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About this blog

Industry consultant Jim McLoughlin addresses topics such as the job application process; career planning; and job security in a bad economy.

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GCSAA Priorities: Upgrade The Nominating Process And Return To Transparent Governance

Coming out of the winter of 1980, several chapters asked GCSAA to survey all the chapters to inquire whether they wanted to be mailed (no e-mail then) the minutes of GCSAA Board meetings for distribution to their chapters board members and to any of their chapter members requesting a copy.   The chapters voted 95-0 to implement this policy that served the Association well as evidenced by the fact that every existing activity/program given attention at the time realized sizable growth because the members felt for the first time that they were part of the team. This was a transformative time for GCSAA that everyone thought would last indefinitely.   Unfortunately, however, within a few years a disruptive headquarters relocation battle within GCSAA unsettled everything, politically divided the membership, and consequently, the still relatively new policy of distributing Board meeting minutes was abandoned and has not been revived to this day.   The Consequences Of Failed Leadership The most critical consequence of this relocation skirmish was that all the headway that had been made up to that time to advance the job security and access to outreach counseling on behalf of the members stalled and quickly dissipated - not to return to this day.   For a detailed listing of the devastation wrought upon superintendents and their families when politics over-rides job performance and costs them their jobs - see April 28, 2016 blog message.   Why Board Efforts To Address Job Security Matters Fails Through the years GCSAA watchers including myself have asked well-respected leaders within the membership why they consistently decline invitations to serve on the GCSAA Board? The persistent answer always has been:   "Because the nominating committee has been delivering more 'nice guys' with the best intentions' to the GCSAA Board than natural leaders who are needed to make the tough decisions. Important policy proposals consistently fail by 2-7 and 3-6 votes and I don't want to spend that much time traveling the country, attending meetings when so little gets done - especially when I know my one vote will not make a difference."   Clearly, the nominating process requires adjustments to ensure that it will become more effective delivering dominant leadership on a year-to-year basis to the GCSAA Board - because without enhanced leadership at the top the two embattled issues of our time: namely, making better job security and access to outreach counseling available to the membership will never get on the radar.   Recommended Plan Of Action Following are four recommended steps that would upgrade the nominating process and return GCSAA to a much-heralded era of operational transparency.   Step Number One:      Only chapter past presidents would be eligible to be nominated to the GCSAA Board. This would produce several hundreds of potentially qualified nominees at any one time from all the chapters.   Rationale: Logic suggests that chapter presidents would have demonstrated the necessary leadership qualities to a greater degree than any other official, or member within a chapter.   GCSAA nominating policy should always ensure advancing the very best qualified leaders to its Board.   Step Number Two:     Only chapter boards can nominate past presidents to the GCSAA Board with the following understandings: only one past president can be nominated each election cycle; and the nominee must be a member of the same chapter as the endorsing board.   Rationale:  Chapter boards are the best "quality control" element available to ensure that only the best candidates get nominated to the GCSAA Board.   Step Number Three: Sponsoring chapters would be required to submit a personal career web site profiling the career, professional vision and lifestyle of their nominees when notifying the GCSAA Nominating Committee of their selections.   The nominee would be responsible for designing/developing his own website - using outside counseling support, or not - which the endorsing chapter board must approve of before submitting its nomination to the GCSAA Nominating Committee.   The nominees personal career website would include, in part: a series of appropriate links depicting the nominees educational, career and lifestyle accomplishments; a full text presentation of all writings published by the nominee; a +/- 500 word essay stating what the nominee's short and long term visions are for GCSAA; and for those seeking re-election to the Board a statement of the nominee's issue by issue voting record while serving previously on the GCSAA Board.   The endorsing chapter would pay for the development of its nominee's personal career web site - the cost of which must stay within the limits established by GCSAA.   Rationale: Because the nominees' web site addresses could be included within each candidate's information package that GCSAA sends out to all its members before an election, the concept of a personal career web site guarantees that there will be a well-informed voting membership attending every GCSAA annual meeting.   Step Number Four:   It is imperative that GCSAA returns to be the totally transparent organization it once was, which would require reinstating the policy of e-mailing Board meeting minutes to the board members of all of the 100-plus chapters.   Rationale: The primary fallout of GCSAA failing to restore the policy authorizing the distribution of Board meeting minutes would be that the members would continue to have absolutely no idea what the voting records were of the members they are electing as officers, or Board members.   Accordingly, without access to nominees' voting records, there would no available way for members to judge whether any candidate for election was an effective leader, or not.   Can anyone imagine a U.S. Senator, or a U.S. Congressman running for re-election without the American people knowing of their voting records? The entire election process would be declared unconstitutional and shut down.   Where Does GCSAA Go From Here? Of course, this brings everything back to the original source of the problem; namely being dependent on the GCSAA Board to vote passage of important policy legislation.     The consensus opinion, again, of GCSAA watchers is that the Board would more than likely be willing to upgrade the nominating process. But, becoming a totally transparent organization could be another matter.   But then, GCSAA might want to create a second transformative era similar to that referenced earlier above because this would launch GCSAA, its members and the profession to new national levels of recognition and respect.   Because the long-range welfare of every golf course superintendent across the land will totally depend in the years ahead on realizing the two goals of upgrading the GCSAA nominating process and returning the Association to transparent governance everyone should be well-motivated to get the job done.   It is time for leaders within GCSAA and at the chapter level to take charge, organize a campaign and lead!

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Why Most Superintendents Have Jobs, Not Careers And What To Do About It

While Jim McLoughlin's blog series was completed a short while ago, an additional thesis with an important message will be posted from time to time.   The following question relating to the career welfare of every golf course superintendent across the country has to be asked and should be addressed:   "Why have GCSAA Boards continuously failed to address the singular most important issue of their time? Namely, that it is time to liberate superintendents from the long-standing conundrum where a solid majority of employers consistently deny their superintendents access to written employment contract protection and outreach program support, which inevitably deprive superintendents of on-going job security and undermines their career advancement."   Proof of the pudding, as they say, lies is the fact that neither GCSAA's nor any chapter's bylaws or mission statements past or present mentions that the primary responsibility of these organizations is to provide priority support for the concepts of job security, career welfare and outreach program counseling for their members.   Because some are not familiar with the idea of "outreach" programming, following is a general definition of the concept:   Outreach is a career-salvaging concept where professional counselors provide the following support within the job/employment world: First - by making contact with dismissed employees to help sustain family morale until lost careers can be restarted; Second - by helping dismissed employees restart their careers, or to initiate new careers; and Third - by helping retiring employees initiate second careers if they so wish.   There is a reason why corporate America and the U.S. military are so fully committed to the idea of outreach programming, which is a concept the golf course superintendents' organizations should consider adopting because their need for fair and balanced employment practices are the equal of any job-based society across America.    A LOOK AT THE SCOPE OF THE DEVASTATION WROUGHT   Few throughout the national golf community have born witness to the full scope of the devastation wrought when superintendents are dismissed without obvious cause because, lacking written contract protection, they too often become job vulnerable whenever political "turf wars" distract club administrations away from their intended course.   The seldom-noticed but always disturbing reality is that superintendents face the following family destabilizing situations when confronted with a politically-based short-notice forfeiture of their jobs: loss of the family's  primary income; mortgage payments and children's college tuition fees are put in jeopardy; employer-provided housing is quickly term-limited; family health coverage fades; children will generally have to change school systems; severance packages are curtailed; and finally victimized superintendents are often required to sign confidentiality agreements which inhibits their ability to defend themselves in the forum of industry opinion and, therefore, to successfully pursue their next jobs.   And last but not least, dismissed superintendents repeatedly face the daunting task of seeking their next job without the benefit of their former employers' backing and without encouragement or career counseling from yet to be established outreach programs (see above) - a somewhat lethal combination that more times than not terminates careers.   Interestingly, CMAA and PGA members generally have ready access to written contract protection and, therefore, avoid all the above stated ills that befall superintendents who generally work without this protection.   VICTIMS' REACTIONS   TurfNet has provided further insight into the world of the arbitrarily-dismissed superintendent by publishing the following victims' consensus opinion on the subject:   "I was shell-shocked and felt like I was being stabbed in the back; its like the grief experienced from a job loss is similar to the grief suffered because of the death of a close family member" - all of which puts untold stress on the marriages of those involved."   A reminder that this matter is no small kettle of fish is the fact that reliable surveys constantly remind us that roughly 80% of golf course superintendents are being continuously denied access to written contract job protection and are, therefore, always job vulnerable despite being the only essential work force throughout golf.    This massive injustice strips away any illusion that golf course superintendents will be able to enjoy the long term benefits of "career" employment; rather, their only remaining option is to settle for year-to-year jobs that can be put in jeopardy any time by the under-currents of course politics, or by the changing of the guard up their chains of command.   Clearly, the above described situation will continue on indefinitely until the nominating process delivers enough natural leaders from within the membership to the GCSAA Board to effectively address this challenge.    RECOMMENDED PLAN OF ACTION   The following plan of action will briefly present concepts within a long range plan format designed to address the job security issues presented above - with details to be made available at a later date.   Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to the job security issues profiled above because - quite logically - if this matter could be easily dealt with it would have been dealt with long before now.    PHASE ONE  (Implement when ready - program can be immediately operational):   Pending the development of formal profession-wide outreach programming, chapters should establish interim outreach committees consisting of veteran and/or retired superintendents and their wives who would be asked to implement the outreach program defined above as best they can until more formal counseling becomes available at a later date.   PHASE TWO  (Implement when ready - chapters will comply a few at a time over two years):   Concurrently amend the GCSAA and chapter bylaws by following the procedures presented in Article XII to add the following policy to the bylaws and mission statements of these associations.   "The primary purposes for which this Corporation and its affiliated chapters were formed are to help to secure the jobs and to advance the career welfare of its members; and furthermore to also make professional outreach program counseling available to its members through its chapter infrastructure."   PHASE THREE  (Implement when ready - program can be set-up quickly - then chapters have to hire qualified Executive Directors and have them attend the training program - over all it will be five years before majority of chapters have their Executive Directors qualified and in place - but progress will be forth coming sooner as early compiling chapters get things done):   Because Executive Directors must be the eventual outreach counselors for their chapter members, GCSAA would develop a training program that would: First - circulate a model job description for the position to each chapter - a sample of which is presented later in this blog series; and Second - provide an online course of study with testing to prepare the Executive Directors to become effective outreach counselors for their chapters.   THE REAL CHALLENGE   The real problem with trying to address the above employment-based grievances is the fact that - except for a GM, a board member, or a chairman or two at some courses - over 90% of the administrators and players at the nation's golf courses are generally unaware of the inequitable employment practices superintendents have to deal with every year because this is by design the best kept secret in golf.   Therefore, any success to be gained here will have to be predicated upon a well-conceived non-threatening education program directed toward the nation's national golf community.   In summary: while the above action plan is clearly do-able over a modest period of time, it will require the natural leaders within the membership to "come out of the closet," to stand tall, to make things happen and for the first time bring pride to a profession - a goal that, once realized, will draw the golfing world toward it and by so doing will open the door to resolving the long-standing employment issues of our time.  

