golf course superintendent hires, and no active searches were listed. Hmmm.  
 
Debate on Super Searches
It appears that clubs are willing to pay thousands of dollars to enlist professional help to hire key individuals at their clubs, but the golf course superintendent isn't among them. 
 
I find this particularly interesting since, from what I understand, a survey revealed that golf course conditioning is considered to be the most important aspect in the business of golf course management. Golf Course Architect Robert Trent Jones, who is clearly well versed in all that goes into cultivating a healthy and well-groomed golf course, was quoted as saying, 
 
The importance of having the right golf course superintendent at a given club cannot be overemphasized. Indeed, a club's very success depends, for the most part, on the professional and personal qualities of the superintendent.
 
I don't have a definitive answer for why most clubs haven't recognized the importance of enlisting the help of a search firm to hire their golf course superintendent. I do know, however, that increasingly general managers, working together with search committees, have taken on the duties of hiring the superintendent. The merits of this practice, in my mind, are debatable.
 

...increasingly general managers, working together with search committees, have taken on the duties of hiring the superintendent. The merits of this practice, in my mind, are debatable.

 
The golf course, as we know, is one of the club's most essential and valuable assets. What is a golf club, after all, without its golf course? What's more, the skills and knowhow required to successfully manage a golf course operation don't come easily. It's a science that requires years of study and experience to master. Superintendents must be diagnosticians, capable of recognizing myriad turf diseases and insect infestations, while pinpointing just-the-right remedy from a dizzying array of pesticide and insecticide options. But this is just a piece of the whole. Superintendents, at the same time, are required to manage sizable budgets with great care and precision, communicate effectively with club staff and green committee members, and inspire peak performance from their staff members, seven days a weekparticularly from early spring through late fall. This is a sizable and highly specialized job.
 
Tips for the Candidate
Clubs conducting their own searches for superintendent can't possibly know the nuances of the profession, but I've witnessed times when they've taken a fact or two out of context to project that they have a grasp on what it is that superintendents do. Not only does this fail to adequately vet a candidate, but it makes it challenging for the person being interviewed.
 
Aside from recommending that clubs consider passing the search for superintendent on to a qualified search firm, I'd like to offer a word to the wise to those interviewing for a superintendent's position, particularly assistants seeking to climb the ladder.
 
First, keep in mind that search firms with expertise in the turfgrass management industry understand the complexities of the job of golf course superintendent, and they are highly qualified to evaluate job candidates' ability to manage a particular golf course operation. They understand what's involved in topdressing, the use of moisture meters, and the life cycle of the annual bluegrass weevil. By contrast, those who are familiar with golf but not deeply involved in the turf world, may have heard these terms, but won't fully grasp them. It's essential, therefore, that you practice describing your qualifications in laymen's terms. In other words, keep it simple. 
 

... It's essential, therefore, that you practice describing your qualifications in laymen's terms. In other words, keep it simple.

 
Also be sure to communicate your experience and expertise with professionally done career tools. Portfolios and digital websites are essential to ensure that proper communication actually takes place. 
 
When I take time to ponder why clubs rarely enlist a search firm for hiring a golf course superintendent, I have to wonder whether the industry goal of elevating the status of the profession may actually be falling short. And when I watch the GCSAA TV spots that encourage golfers to thank their superintendent, I can't help but feel that thanks may just not be enough.
 
SIDEBAR
Take It From the CMAA
 
Also on the CMAA website was an idea that I thought might work for the golf course industry. There's a list of 223 individual CMAA members who are available for Interim Management Service (IMS). The IMS is designed to assist clubs that are in need of immediate temporary management assistance.
 
In the turfgrass management industry, an IMS doesn't exist. But maybe its time has come. I would bet that superintendents would put their names on a list to help out a club in need. There seems to always be a pool of supers who are in between jobs and would be pleased to fill in temporarily. 
 
Perhaps local chapters could initiate this list and advertise it to area clubs. Just a thought.

 

After nearly 30 years as a golf course superintendent and consultant, Greg Wojick co-founded Playbooks for Golf in 2008.




