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Paul MacCormack: The Mindful Superintendent

May the Force be with you… or not

Posted 26 March 2018 · 724 views

How many times have you struggled with a problem only to find that the tighter your grip, the more elusive the answer became? You doubled down, squared your shoulders and refocused, only to find that in your fervor, the problem had resolved itself without your intervention. Lost in the haze of your quest to fix things, doing nothing at all was actually the best course of action.

 

An old greenkeeping proverb states, "Doing nothing is often the hardest thing to do." But for many superintendents, this is a very uncomfortable prospect.

 

Our "fixing mind tells us, "If I could only do X, the turf would be better...", "If I could only get through to that staff member they would", or "If I could only convince that board member to see things my way, all would be good in the world. For many of us, doing nothing at all simply does not compute.

 

An old greenkeeping proverb states, "Doing nothing is often the hardest thing to do." But for many superintendents, this is a very uncomfortable prospect...

 

Not for fellow TurfNetter Jason Haines (@PenderSuper), of Pender Harbour Golf Club in coastal British Columbia. His blog post a couple of years ago titled, Five things that I dont do anymore and why, highlighted this notion of doing far less to achieve more in the long run. Jason's mantra is to continuously question, examine, and push the boundaries of greenkeeping. In his quest to do less, Jason had found that stepping back and simply observing can sometimes be enough.

 

Doing nothing is hard work. When there is a problem to fix, our egos tell us to get out there and do something at least! This notion forces us out far too early in the spring to begin overseeding, disturbing our surfaces to alleviate a perceived problem, or needlessly interfering with our staff in order to get the job done right. If we can step back and tolerate a little discomfort for a time, sometimes these issues resolve themselves without our constant meddling.

 

How often in our personal lives does this same dance play out? We superintendents are fixers by nature and it can be tough to hold back our innate tendency to jump in and save the day. Are you the person who people always look to for the answer? Many times that's fine, but sometimes it is helpful to ask yourself the question, "Is my input really needed?" This thoughtful pause can give us the space to not instinctively move into our reactive "fixing" mode and make room for things to sort themselves out for a change.

 

It's not to say that intervention is never required and we should always be completely passive about things. We get paid to fix problems on a daily basis; it's kinda what we do. But it might be helpful to evaluate your reaction footprint. Ask yourself if it's more effective to continuously react to problems, or might it be time to start responding wisely instead?

 

...it might be helpful to evaluate your reaction footprint. Ask yourself if it's more effective to continuously react to problems, or might it be time to start responding wisely instead?

 

So next time you feel called upon to throw on your cape and rush out there to save the world, maybe pause first. Don't be afraid to question your first instinct that tells you to automatically do something anything. It's alright to feel a little bit uncomfortable with a given scenario and just observe for a spell. You might be surprised to find that sitting back and letting things be just might be that best thing to do.

 

Thanks so much for reading.


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Randy Wilson
Mar 26 2018

Another excellent column, Paul.  We at Rockbottum CC are proud to be pulling the same sled with thinkers such as your own self.

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Paul MacCormack
Mar 27 2018

Thanks so much for reading and the great feedback guys. It really means a great deal.

 

I agree Jason, from the standpoint of wisdom and experience makes stepping back a good deal easier. Its funny that i had two new fert reps stop by today (unannounced) and ask me what products they had that could make my life better...I politely said that I was pretty confident the answer was...none. 

 

Thanks so much Randy...gonna have to visit Rockbottum someday soon so we can sit on a deck and reflect on sled pulling.

 

True words indeed Jeff. Funny how what can loom so large one day appears much more realistic in size the next. I was thinking on this today after showing up to work a bit agitated. Then I read an article about a first time dad who lost his wife during the delivery of their first child...then I went for a walk... and was extremely thankful for everything.

 

Funny that no busy = must be lazy bug has bitten me for most of my life Matt, only during the last few has mindfulness practice allowed me to honestly see it. Not in a bad way, its just there is all. Still creeps in from time to time, but I can pause and chuckle now. 

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Paul MacCormack's Mindful Superintendent blog is presented by Bayer Golf.

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