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Qualified Chapter Executive Directors Are Key To Superintendents' Career Advancement

During the late 1970s GCSAA unexpectedly found itself floundering with its future in doubt because its trade show (now the GIS), magazine, dues revenues and member counseling programs were all suffering because the Association was conducting business within the high risk "not-for-profit" business world without the benefit of having a definitive mission statement to guide it through troubled waters.   There are over 40,000 n-f-p associations in the country with the golf industry housing about 300 of them - including the CMAA, GCSAA, PGA and their regional chapters/sections. But only those few (NGF and USGA) with definitive mission statements requiring that private sector expertise be incorporated into their management agenda realize their targeted objectives.   It should be further noted that in addition to the above mentioned operational shortcomings, GCSAA's members were being denied deserved recognition as employers nation-wide generally strove to curtail their job security and career advancement opportunities, as well as the quality and scope of their compensation packages. The collective impact of these career stalling initiatives was that the golfing world saw golf course superintendents more as a "blue collar" work force than as a college-educated professional work force.   To counteract all of the above operational failings, the 1979 GCSAA Board unanimously decided that private sector business experience was needed to address these shortcomings, which led to my being hired as CEO. My marching orders upon arrival were to prepare/implement a first time GCSAA mission statement - a draft of which follows - that would define the Association's purpose, address its above listed operational failings of the day and ensure the Associations future welfare:   GCSAA's primary purpose is dedicated to ensuring the job security and to advancing the career welfare of its members.   GCSAA's secondary purposes include making an on-going commitment to employ the better business practices of the day to ensure its operational success and committing to enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf.   The above first-time mission statement had an immediate positive impact on the GCSAA world by effectively remedying all its shortcomings (except one) referenced above over a relatively short period of time.   However, the one objective stated within the "primary purpose" language of the above GCSAA mission statement - namely, securing the jobs and advancing the careers of its members - was never given the necessary attention or the time needed to evolve because an all-encompassing political battle between the GCSAA leadership and its members as to whether GCSAA should relocate its headquarters to Florida diverted attention away from this critical issue.   By the time a final decision was made to keep GCSAA's headquarters in Lawrence, the pivotal issue of GCSAA committing to ensuring its members' jobs and advancing their careers was long forgotten and has not been resurrected to this day. But as might be expected - the overwhelming career and family devastation wrought when superintendents lose their jobs more for political reasons than for a weak job performance continues on unabated to this day.   Neither GCSAA's present mission statement, nor those of its chapters make any mention today of what had previously been mandated as the Association's primary purpose some twenty-five years ago: namely, to ensure the job security and to advance the career welfare of its members through gaining access for the first time to legally binding written employment contracts - an opportunity readily made available to CMAA and PGA members.   Recommended Plan Of Action Logic might suggest that the present task of attempting to restore the thinking presented within the 1979 mission statement as presented above would be quite simple; namely - resurrect the original GCSAA mission statement, get Board approval to re-establish it as the mission statement of the day and proceed from there.   Sounds good but a new element has found it way into the scenario; namely, that it has become abundantly clear that chapter board and/or committee members are not equipped to fill the vital role as on-going stewards of their respective mission statements. The reason for this is because they generally don't have the necessary skill sets to be effective stewards and won't be able to acquire them on the job because their tenures as board/committee members are term-limited denying them the opportunity to provide the steady hand needed to keep their chapter mission statements on course.   Clearly, the one person within chapter administrations that is hired to provide "continuous" year-to-year service is the chapter Executive Director. Accordingly, he alone, when properly hired against the standard of an appropriate job description (see January 18th blog message), will be equipped to serve as an effective steward of his chapter's mission statement.    Reminder: the many chapter Executive Directors already on board were hired without the benefit of the job description presented within the above referenced January 18th blog message and, therefore, should be trained, or replaced.   The challenge here goes a bit further because while the chapters are not experienced/qualified to hire and train their Executive Directors themselves - the combined team of GCSAA and the chapters is well qualified.    Therefore, the observation must be made: to establish effective member-oriented career planning and outreach programming today it will be necessary for both GCSAA and its chapters to concurrently develop and implement "complementing" model mission statements.    Examples of these two mission statements follow:   Model GCSAA Mission Statement   GCSAA is a national member service organization of golf course superintendents and their assistants with a primary mission, in conjunction with its chapters: (I)  to support and advance the career welfare of its members and (ii) to help restart the careers of these same members, when necessary, through effective outreach program counseling.   This is to include GCSAA and its chapters: first - acknowledging the indispensable role chapter Executive Directors must play in both serving as stewards of their chapters mission statements and supporting/advancing the careers of their members; and second - establishing an online "Chapter Executive Director Training Program" to prepare these COO level executives once hired to be effective field leaders in support of their chapters' mission statements.   Thereafter, GCSAA's mission would focus on being a responsible steward of the environment; tracking the legislative process; developing scholarship and research programming as needs require; and contributing to the general welfare of the game of golf.   Chapter "Complementing" Mission Statement   The primary purpose of this chapter is to coordinate with GCSAA initiatives to promote the career welfare, to enhance the job security of and to provide outreach programming assistance to their common members as needed, which is to include coordinating the establishment of a GCSAA-driven chapter Executive Director Training Program.   Valued secondary chapter functions include: conducting the necessary surveys to make regional golf course operational and employment data available to its members; in conjunction with GCSAA, making model employment documents available to its members as need arises; maintaining solid local community ties; and establishing a regional grievance mechanism whereby contested employer-employee issues can be constructively resolved via arbitration. (See July 24th blog message.)   The above two model mission statements illustrate an important concept: that n-f-p organizations without appropriate mission statements are like ships sailing the seas without navigation systems - the exact reason why the vast majority of superintendents have not been able to secure their jobs or to advance their careers to levels justified by the the quality of their year-to-year work product.   Chapter Executive Directors Are The Key   It should be understood that the absolute key to golf course superintendents realizing their long sought after career stabilizing goal of gaining access to legally binding written contract protection and all the previously denied benefits this would bring is their chapters hiring qualified Executive Directors because - using an analogy to make this point - competent Executive Directors are like sheep dogs herding their flock (i.e.- chapter members) through challenging circumstances to their intended places in life.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

The Challenging Task Of Hiring A Chapter Executive Director

It is recommended that last week's blog message entitled, "The Indispensable Role Of The Chapter Executive Director" be reviewed before reading the blog message below.   Appropriate job descriptions for a chapter Executive Director define the job as a COO (Chief Operating Officer) level assignment. (See Jan. 18th blog message.) However, be cautioned that hiring at the COO level is one of the more challenging personnel assignments throughout the small business and corporate worlds because it requires experience to execute effectively.   Yet, this challenge has to be met because at this point chapters are routinely hiring Executive Directors without appropriate job descriptions and, accordingly, are hiring Executive Directors in name only without the necessary qualifications to act as stewards of their chapters' mission statements.   Consequently, job security with all its related issues and much needed outreach program counseling support remain unrealized goals throughout the profession.   The Good and Bad Search Approaches To Hiring A Chapter Executive Director   1. Best Approach: Hopefully, GCSAA will soon establish an in-house "chapter counseling department" whose primary duties would be:   a. To counsel chapters through the process of hiring Executive Directors making sure that chapters rely on the job description presented within the January 18th blog message when hiring an Executive Director.   b. To counsel/monitor newly hired Executive Directors' early job performance as stewards of their chapters' mission statements.   c. To establish online educational programming to prepare chapter Executive Directors for their assignments once hired.   d. To evaluate the possibility of establishing a GCSAA driven chapter Executive Director certification program.   2. Weak Approach: Hire a search firm to identify a number of quality candidates to interview and then to lead the interview process. Not the best approach because it could be expensive and because search firms have traditionally had too little experience within the golf industry to be effective hiring agents.   3. Guaranteed To Fail Approach: The chapters would continue to hire Executive Director themselves. This is a proven failed approach because of the historic chapter track record of 100% failed hirings through the years. Hiring an Executive Director is a lot different than hiring an assistant, or a mechanic. These are two different worlds.   Because this approach is where inexperienced search committees consistently flounder, it is suggested that chapter search committees refer to the "Qualifications Check List For Interviewing Executive Director Candidates" that is presented later in this blog message to establish a valid list of issues to question candidates about and to identify the better candidates.   Detailing The Search Process Regardless of which one of the above three hiring formats are used, each would benefit from the practice of hiring retired military and retired corporate executives as prime candidates for the position of chapter Executive Director because they are mature, experienced leaders with pension plans in place that would negate the necessity of paying unwarranted high salaries and they would love to have the job.   To implement any of the above three search approaches place the following type ad in some combination of the following: the regional Wall Street Journal, regional  golf magazines, market web sites and local newspapers. This initiative should produce all the qualified candidates needed.   GOLF EXECUTIVE WANTED A regional golf association is looking to fill the newly created position of Executive Director. See association web site (www.golfassn.com) for a listing of job qualifications and job description. Retired military and corporate executives encouraged to apply. Interested parties should forward a 350 word statement summarizing how their experience correlates with job profile along with a resume to: P.O. Box 235, Golftown XX xxxxx.   Reminder: If a chapter is too small to justify hiring an Executive Director for itself, hire one Executive Director to serve two or more neighboring chapters.   If golf course superintendents are perceived to be the indispensable work force in golf, then their properly qualified chapter Executive Directors should be looked upon as the equivalent of well-trained "sheep dogs" who successfully meet their responsibility of corralling and moving the flock to its intended destination.   Meanwhile to begin to allow readers to become familiar with the key role chapter Executive Directors must play as defined by the previously above referenced model job description in the January 18th blog message, read the immediately following, "Qualifications Check List For Hiring a Chapter Executive Director" below. Understand that the world is full of people who would kill to find a job in golf like this.   FYI: Only about half of the chapters have hired an Executive Director to date and none of these were engaged based on the Qualifications Check List presented below; consequently, these hirings are not realizing their intended goals.   Now, after reading through and becoming familiar with the check list below, imagine the kind of job security support a well-qualified Executive Director will be able to deliver to his chapter members at some near future time.   Qualification Checklist for Interviewing/Hiring Chapter Executive Director Candidates   Personal Qualifications (3 points each): Innate leadership potential. A neat appearance in person and dress. A personal demeanor that commands respect. A demonstrated self-starting enthusiastic approach toward work. A profound belief in the unique role of the golf course superintendent. Familiarity with the public and private sectors of golf. An ability to become an effective spokesperson for golf and the profession. A commitment to play golf regularly with a USGA approved handicap. A Rules Of Golf literacy.       Primary Skill Set Qualifications (5 points each):  An ability to develop and support chapter mission statements.  An ability to be a spokesperson for the career welfare of chapter members.  Familiarity with employee outreach programs.  The ability to develop/present seminar programs.  Effective publication writing capabilities. Web site development and maintenance (updating) literacy.  Database development, analysis and data distribution literacy.    Secondary Skill Set Qualifications (4 points each):  Familiarity with chapter/industry orientation programming. Experience in writing effective job descriptions. Sound management and budget experience. Investment management experience. Professional counseling experience. Community service experience.   No candidate is expected to possess all the experience profiled within the above check-list. Accordingly, candidates should be evaluated based on their weighted cumulative qualifications.    FYI: An Executive Director with a total evaluation score that approximates +/-62 will do an exemplary job; that approximates +/-47 will do a good job; and that approximates +/-35 will do a mediocre job.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