Prepare in advance for unanticipated job openings...

Posted in Career 14 June 2016 · 1,157 views

 

As with any season in the golf industry, inevitable job losses have come in 2016. While it is an understandably hard time for those on the losing end, others see it as a possible bright new future for their career. And this event can happen at any time; even your dream job can open up unexpectedly. You should always have your career materials ready to go, just in case. It's too risky to not be ready when so few of these superintendent positions open up. 
 
Recent activity brought this old issue to the forefront for me. I received a multitude of requests for career work to meet a very tight application deadline. I accepted all I could and had to turn the rest down. Although I offered to work on the projects after the deadline so these professionals are ready for the next big one, very few were interested. This is not the way to operate... waiting until an opening appears and then frantically putting your life's work together. 
 
This is a call-to-action, a chance to be proactive with your career. Don't wait until it's too late! 
 
In 2014, I wrote a comprehensive post on things you can do to prepare now. I encourage you to read it and begin work today.
 
And also remember that it is critical to create a professional image, not a DIY, spare-time one, as laid out in this earlier post.
 
If you are in the job market at all -- and realistically speaking, just about everyone might be some day -- do yourself a favor and have your career materials current and ready in advance.

 




Beyond turf, tap into golfers' wants and needs...

Posted in Career, communication 04 May 2016 · 1,094 views

One of the biggest traps you can fall into in our industry is focusing too much on turf. Instead, you should spend extra time learning as much as you can about what golfers care about and want to discuss. Outreach to your customers is something that is truly lacking in the golf maintenance world. Many of the problems that arise for a superintendent stem from communication, or a lack of it, with golfers.

The best way to create better outreach to golfers is through first learning what the most passionate of them think. To better understand their frame of mind can lead to improved dialog and education with them on course conditions and what is involved, versus their impressions of conditions.

To this end, Greg Wojick (my business partner at Playbooks), has compiled a very extensive article on "A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Course Ranking System. Greg is a Golfweek rater and former superintendent. His look into all rating systems and what passionate golfers like raters think is a great educational opportunity for those of you not fully familiar with rankings and how it's done.

I invite you to read the complete article here (lengthy but very worthwhile and educational).

As I am sure most of you know, even if your course will never be ranked, some of your most passionate members like to discuss architecture, rankings, pretty much anything to do with comparing courses. The more you know about the process or things from the golfer's perspective the better off you will be in communicating with them. They may even begin to consider you one of "them", which is a good thing for your long-term success in this industry.


(Greg Wojick's article was originally published in the MetGCSA's Tee to Green newsletter, content courtesy of the MetGCSA.)
 




DIY job application basics...

Posted in Career 26 March 2016 · 1,203 views

Over the course of the last several years I have covered different aspects of creating good career materials. From tips on resumes to hiring professionals to create your personal brand through websites and portfolios, we have covered a lot of material. And I intend to cover much more in the future.

However, I've never compiled any kind of resource to some basics on job applications - your cover letter, resume and references. So, here are some links to what I consider the baseline must-haves on these documents for your use and reference:

Best Tips for Resumes

Creating a Great Cover Letter


Guidelines for Professional References

Each one of these articles will give you an excellent opportunity to execute your career advancement and goals, and it is handy to have them compiled together right here. Of course you can (and should) do much more to stand out by hiring a professional and building a website and portfolio. But at the very least following these guidelines is a good first step. Best of luck on your next application.

 

Never underestimate the value of this seldom used tool. In today's world this simple act resonates more than almost anything in creating an impression on the recipient...

 

On a related note, I have seen an increase in the number of you who have gotten back to hand-written thank you notes for applications and just use in general. It's great to see and I try to include a reminder post once a year on it. Never underestimate the value of this seldom used tool. In today's world this simple act resonates more than almost anything in creating an impression on the recipient. I have put together custom cards for several of you already and hope to get many more requests going forward because I truly believe in this effort and hope it catches on much more.

 

For my full layout of this idea, check it out here.








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