The Indispensable Role Of The Chapter Executive Director

The purpose of this blog message is to identify the appropriate role of the chapter Executive Director, which is concisely stated within the following model chapter Executive Director job description:   Chapter Executive Director: General Duties & Responsibilities   The Executive Director shall serve as the chapter COO . . . .   The Executive Director's fundamental responsibility is to act as a "steward" of his chapter's mission statement in the following ways: to ensure the chapter has a valid mission statement (as presented in the January 6th blog) in place and if not to lead the effort to correct this oversight through board action; then, to support the implementation of the chapter's mission statement by serving as a regional spokesman to best ensure that no superintendent is unfairly dismissed; that fair employment practices are established through educational writings and forums; that agreed to separation agreements are honored; that effective outreach programming is established for all chapter members in need; and that binding arbitration would be used to settle employment disputes throughout the chapter's jurisdiction.   (See July 24th blog message.)   Thereafter, the Executive Director shall contribute to policy-making and execute decisions made by the Board of Directors; shall be responsible for the administration of the chapter; and shall promote the game of golf and the golf course superintendents' unique role within the Game.   To the best of my knowledge, not one single chapter's bylaws, constitution, or mission statement contains the above job description.   Chapter Executive Director Employment Status Only about half of the GCSAA chapters have engaged an Executive Director and those that do have done so without the benefit of a job description similar to the model presented above.
Consequently, the present array of chapter Executive Directors that have been so randomly hired serve as the equivalent of office managers - a worthy position in its own right - but not up to what is needed to serve as stewards of their chapters mission statements; and their members suffer accordingly. (See Jan 6th blog message.)
To further accentuate the problem, many chapters find themselves overpaying their faux Executive Directors at the going salary range for the position ($30,000 to $40,000/yr.), but are receiving only +/- $20,000/yr. of office manager service. A mis-use of funding without any reward.
FYI: Chapter Boards should not steward their own mission statements because board members have not been prepare to do this and because they turn over too frequently - while Executive Directors are and don't. If a chapter has too few members to justify hiring and paying for its own Executive Director (and there are more than a few of these situations) - itis recommended that one Executive Director be hired to serve a combination of several neighboring chapters.
  Without a true Executive Director serving as a steward of their mission statements, the chapters become the equivalent of a ship sailing the high seas without a navigation system.   FYI: While the PGA sections' mission statements remain incomplete, through the years their Executive Directors have intuitively grown into the equivalent of the model job description presented above. Accordingly, no course administration dares to mistreat a PGA golf professional because it will pay a price. Golf course superintendents deserve the same protection.   The Challenge Of Hiring A Chapter Executive Director   Hiring a COO anytime, anywhere is a challenge that GCSAA chapters are not equipped to do effectively on their own. Accordingly, I would recommend against chapters trying to hire Executive Directors to fill the above job description on their own because I have not seen a chapter do a good job of this in my 30-plus years of monitoring the matter chapter by chapter.   Next week's blog message will detail a recommended search process for hiring a qualified chapter Executive Director.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Prototype Chapter Mission Statement: The Key To Members' Job Security

The purpose of this blog message is to demonstrate that a chapter without an effective mission statement is like an airplane flying without a navigation system. Nobody knows how to get to where they want to go; and missions fail accordingly.   What Is The Status Of Chapter Mission Statements? Appalling, because the reality is that about half of GCSAA chapters do not have a mission statement and the mission statements of the remaining half of the chapters are too vaguely worded and miss identifying what their chapters' primary missions are and, therefore, do not serve a vital purpose.   In my 30-plus years of interacting with the 100-plus GCSAA chapters I have not come upon one chapter with an appropriate mission statement and I have reviewed them all.      What Price Do Chapter Members Pay For This Oversight? The worst possible price because the mission statements that are in place fail to recognize the chapters most vital responsibility: to support member superintendents in how to best secure, advance and, when necessary, recapture their careers. Without this support the vast majority of superintendents' careers are the equivalent of being deserted on an ocean island - alone.   Without this stated purpose the following unrelenting difficulties routinely invade the world of golf course superintendents and their families:   All the many painful ills brought about because roughly 80% of established golf course superintendents are denied the courtesy of written contract protection? (See Sept 25th blog message.) These misfortunes persist because those up their chains of command are never presented with the educational opportunities to become superintendent literate. Artificially shortened careers result when those up the chains of command prefer to replace proven veteran superintendents than pay them an escalating fair wage.   It might be of interest to know that the mission statements of the PGA sections and CMAA chapters are in similar states of disrepair for different reasons - all the by-product of a not-for-profit business format.   Example Of An "Ineffective" Chapter Mission Statement Following is a live chapter mission statement that is similar in tone and scope to most of the chapter mission statements in place today:   The mission of the ABC Golf Course Superintendents Association is to provide for and enhance the recognition of the golf course superintendent as a professional and to advance the profession of the golf course superintendent through education and fellowship.   Critique: Clearly, though well intended, the above sample chapter mission statement fails to identify the chapter's prime responsibility: to provide effective career-planning counsel and outreach programming throughout its membership.   Example Of An "Effective" Model Chapter Mission Statement In the interest of advancing the professional image of the golf course superintendent and the ethical treatment of its members, the primary function of this chapter is - in conjunction with GCSAA - to promote the career welfare and to enhance the job security of its members in all the many ways possible (see Dec 11th blog message), which is to include providing access to effective member-oriented outreach programming when necessary and the hiring of a qualified Executive Director to monitor and implement the chapter mission statement itself.   Valued secondary chapter functions include: being a responsible steward of the environment; continuing the well-respected scholarship and research programming and so on.   Lets face reality: superintendents will not be able to earn respect as a "profession" (clearly individual superintendents do earn this respect) and the job security they deserve until their chapters begin to resolve key employment issues through interaction with their members' course administrations as stated within the above model mission statement. What we have now is not a way for superintendents to live.   The Role Of The Chapter Executive Director The primary responsibility of chapter Executive Directors, which is to support and implement their chapters' mission statements in a manner that will bring universal pride and vitality to the profession, will be addressed in detail in coming blog messages.  

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Insights For The New Year Or Any Time

Superintendents No.1 Asset: Their Work Ethic Ask the average golfer, or the country's many superintendents themselves, "What is the golf course superintendents' Number One Asset?" The answers that come forth cover a wide variety of skills (communications skills, technical expertise, quality greens, etc.) all of which with the best of intentions miss the mark.   A consensus of industry-wide opinion suggests that what separates the core of golf course superintendents' performance from virtually every other professional group country-wide is its unrelenting commitment to excellence. This is the essence of the golf course superintendents' work ethic.   Sabbatical Leaves Are Possible Year long sabbatical leaves with pay are a rare occurrence in golf (while they are quite common throughout the academic world) but not impossible to schedule provided the right approach is taken when applying as profiled below.   Application Guidelines 1.   Only superintendents with exemplary track records need apply by submitting a sabbatical year leave proposal in writing probably not earlier than the tenth year of employment at the same job to take affect no sooner than three years later.   2.   The proposal should identify the purpose for requesting the leave: to recharge batteries; family vacation and travel, schooling, to research and write a meaningful treatise; to participate in a special industry program, etc.   3.   Essential: Proposal must identify how the superintendent will guarantee maintenance program coverage during his year's absence; best option: a well-established first assistant (requiring only a modest salary adjustment) to take over during the leave year; next option: hire a proven local retired superintendent for the one year.   4.   Final written agreement must mutually bind the employer and the sabbatical requesting superintendent to each other employment-wise for a minimum of two years following the completion of the leave year.   The benefits that accrue to the employing club when it grants a sabbatical leave are: first, that it rewards a deserving employee; and second, that it significantly increases the probability of retaining a highly regarded superintendent for the long run upon return from the sabbatical year leave.   Funding the sabbatical leave year should not be a problem because it would be the equivalent of a club funding one year of a retirement plan having been given 3-plus years' notice to prepare.   Player Community Respect Will Negate Internal Politics And Secure Jobs In as close to any guarantee that can be given - no superintendent will have his job unjustly put in jeopardy once his player community has readily identified with his respected work ethic and persona.   Neither course administrations, nor board, nor committee members would dare go against the will of the players/members to unjustly undermine the job security of a treasured superintendent once he has been identified arguably as the primary reason for the club's/course's long term success.          To make this work, however, the superintendent must first be visible throughout the campus and be in contact with the player community as the Oct 9th blog suggests.   The Most Adaptable Will Survive Regrettably, career-planning procrastination appears to be in the DNA of many golf course superintendents.   Unfortunately, superintendents are too often blind to the high price they pay when failing to address employment issues on a timely basis. Consequently, job security is threatened; access to new jobs is denied; anxiety mounts; and careers stall.   In an economic era when maintenance program and career planning adaptability should be superintendents' best friend, procrastination can often prove to be their worst enemy. (See Dec 9th blog.)   Superintendents' Fear Of Employer Retaliation Stalls The Profession Note the following dichotomy: first, when most superintendents elect to confront their employers on a one-on-one basis about job compensation and security issues they too often renege on this intention and fall back not feeling comfortable about confronting their bosses; however, when coached by an experienced consultant the superintendents stand firm, negotiate effectively and generally win some points.   What is the morale of the story? A lack of negotiating experience and personal confidence will undermine every human being when engaged in a contest of wills with employers.   What is the solution? First: Just like mock trials are used to successfully train young lawyers for the courtroom, a similar chapter program might be established to schedule mock interviews with employers.  Capable chapter Executive Directors would be the ideal people to manage a mock interview program. Add this to their job descriptions.   Golfs Not-For-Profit Business Format Undermines Its Effectiveness There are over 40,000 not-for-profit associations across America, which includes virtually every meaningful golf organization including regional GCSAA/CMAA chapters and PGA sections.   The inherent weaknesses of n-f-p associations is their consistent lack accountability and commitment to excellence which precipitate over-spending, a lack of needed program development, unnecessary staff growth (at the national level) while at the same time discouraging natural leaders within the association memberships from seeking Board and committee service.   Only two of golfs many not-for-profit organizations - the USGA and the NGF - provide total consistent professional service to their members. Why is this the case?  Simply and solely because these two organizations have brought an extensive level of private sector expertise to their boards.   One thing golf cannot do to avoid the shortcomings of the n-f-p world is change to a "for profit" environment for reasons readers can figure out on their own. But, fortunately, the flaws of the not-for-profit world are correctable. More on this later.  

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Outreach Programs: The Profession’s Vital Missing Link

Outreach programming is the most vital service an organization can provide its employees or members because it redirects careers, stabilizes families and ensures that there will always be "career hope" through the most difficult of times. Outreach programming permeates the corporate and military worlds of employment for a good reason.   DEFINING THE CONCEPT Outreach is a counseling program provided by employers, or their affiliates, where trained counselors support employees in the following ways: First - by making contact with recently dismissed employees and their families to maintain morale until lost careers can be restarted; Second - by helping dismissed employees restart their careers, or to initiate new careers; and Third - by helping retiring employees initiate second careers if they so wish.   Yet, by default outreach programming has not found a place within the world of the golf course superintendent from Day One. This despite the fact that superintendents are the most job threatened professionals throughout the free world beset by the ills that a persistent lack of written contract protection brings to the profession.   ESTABLISHING OUTREACH PROGRAMMING Unfortunately, outreach programming cannot be easily or quickly established throughout the superintendents' world because before such a program could get under way either trained counselors would have to be hired at the chapter level - a daunting task - or chapter Executive Directors would have to be trained to become effective outreach program counselors to their chapter members because there is nobody else continuously on the scene available to accept this responsibility.   The obvious entity that would have the motivation and be capable of sponsoring a national outreach training program for chapter Executive Directors would be GCSAA.   At some point GCSAA might consider amending its bylaws to mandate that its 100+ chapters commit to establishing outreach programming within a specified time period.   ESTABLISHING INTERIM OUTREACH PROGRAMMING   In the mean time pending the development of formal nation-wide chapter-based outreach programming, chapters should immediately consider initiating the following interim outreach programming because the need is constant:   1.  Establish an Interim Outreach Committee consisting of several mature superintendent (or retired superintendent) couples charged with the responsibility of making and sustaining contact with stressed chapter families recently forced into the unemployed world.   2. The first order of business in support of families where the superintendent has recently lost a job would be for a Committee male/female team to make quick contact with these families to let them know that their chapter peers care about them, are willing to listen to their concerns and that the Committee will provide ongoing counseling to help the bread winner in the family find a job.   The purpose of contacting families with a male/female team is the following: the man is primed to listen to the dismissed superintendent's career concerns; while the women is equipped to listen and provide solace to the mother's family concerns.      A willingness to listen to the plight of recently stressed families might be the most vital element outreach programs can provide because having some caring people available to tell their immediate concerns to: (i) brings immediate solace to stressed families who have need to be constantly reminded that there will always be light at the end of their tunnels; and (ii) opens the door to receive much needed career counseling advice.   3. Remind/educate the superintendents/families looking to find jobs to restart careers of the following:   a. That it is essential that job-seeking superintendents have quality personal and maintenance program web sites ready to use as they pursue new employment. Reminder: +/- 80% of new jobs are going to superintendents with effective web sires.   b. That it is equally as essential to follow the job application guidelines presented earlier within this blog series.   c. Because superintendents possess highly transferable skill sets, suggest to dismissed superintendents that they consider starting a new career while at the same time endeavoring to find another job as a superintendent. (See Nov 11th blog)   The jobless should always concurrently pursue both new employment and starting a new career or business when out of work.   Without outreach programming, the majority of out of work superintendents will find it unnecessarily more difficult to restart their careers - to the point where some will give up hope, with family disasters following. With outreach program counseling hope remains eternal.   Spread the word to the GCSAA and chapter Boards of Directors.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Accomplished Superintendents Have 'Fortune 500' CEO Talent

A long-standing axiom that is consistently noticed by knowledgeable sports fans and beyond states that established NFL coaches have the equivalent personal skill sets as Fortune 500 Company CEOs.   Accordingly, in this hypothetical world, it is believed that proven NFL coaches are equipped to successfully manage the worlds most dynamic companies given the same preparatory educational opportunity the CEOs have had.   Informed golf industry watchers familiar with the above premise consistently express the opinion that accomplished golf course superintendents are qualified in their own right to join company with NFL coaches and Fortune 500 Company CEOs at the top of the most respected management professionals' list - given the same preparatory educational opportunity the CEOs have had.   Following is a survey with estimated value ratings - that represents the consensus opinions of informed interested parties emanating from several discussions over the years on the subject of comparing NFL coaches, superintendents and Fortune 500 CEO management qualifications:
Comparison: Communications Responsibilities NFL Coaches: Limited to player rosters and media contacts. Rating: 3 Superintendents: Extend to player communities and boards/committees. Rating: 3 Fortune 500 CEOs: Extend to stockholders and multi media contacts. Rating: 4   Comparison: Hiring Responsibilities NFL Coaches: Coordinate with club GMs in finalizing team player rosters. Rating: 4 Superintendents: Solely responsible for hiring assistants, mechanics and ground crews. Rating: 4 Fortune 500 CEOs: Human Resource departments do the main hiring. Rating: 2     Comparison: Fiscal Welfare Responsibilities NFL Coaches: Coaching quality responsible for teams fiscal welfare. Rating: 4 Superintendents: Golf course conditioning quality drives club/course revenues. Rating: 5 Fortune 500 CEOs: Set financial agendas for their companies. Rating: 5   Comparison: Long Range Planning Responsibilities NFL Coaches: Limited to player drafts to sustain quality multi year rosters. Rating: 3 Superintendents: Develop and revise multi year, multi-million dollar LRPs. Rating: 4 Fortune 500 CEOs: Direct development of and delivery on stock forecasts. Rating: 4   Comparison: Scope Of Education Degrees NFL Coaches: Generally limited to standard undergraduate degrees. Rating: 3 Superintendents: Technically difficult undergraduate degrees, plus arduous certification and maintaining certification programming. Rating: 4 Fortune 500 CEOs: 100% undergraduate; 60% MBA; and 20% doctorate. Rating: 4   Conclusions To Be Drawn: The following rating totals from the above survey: NFL coaches: 17; Superintendents: 20; and Fortune 500 CEOs: 19 . . .   Support the premise that within the above opinion survey proven veteran golf course superintendents are arguably recognized as being on a par with the better of corporate America's most effective skill set-based management personnel; again, given the same preparatory educational opportunity as corporate executives.   Accordingly, veteran superintendents should never doubt their ability to develop successful entrepreneurial businesses later in their careers if they so elect. (See Nov 11th blog.)   Based on the conclusions drawn in this blog message, there is no mountain hard-working, dedicated superintendents can't climb in life.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Ground Rules For Starting Your Own Business

The content of this blog message is extensive. But this might be the only time a reader will have access to a concise presentation on the subject of "How To Start A Business"  - something superintendents should prepare for in case the desire/need arises later in their careers.   Superintendents should always be mentally prepared to start a business at an appropriate time in their careers for the following reasons: Course operators are hesitant to assure superintendents employment beyond their early to mid 50 years of age generally because it is cheaper to hire less experienced superintendents. Accordingly, many veteran superintendents face 10 to 12 years of forced unemployment late in their careers - a daunting circumstance that should encourage every superintendent to prepare early in life for the possibility of starting a business later in life. Because superintendents have a wide range of proven skill sets that are better prepared than most to start a new business. What Elements Are Needed To Start A Business? The three steps a potential entrepreneur must execute to start a business are: Identify a target audience that is not being well-served by society's spectrum of businesses (either because a market void currently exists, or because a bad economy has weakened a previously vibrant market) where a new business can provide needed services/products. Prepare a due diligence feasibility study to determine: (i) what the competitive quality and fee levels are throughout the marketing region; (ii) whether the target market has the revenue potential needed to support a new business; and (iii) what the minimum cost would be to start and sustain a new business for at least three years while in-house revenues are building to a point where they could support a new business entirely.   FYI: Some new businesses can be developed at low cost because: (i) the entrepreneurs' brain power, muscle power and experience come free to the party; (ii) free access to the Internet produces an untold wealth of intangible and tangible assets; and (iii) today's communications technologies allows a new business to create a brand supported by a complete visual image (logo, business cards, stationary, web sites, etc.) virtually free of cost.   If a superintendent can't conduct his own feasibility study (a more than likely occurrence) he should hire an experienced consultant to do so for him.   FYI: History indicates first and foremost that roughly 75% of all new small businesses fail; and second, that the primary reason why they do fail is because no one conducted credible feasible studies that would have indicated that certain new businesses should never have been started. Identify the specific personal skill sets a potential entrepreneur must be able to apply to the intended new business to succeed. What Is The Impact Of A Bad Economy On Starting A Business? Because bad economies create greater economic needs within society there is, accordingly, more opportunities to start new businesses although they may be of a different nature than in a routine economy. However, definitive feasibility studies will be needed to identify the pricing schedule customers will be able to afford in the bad economy.   Examples Of The Two Categories of Start-up Businesses - Outside Of Golf Addressing a void market: Laura is a knitting guru who noticed that there were no blogs promoting the sale of knitting goods and knitting patterns not only across the USA, but around the world as well. Accordingly, Laura started a blog (at virtually no cost) a while back that sells knitting patterns around the world and today her blog averages 4,000 hits a month with about half of the contacts ordering knitting patterns at a respectable price. Addressing a needs market: When the economy went sour back in the 1990s Ken noticed that high tech companies were having a problem affording the technicians needed to keep their in-house tech equipment going because labor costs had sky rocketed. Suddenly, there was a need for more affordable technical equipment support throughout the industry. Fortunately, one of Ken's proven skill sets was a thorough working knowledge of how to use the Internet in a variety of ways to support high tech intra-business communications.   Accordingly, Ken started a new firm that allowed the tech companies to have their in-house tech equipment serviced via the Internet from an outside central location (Ken's new company office) - a strategy that allowed these companies to terminate their expensive in-house tech personnel thereby saving a fortune and at the same time presenting Ken with a very successful start-up business.   Early in their careers superintendents should analyze the above two approaches to starting a business and be on the look out for similar but different opportunities to start their own businesses in due course. Months of hypothesizing are needed before anyone can conclude that they have identified the right opportunity to start a business.   Examples Of Golf-Based Businesses Superintendents Have Traditionally Started: Lawn care companies to service private home and corporate facilities: a highly competitive field but one where better service at better pricing can prevail. Irrigation System Installation and Consulting companies to service private home and corporate facilities. New customer market here is reasonably available because few property owners understand the nuances of getting irrigation/pumping systems up and keeping them up and running. Rock Garden Design and Installation companies to service private home and corporate facilities. A real business potential exists here but not necessarily an easy one because home owners and companies like the concept but find it difficult to do because there are so few qualified/reliable companies and these projects are expensive. Best way to approach this new business concept is by becoming a multi-service company that combines design with any and/or all of the other start-up options mentioned here. Consulting To Regional Golf Course Operations where less experienced superintendents lack the total know how to manage their maintenance programs expertly. There is a definite market here not one necessarily easy to start: because superintendents fear that their employers will see hiring an outside consultant as a sign of weakness; and because approved operating budgets leave little room to pay the unexpected hiring of consultants. A good way around this is to set consulting fees so low that they can't be refused - meaning that while revenues will be low - a vital client list is being assembled that often is enough to get hired again. A Marketing/Sales company that will sell products/services to golf course operations that are not readily available through traditional company sales reps. Once a unique product/service or two are identified (a challenging but do-able task) the new business should flourish. A Hybrid Company that would provide all of (or some of) the service lines listed above that would offer efficiencies in staffing and operational costs - which could be either a start-up firm, or an existing company that was purchased, etc.       Reminder: (i) A due diligence feasibility study is needed before starting any one       of above listed new businesses; and (ii) A dynamic newly prepared start-up        company website, one link of which would present the superintendent's career       track record, should be developed to effectively sell any new company.   Partnership Options: It is a critical decision whether a superintendent should be a sole principal, or one of two principals/partners within a start-up firm.   If a superintendent possesses the skill sets to address all the needs a start-up company will require to succeed (a rare occurrence), being a sole principal should be a consideration. If not, a second partner can serve a useful purpose.   Caution: When forming a new company always use a lawyer to ensure a legal set-up for the new business; and when two or more partners will be involved make sure the creating paperwork requires using arbitration to resolve all issues between partners - otherwise court cases will bankrupt everyone.   What To Expect When Starting A New Business? It is a myth to think that operating your own business will be a cake walk because experience consistently shows that workloads can/will average +/- 75 hours per week and profit margins will be relatively thin during the early years of company development. So plan accordingly.   The primary benefit of owning and operating your own company is that you are calling the shots and controlling your company's destiny without the customary outside interference/politics routinely associated with the employment world. Starting a new business is a difficult challenge to overcome but one that promises untold rewards.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Myths That Undermine Superintendents’ Jobs...

Following are examples of myths that have plagued golf course superintendents for a long time:   MYTH: Employers don't mind when superintendents manipulate budget data from one line item to another without notifying anyone so long as the bottom line stays the same...   Wrong! Guaranteed at least one person up the chain of command on either the committee or staff side will notice because there are "budget hawks" within every administration who like to nail superintendents with something to advance their own status within the club hierarchy.   Superintendents should always seek new authority in writing to alter budget data in any way because otherwise a trust is broken that can be hard to repair. This is called "defensive" management. (See Jan 05 blog.) Generally, superintendents will get the budget altering authority requested and will always be respected for asking.   MYTH: Employers respect superintendents who assume greater CEO roles when managing their staffs..   Wrong! Almost to a man those up a superintendent's chain of command will disapprove when: they don't see a superintendent out on the course with some regularity; they do see a superintendent never getting his clothes dirty and/or staying in his office most of the time. The more superintendents overplay their role of a CEO the more their club administrations will believe they are on an ego trip and lacking maturity.   Administrators do not like to see superintendents at the other end of the spectrum either; i.e.- in the trenches sharing work loads equally with their staffs.   What administrations like to see is a superintendent out on the course with some regularity monitoring their assistants leadership skills by engaging them with "teachable moments" to enhance their supervisory and project management skill sets but they do not like to see superintendents necessarily putting in long hours to prove they can get their clothes dirty.   Because a good teacher earns the respect of everyone whether in school or out in the world, this teachable moments approach maximizes the respect a superintendent earns from his employers and staff alike thereby optimizing his job security because no one wants to lose a good teacher.   MYTH: It is almost impossible for a superintendent over 50 years of age to find a better job...   Wrong! Because golf course operators will always look to hire veteran superintendents that convey through their career websites and the interview process that they have the skill sets: (i) to maintain a golf course at an optimum conditioning level; and (ii) to manage budget spending in a highly cost-efficient manner - while at the same time being willing to work for a salary in a bad economy that would be comfortable for both the candidate and his employer. (See Nov 6th blog on this subject.)   The above scenario is no different than when major league baseball teams trade for veteran players late in the season to best ensure making the playoffs. It happens every year.   MYTH: Workaholic superintendents are perceived as being dedicated to their jobs...   Wrong! This is a dangerous myth that has been previously addressed in this series. (See Jul 2nd blog.) Interestingly, the blog just referenced has attracted more viewers than any other blog throughout the 71 blog series.   MYTH: Disorderly maintenance facilities are justified because of the hectic nature of the superintendent's work schedule...   Wrong! This, again, is a dangerous myth that has been previously addressed and heavily responded to in this series. (See Oct 23 blog.)

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Little Known Insights That Can Bolster Superintendents' Careers

Following is a series of little known insights that, once adopted, can help advance superintendents careers.   It Is far easier to get hired at top-of-the-line clubs than many think: Because it is not widely known that Search Committees at the top-of-the line clubs generally limit the number of job applications they will accept to fill vacant superintendent positions to less than ten because  by so doing they will be better able to focus on and identify the better candidates. Furthermore, job vacancies at the better clubs are more wide open than many think since the better candidates often do not apply for the better jobs because they do not want their reputations sullied when they fail to get hired by search committees that consistently demonstrate that they are incapable of identifying the better/best candidates from within larger candidate fields.   Therefore, qualified applicants with representative career websites who submit masterful multi-year plans of action (see Aug 14th blog) to premier clubs with job openings will be granted interviews virtually every time around and, furthermore, are likely to be put on the "short list" of qualified candidates every time around. "Stress is an avoidable consequence of life" according to the American Institute of Health provided superintendents: (i) commit to a family-job balanced hard-working life; (ii) are willing to engage established consultants (see Aug 27th blog); and (iii) communicate effectively up and down their chains of command; i.e.- manage defensively (see Jan 05 blog).   Knowledge Is king in a bad economy: In a world where the media and too many elected officials will deliberately misinform the American people about the true state of the national economy -- superintendents should use Google to know/learn how the following indicators accurately define the economy: GDP, national debt level, true unemployment rate, number out of the work force, number living in poverty - because once employers sense that a superintendent is not tuned into the nuances of the national economy they will quickly lose confidence in him to manage +/- million dollar budgets. Conversely, once it becomes evident that a superintendent knows the economy cold -- those up his chain of command will trust his decision making to a level not previously acknowledged.   There is nothing more satisfying than having your decision-making trusted by those you answer to in life and at work.   A commitment to excellence is a habit, not a happening: One of Vince Lombardis most repeated themes to his teams was that they would "continue to commit to the endless pursuit of 'perfection' -- realizing that while this was not obtainable, the process would catch excellence." The key to building a personal and profession-wide work ethic is the "universality" of the commitment to excellence.   For example, it is not sound management to pursuit excellence relative to equipment maintenance but not bunker management, or to have an on the job commitment to excellence but not one at home.    Players' pride in their superintendent supersedes their pride in their golf course: This is because pride in a superintendent is personal while pride in a golf course is analytic. Once realized, player pride in their superintendent can help to cure any and all ills befalling an honest hardworking superintendent. How to best achieve this goal: communicate well and be visible as suggested in Oct 9th blog.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

The Off-Season: Best Time To Grow Or To Decline Personally

Athletes with an ambition to excel in sports soon learn that the best/only time to definitively enhance their skill sets is during the off-season when trial and error experimentation cannot hurt the team.   I can attest to this personally having initially been a run-of-the-mill high school basketball player who through a commitment to extensive summer-time ball yard practice time developed my skill sets to the point of being able to set a New York State private school tournament scoring record and be the recipient of several college scholarship offers.   I can also attest personally to witnessing up to one in four golf course superintendents through the years abusing their off-season time by either doing nothing constructive which has its own set of pitfalls, or bowling and/or playing racket ball during the day while drinking through it all and then going home to upset families at dinner time - a lifestyle that almost universally leads to strained marriages.   Realistically, the opportunities for superintendents to grow themselves and to use their free time constructively between seasons abound; for example, in part, note the following:     To Grow Personally:   Read enough so as to become more conversant in life - thereby communicating better in and outside the profession. Your children will notice. Take advantage of the new knowledge gained through an expanded commitment to reading to write articles first for chapter publications; then for regional and eventually national publications in and outside golf. Then, link all published writings to your career website. Again, your children will notice. Nothing impresses industry watchers, or specifically potential future employers inside and outside golf more than a candidate with a proven track record for good writing that gets published. Look for opportunities to instruct/teach at local community colleges and/or local middle/high schools on subjects that would have appeal to local residents/students. Early teaching experience can blossom into full-time teaching opportunities once a superintendent retires. There is nothing more rewarding or that fosters personal/professional growth more than delivering quality teaching. Start a post-career company with an immediately available full-time partner that you would join part-time during the off-season and then on a full-time basis upon retirement.   To Grow Professionally   Take the off-season opportunity to initiate/upgrade all the websites -- content-wise and photographically -- that support your career; i.e. your personal career website; your club's maintenance program website (see Oct 2 2014 blog); and your children's student websites (see Jun 18th blog). Similarly, take the off-season to definitively upgrade the following documentation: program SOPs; job descriptions; multi-year plans of action; budget formats; and either to create or update in-house video productions. Volunteer for local community service projects, which would earn recognition for the superintendent and his employer. Again, your children will be watching.   To Solidify Family Ties   Travel with family to restore/re-energize self and one-on-one personal ties. To maximize family growth, socialize as a family beyond the immediate circle of professional peers. Experiment with/develop new projects and personal hobbies with family and children.   Until golf course superintendents commit to the off-season further development of their personal and professional skill sets, their careers and lives will more than likely go unfulfilled because this is the only way to effectively commit to the personal pursuit of excellence and to provide the best lifestyle models for their children to emulate.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Understanding The Assistant Trap

Unfortunately, many assistants jobs fail to spawn successful careers in golf because:   First Problem: Being semi-desperate to escape the assistants world, too many settle for superintendent positions at courses with weak reputations that, accordingly, cannot advance their careers -- thereby creating career traps that offer little opportunity from which to seek better employment.   Proven Solutions: Assistants (or anyone else) should never accept a superintendent position without doing the necessary due diligence, which should include, in part, the following: A thorough Q&A exchange with the outgoing superintendent. Most do. Seeking their current superintendent bosses' opinion re: the vacant position. Some do. A GM-to-GM check of the quality of the vacant position. Few do. Implementing the job application guidelines presented earlier in this blog series. Few do. Second Problem: Well over 65% of assistants stay too long at their assistant positions violating the Golden Rule of not staying as an assistant at the same job for more than five years - another form of career trap because staying over five years conveys an image that the assistant was not qualified to be hired as a superintendent. To maximize career advancement opportunities assistants are encouraged to:   Workable Solutions: Change assistants jobs once or twice within the five-year Golden Rule period. Few do. Develop a quality career web site to optimize their job application process. Few do. Continue to acquire educational credits to enhance evolving career opportunities. Some do. Before the end of the five-year Golden Rule period approaches, assistants should begin to consider getting out of golf and prepare accordingly. Few Do. (See the August 20th blog message in this regard.) Third Problem: Approximately one-third of assistants face the daunting problem whereby their boss superintendents refuse to support their assistants job applications - sometimes overtly sometimes covertly - elsewhere because these assistants are too valuable to their bosses and would be hard to replace. So, superintendents keep advancing their assistants' pay levels to keep them on board - a trap most assistants readily fall into.   Lightly Tested Solutions: Try diplomacy first where the assistants promise to stay on the job for a period of time in return for their bosses' promised support to help advance their careers. Few do. Then if all else fails, apply confidentially for future jobs realizing there is not much to lose if the superintendent finds out about these covert job applications. Some do. Too many stay on, indefinitely thereby undermining any chance of finding gainful employment outside golf later in life because their peer class has passed them by age-wise. The role of the assistant golf course superintendent is the most unique assistantship in golf today because - unlike golf professional and GM assistantships - candidates to become assistants to a superintendent must commit to the considerable investments of time and money to earn a multi-year college degree to qualify for his first meaningful assistant superintendent job.   Superintendents have a responsibility to support the advancement of their assistants' careers at appropriate times. Some do; some don't. But it is safe to say that most superintendents can do a better job of serving as mentors for their assistants; i.e.- guiding them through the pitfalls presented above.   Spread the word!

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

The Ultimate Job Security And Career Satisfaction? The Family Of Golf!

Because golf is played in 118 countries around the world by over 60 million people, it encompasses the deepest and most widespread fraternity known to man - recognized respectfully as The Family Of Golf.   What Is The Family Of Golf? The Family Of Golf is the community of people who make up the core humanity of the golf world; i.e., those people who shape the playing and/or the staging of the game of golf.   Who Inherently Belongs To The Family Of Golf? Regular playing golfers with official handicaps; those with a working knowledge of and a demonstrated support for the Rules Of Golf; Rules officials per se; golf professionals because they are seen as the gatekeepers of the game; club/course officials; golf association administrators and the like.   Are Superintendents Considered To Be Inherent Members Of The Family Of Golf? They are not so perceived because the profession - lacking leadership in this regard - has consistently shown little interest in joining golf's fraternity and by so doing allowed themselves to be perceived as outsiders to the game.   Not a good position to be in when the game supports your profession because superintendents have paid a price for this cavalier attitude through the years.   The irony here is that golf course superintendents by the unique nature of their jobs would routinely be considered one of the more respected categories of members in the Family Of Golf if they elected to do so.   Can Superintendents Correct This Oversight? Absolutely, in addition to meeting their responsibilities as golf course superintendents professionally, by taking the time to commit to the following: Required: Playing golf regularly including from time to time with members/players. Required: Earning and posting scores to earn an official USGA handicap. Required: Visibly meeting their responsibilities to support the Rules of Golf as presented in blogs dated Feb 5thand Feb 12th thereby qualifying for and, in fact, serving on their golf course/club Rules committee. Required: Increasing visibility as suggested in Oct 9th blog message. Optional: Taking and passing the PGA/USGA Rules test thereby, again, becoming eligible to become a member of their golf course/club Rules Committee. No specific talent is needed by superintendents to join the Family only a willing participation in the game beyond their jobs and by so doing demonstrating a noticeable respect for the game.   The benefits that accrue to golf course superintendents once they are perceived as being members of the Family Of Golf are that they are virtually guaranteed: The benefit of the doubt whenever circumstances arise that might threaten their job security. An enhanced opportunity to secure their jobs through written employment agreements. A more certain path toward industry standard compensation packages. The most effective way to be acknowledged as true professionals and to earn optimum job security throughout their careers in golf. Analysis through the years consistently shows that roughly 90% of dismissed superintendents were not perceived as being members of the Family Of Golf.   Superintendents declining to commit to become core members of the Family Of Golf where they would be welcomed with open arms is the equivalent of qualified professional golfers settling to compete on regional Pro Am circuits when they could qualify for the PGA Tour.    It makes no sense, but this is what happens when leadership fails.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Dignity Defines Our Lives: Incoming And Outgoing

Studies following World War II concluded that the one clear distinguishing element between the German and Japanese treatment of prisoners was that the Japanese intentionally stripped their prisoners of all dignity. Throughout Japanese prisoner of war encampments, personal degradation could be as lethal as a bullet. Similar studies later concluded that:   In the absence of personal dignity men and women are defined not by who they are but by what is done to them... not only as prisoners of war but throughout every walk of life.   FYI: Dignity is defined as the state of being worthy of honor or respect and can be both conveyed and received.   Carrying the above theme into the world of the golf course superintendent, we should note that there are four target audiences superintendents have a responsibility to treat with dignity:   1. Members/Players: First, superintendents need to routinely increase their visibility throughout their course environments if they are going to have a reasonable opportunity to treat their constituents with dignity. (See October 9th blog message.)   Negotiate To Attend Board Meetings: There is no more rewarding audience (i.e.- those able to provide job security and define compensation packages) for a superintendent to demonstrate his professionalism and dignified persona to than this assemblage.   Knowing and using the names of members/players with such salutations as "Mr. & Mrs." and "Yes Sir / No Sir" will help to convey the concept of respect driven dignity like few other words can.   2. Maintenance Program Staff: It is imperative that superintendents (and their assistants) establish a two-way dignity exchange with their grounds crews because failing to do so demonstrates a lack of leadership that will result in an overall diminishing of staff effectiveness.   A superintendent should look at his crew members as a choir to nurture because they will sing their boss's praise when they are respected and treated with dignity.   Conversely, a verbally mistreated staff will always let those up the chain of command know about their harsh treatment one way, or another. Wen this happens there is nothing a superintendent can do that will more certainly guarantee his dismissal.   3. Family Guidelines: Clearly, the lack of a two-way dignity exchange between married couples leads to family-wide strife because it filters down to their children. Studies show that couples that divorce had a low dignity-exchange rate.   4. Schooling Guidelines: The singular concern parents should have regarding the quality of schooling their children get - even more so than the quality of education bestowed - is whether their teachers treat their children with respect and dignity.   Studies again show that bad teachers and bored teachers on tenure often fail to convey an acceptable level of dignity toward their students.   Man's salvation lies in respecting and enhancing the personal dignity of others; not in thoughtlessly undermining it. As such, the concept dignity defines our lives.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

How Superintendents Can Create A Level Negotiating Field

Back in the mid-1990s, I was invited to GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas to attend a series of meetings for the purpose of addressing superintendents' job security issues. No matter how the conversations went at these meetings, I was consistently told by GCSAA Board members, staff and chapter leaders (all acting in good faith) that . . .   "It would not be prudent for superintendents to take the initiative when negotiating job security issues because it would anger/offend their employers and, therefore, be counter-productive to their career welfare."   Consequently, because the above mantra inherently permeates the thinking of most golf course superintendents to this day, they are generally hesitant to take a pro-active approach when negotiating their job status with their employers; and consequently they are left with only one remaining option - namely, a counter response to their employers' initiatives. Unfortunately, this results in their routinely failing to gain access to legally binding written employment contracts, freely negotiated compensation and severance packages, or to binding arbitration and outreach programming, etc.   The purpose of this blog message is to suggest ways for superintendents to break out of this career debilitating exile because:    The fact of the matter is that their employers do not resent superintendents taking the initiative when negotiating their employment agreements if it is done the right way and the superintendents are doing a good job delivering a professional maintenance program to their employers.   Identifying The Problem The real problem that must be dealt with is that while the nominating process delivers some natural leaders to the GCSAA Board, it does not deliver enough leaders which means the "good guys" constantly get out-voted 7-2, or  6-3 - a consistent voting pattern that makes it virtually impossible to bring the necessary changes to GCSAA's and the chapters' bylaws and mission statements to facilitate superintendents gaining access to a level negotiating field.   Furthermore, this voting pattern will continue on indefinitely because established superintendents possessing the necessary leadership skills see the futility of GCSAA Board service where "politics" drives the voting process over members' needs and, accordingly, they consistently decline invitations to be nominated to the Association's Board.   A Recommended Plan Of Action Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to the problem where job securing opportunities are being denied superintendents today as profiled above because - quite logically - if this matter could be easily dealt with it would have been dealt with a long time ago.   To constructively address this matter the following action plan is recommended to effect the necessary changes to GCSAA's and the chapters' bylaws and mission statements to enable superintendents to see themselves as peer equals at the negotiating tables with their employers.   Some will question whether it is necessary to enact a bylaw change to bring peer equality to the negotiating table? The answer is "yes" if any initiative in this regard is going to be credible, command respect and have permanency.   PHASE ONE  (Implement when ready)   Following the procedures presented in Article XII of the GCSAA Bylaws, amend the GCSAA Bylaws and mission statement (and those of their chapters as well) to add the following policy statement:   "The primary purposes for which this Corporation and its affiliated chapters were formed are to help to secure the jobs and to advance the career welfare of its members; and furthermore to also make professional outreach program counseling available to its members through its chapter infrastructure."   PHASE TWO  (Implement concurrently with Phase One above)   Because Executive Directors must be the eventual outreach counselors for their chapter members, GCSAA would develop on-line educational programming that would: First - circulate a model job description for the position to each chapter - a sample of which is presented later in this blog series; and Second - provide a course of study with testing to prepare the Executive Directors to become effective career planning and outreach counselors for their chapters' members.   With the above described amendment to the GCSAA and chapter bylaws and mission statements in place and promulgated to both members and course administrators throughout the region, and with chapter Executive Directors properly qualified to counsel/support their members career planning initiatives - golf course superintendents across the country will begin to reap the often denied benefits that accrue when granted access to legally binding written employment contracts with outreach counseling support.   In summary: while the above action plan is clearly do-able over a relatively short period of time, it will require the natural leaders within the GCSAA and chapter memberships to "come out of the closet" to make things happen that will bring pride to a profession (individual superintendents have enjoyed this level of respect for some time - but the profession as a whole not yet to date) - a situation that once realized will educate the golfing world to the scope of responsibility and the true mastery golf course superintendents carry with them every day in their service to golf.  

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Best Stress Relief: Build Ongoing Relationships With Established Consultants

It is estimated that less than 50% of golf course superintendents are comfortable engaging consultants because they believe their employers might see this as a sign of weakness and/or their pride/ego gets in the way.   General opinion suggests that these two perceptions are mistaken because when survey-tested, the concept of engaging consultants is seen almost universally as a sign of strength and maturity. To support this premise it should be noted that:   The American Institute Of Health advises that "stress is an avoidable consequence of life" provided we commit to a generally balanced life style and are willing to bring in outside counseling support as needed.   A baseball analogy will serve well in this regard: Just like it would be unthinkable for starting major league pitchers not to have the support of proven relief pitchers...   So too it should be unthinkable for golf course superintendents not to have start-to-end-of-career relationships with proven consulting sources.   The purpose of this blog message is to provide a summary evaluation of the consulting services available to golf course superintendents throughout their careers:   A. The USGA Course Consulting Service: The CCS's purpose is not to tell anyone how to maintain a golf course or what products to buy. Rather, the CCS seeks to bring to its client and neighboring courses all information (via printed articles, video, webinars, etc.) that will help these courses combat the specific turfgrass problems they are collectively facing.   The USGA charge for a half-day visit to assess course conditions is $2,500, with a full day visit costing $3,500. These fees are discounted for pre-payment and for year-to-year participation. All visits are followed by a detailed written report prepared by the USGA staff.   Basically, the USGA CCS provides an affordable annual "healthcare" package that golf courses should not be without.   B.  Academic Consultants: There are a good number of respected university professors who provide consulting services to the nation's golf courses for a comfortable fee.   Caution: Few professor consultants have direct golf course experience and, therefore, are considered "theoreticians" and generally ineffective when working alone. However, when teamed with a knowledgeable superintendent the team can perform well.    C.  Contract Consultants: There are about 12 to 15 qualified individual contract consultants available across the country. The upper echelon of this group is very expensive to the point where only premier golf courses can afford them. The second tier of this group of consultants is generally effective and affordable.   D.  Retired Superintendents: There are many retired superintendents who provide quality consulting for comfortable fees.   Caution: Because of the rate that new technologies and every aspect of turfgrass management advance from year to year, retired superintendents' body of knowledge generally becomes obsolete within a few years of retirement.   E.  Irrigation System Consulting: The key to irrigation system success is the consistent application of preventive maintenance measures, which means that superintendents should consider engaging irrigation system consultants on a year-to-year retainer fee basis to maintain system integrity.   Reminder: Effective consulting support is one of the more effective ways to avoid on the job stress; to maintain a stable family lifestyle; and to be job secure throughout a career.   When ignored, stress can destroy lives, families and careers.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Develop Post-Superintendent Career Options Early On

It has been fully recognized for some time that the better NFL head coaches possess the organizational skills and leadership qualities to become effective CEOs of Fortune 500 companies -- assuming an appropriate business education has been acquired along the way. No one doubts this.   Along this same line of thinking, I suggest that many of the respected veteran superintendents at the country's better golf course facilities possess similar skills and leadership qualities and, accordingly, qualify for this same recognition.   Accordingly, it is presumed that established golf course superintendents possess the innate skill sets to succeed handsomely within many elements of the small business community -- inside or outside golf -- during their retirement years.   Guidelines For A Second Career Not every superintendent wants to develop a second career, but some do. In today's world where superintendents are respected less as they grow older -- a second career can be a necessary "safety net" if positioned ready to go early on - as well as a rewarding enterprise at the same time.   Examples of secondary careers: consulting in and outside golf, starting a landscaping business, or a private/commercial property maintenance company are three of the more popular second careers developed by superintendents. About one in four superintendents develop second careers outside golf.   Developing a second career opportunity requires a disciplined due diligence approach. For example:   Superintendents will stand a far better chance of developing and enjoying a second career as an entrepreneur than as an employee at a new job.   Start to research post retirement career opportunities sooner than necessary; then, if a sound second career opportunity presents itself and your present job is not exciting you - consider retiring earlier than anticipated from your superintendent's career.   The key to establishing your own company is being able to match your experience and skill sets to specific needs within society.   Many think a bad economy minimizes second career opportunities. This is not the case because bad economies create more survival needs within society than during good economic times - a rich second career environment.   I rate the opportunity for qualified career successful superintendents to succeed at second career opportunities in a bad economy at 100% provided they commit on a timely basis and prepare properly.   Today's computer age allows new companies to self-design their business image; i.e., a company logo, stationary, envelopes, business cards and web sites, etc. at virtually no expense. However, outside funding can make a difference in certain situations.   There is an obvious challenge to starting a new business while still working as a superintendent. One way around this is to partner with a family member, friend, or outsider with the free time to commit to the start-up project while the superintendent maintains his first career for the time being.   Two partners will often do a better job developing a new business than a solo principal simply because most times two complementary thinking minds will function better than one.   A word of caution, however, because experience shows that quite often it is more difficult to maintain a business relationship with a partner than a traditional marriage. The most frequent fault of business partners is being dishonest.   Final comment: Prepare to set up your post-career enterprise well before it is needed. Done effectively, it will become the "icing" on your career cake and enjoyed accordingly.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

There Are Many Kinds Of Success... Only One Makes A Lifetime’s Difference

There are two kinds of success in life that we need to identify with if we are going to live unselfish rewarding lives. These are:   The Intervening Successes: The kinds that are not enduring but fail the test of time even while serving us well for periods of years during our lives; for example:   Financial Success: A necessary pursuit because we need money to sustain careers and to support families. But a pursuit that fails the test of time because economies waver and are generally defined by factors outside our control; i.e.- 94 million Americans are unemployed at this time and 46 million live below the poverty line.   Career Success: Clearly a necessary pursuit but one that fails the test of time because successful careers are subject to the vagaries of mankind/governments/employers and they too often sacrifice family stability. Same national statistics mentioned above apply here.   Family Success: A pursuit with endless rewards, but that too often self-destructs as a 50+% national divorce rate confirms.   Social Success: Always comforting, but fails the test of time because friendships are fleeting and do not impact the core decisions we make in life.   Health Success: A necessary pursuit, but fails the test of time because consistent good health is always beyond one's control.   While the successes profiled above each fail the test of time, they all need to be pursued because each makes a measured contribution to an individual's successful passage through life.   Continuing Success: The one enduring definition of success that I believe stands the test of time, that best serves mankind and which is essential to bringing a peaceful mindset to our declining years is "making a difference in other people's lives."   The persistent feature about this long-term concept of making a difference in others lives is that if we fail to do so -- we will regret it through our declining years -- a truly hellish position to place ourselves.   Evidence Of The Above During my 30-plus years in golf it has become clear to me that about one-third of the several hundreds of men I have met have had that disappointing feeling late in life because - looking back - their lives have lacked sufficient meaning since they put their personal welfare ahead of the well being of their families and others.   Unfortunately, this often leads to the following heartbreaking consequences during their later years: depression, excessive drinking, womanizing and broken marriages that often lead to isolated deaths. I have seen it all.   One of the most widely accepted truisms on this subject is: "People who live deep fulfilling lives always caring for others will not only be comforted along the way but will not fear dying."   Take heed and remember... your children are watching.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

How To Qualify For Pedigree Jobs Earlier In Your Career

It has been traditionally thought that pedigree (prestigious) jobs were available only to the more veteran superintendents. Interestingly, this is not the case today because credential quality now supersedes age as a primary qualifier.   The Challenge Of course, the better things in life do not come without ultimate challenges, which in this case are:   There are fewer pedigree golf courses compared to the many worthy candidates capable of filling these jobs -- which means that only the best-prepared applicants get considered - a factor that is not  "age" relavent.    Some might think the problem when a pedigree job opens is too many competing job applicants.   Wrong! Just the opposite is the case... because pedigree search committees as a general rule (with some exceptions) carefully control the number of applications accepted to within a range of from six to twelve quality candidates because accepting more job applications minimizes the chances of identifying the best candidate in the field.   The Big Disconnect  With all the above referenced care taken by search committees to quality control the search process at pedigree golf courses one would think that the process would be fail-safe and that only the best superintendents would get hired.   Wrong again because it is freely acknowledged throughout golfdom that the better candidates are frequently not hired by the search committees at pedigree golf courses.   Why Is This The Case? Because: (i) The better candidates too often do not feel the need to commit to full preparation and, accordingly, disqualify themselves; (ii) The pedigree courses load up their search committees with 'wanna-be' campus stars who are ill-equipped to get the job done; i.e.- they can't distinguish between the quality of applicants ; and (iii) The best candidates simply refuse to apply because they know that inexperienced search committees frequently cannot identify the better candidates and they do not want it known that their job applications failed.   A Recommended Action Plan This having been said, it should be stated that meticulous candidate preparation as profiled below can overcome all of the above mentioned shortcomings thereby virtually guaranteeing candidate interviews. Accordingly, candidates for pedigree jobs should:   Commit to the concept of developing and maintaining a high quality personal career web site as early in their careers as possible because this concept will serve as the personal archive that every future search committee contacted will scrutinize thoroughly. Reminder: personal career web sites are a superintendent's most effective marketing tool when seeking new jobs.   Build an early career reputation for maintaining cost-efficient quality golf courses and developing impeccable greens. Working at municipal golf courses early on in a career is one way to build these credentials into one's resume. (Also, see the Apr 30th blog.)   (i) Read books early and often to build an extensive vocabulary that will advance their writing quality throughout their careers; (ii) When ready, start writing articles initially for chapter and local publications in and outside golf; (iii) Then, eventually branch out to place articles in national publications; and (iv) Finally, present all their published writings within an appropriate link within their personal career web sites.   I estimate that no more than one in fifty golf course superintendents commits to developing a quality writing component to advance their careers and to serve as a model for their children.   Consistent professional writing is a guaranteed effective career enhancer that few superintendents take advantage of throughout their lifetimes.   Always out-prepare the competition when applying for jobs other people want by following the series of blog message guidelines presented earlier in this blog series.   My experience indicates that less than 50% of candidates are properly prepared to effectively compete for quality jobs. This translates into an open invitation to succeed for those candidates who do prepare arduously.   Just like you can't be a successful long distant runner when you start training only a week or two before a targeted race -- so too you can't prepare adequately for pedigree jobs on short notice.   However, with a meticulous longer range commitment to total preparation as profiled above pedigree jobs can be available to a wider younger audience of qualified candidates than ever before thought possible. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy.   Spread the word!

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Personal Appearance Matters - A Lot

Nothing delivers a negative message to employers and everyone else on a golf course campus more directly that a superintendent has defaulted into a laissez-faire work ethic than a poorly dressed, obviously out-of-shape body.   Following is a list of personal appearance guidelines that superintendents should follow: Physical Fitness: Superintendents owe it to themselves, their families and their employers to strive to be physically fit throughout life because: they will live longer; deliver a better job performance, enjoy life more, and be a better role model to their children.   Personal Dress Code: As a general rule, superintendents tend to under-dress when off duty, limiting their dress code to a sport jacket and slacks.   Nothing wrong with wearing a sport jacket and slacks most of the time, but there are those few occasions each year when a superintendent should be seen in a well-cut business suit and tie; for example - when attending club functions such as annual meetings, civic gatherings, holiday parties with constituents, etc.   Superintendents should always dress to match the dress quality and style of those attending the same event as they are.   Negotiate Access To A Club Luncheon Program:   To create an added professional visibility not normally seen when at their work places, veteran superintendents should negotiate access to a luncheon benefit at their club restaurants with a modest +/- $500 annual budget allowance to pay for meals consumed...   ... together with access to a personal locker in the men's locker room which would allow the superintendents to take a shower and change into proper attire prior to eating lunch in the clubhouse. At those golf courses when a superintendent earns this benefit the club should post the following on its web site/newsletter, etc.:   "The club is pleased to advise that superintendent John Smith has earned the privilege to eat lunch in the club restaurant. (Golf professional Harry Jones is also eligible to receive the same benefit.) This coutesy applies to John and his wife alone but not to his children and does not convey any membership status on John; furthermore, as a policy matter, John may not pay for the lunch of a member, nor may a member buy lunch for John."   Then, superintendents should have lunch in the clubhouse once a week on the average either alone, or when invited to join board and golf/green committee members, the members of the club administration, the golf professional, or club members.   If superintendents want to be perceived as professional people when having lunch in the clubhouse, they should dress the role in a clean and crisp manner.   Keeping a job today is everything about commanding respect. Don't give it away through sloppy personal and dress habits.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Prioritizing Career: Country... Family... God... Self

For some 25 years I have asked superintendent attendees at the dozens of Career Counseling workshops I have presented to prioritize the following five elements (presented in alphabetical order) that collectively drive the course of each of our lives: Career - Country - Family - God - Self.   Judging where these five elements fit within your life plan is more than a game. It is a prudent exercise to identify the sequencing of priorities that will best ensure your life's effectiveness.   After presenting this issue to several thousand superintendent workshop attendees over 25-plus years, after noting their initial varied responses, and finally after allowing these attendees to define each of the five elements through debate -- the clear consensus opinion for the optimum sequencing of life's developmental building blocks was as you see below:   First:  Self Many discounted self as a top priority because they assumed it meant selfishly taking care of themselves before others -- when self is intended to measure to what degree a person is able to develop his/her personal skill sets.   Only an individual who has committed to fully developing his/her innate talents can become an effective parent, spouse, citizen, leader, career professional, etc.   Your career and family welfare will advance in direct correlation to your level of commitment to self-development.   Second:  God God (i.e.- religion/spirituality) is positioned second because life is unfair and can throw debilitating curveballs at anyone any time that discourage and sometimes leave us without hope to such a degree that only spiritual guidance will see us through life.   Belief in a spiritual being of one's choice is God's way of providing each of us with the ultimate 'life insurance' policy.   Third:  Family Because dysfunctional families fail themselves and humanity every day, parents have a responsibility to each other, their children and mankind to raise their children within enduring stable family environments. Broken families weaken the fiber of society as inner city ghettos prove every day.   Fourth:  Country Because misdirected governments and bad economies undermine business, family life and every individual -- as we see today with 93 million (+/- 52%) out of the U.S. work force -- it is imperative that citizens participate to ensure getting the best government possible. A weakened country undermines the lives and careers of every citizen.   Fifth:  Career The career concept has been positioned last because careers will have the best chance to flourish only when the prior listed four life-directing elements are in place and pave the way.   Whether you specifically agree with the sequencing presented above is far less important than your determining what sequence best serves your life's purpose because ignoring or leaving this sequencing to chance will rarely take you to your promised land.    

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

The Peter Principle: The Ultimate Glass Ceiling

In its raw form, the "Peter Principle" simply states that both organizations and people tend to develop/succeed up to their level of competence -- after which incompetence prevails.   The primary characteristics of the Peter Principle are: It stealthfully positions a performance 'glass ceiling' upon each of us. It never goes away. Its glass ceiling can be advanced (see below) creating added upward mobility. When ignored, it can do damage.   Because it is difficult to know when we have reached our personal Peter Principle levels, we should always assume we are close to doing so because this will trigger the response necessary to cope effectively with the concept.   Coping With The Peter Principle   The key to overcoming the Peter Principle (i.e.- advancing one's personal Glass Ceiling) for superintendents and everyone else is to improve one's skill sets through education, and/or life style experiences - as profiled below.   1. Family: The death knell for most marriages is when one spouse grows personally and matures more than the other (who is said to be at his/her Peter Principle level) taking them off the same page in life and away from common ground.   How to counteract The Peter Principle: To help each other grow together and become/remain a true interactive and loving team, spouses must/should: first and foremost be good listeners; share a common life; seek mutual adventure; communicate; be generous with and compliment each other; and accept mutual responsibility for the rearing of their children -- and more.   2. Job/Career: Superintendents should always assume that some meaningful percentage of their ground crews are approaching, or have reached their Peter principle levels and, therefore, act accordingly.   How to counteract The Peter Principle: To ensure that their ground crews are given every opportunity to cope with and grow beyond their individual Peter Principle limitations superintendents should:   a. Focus on new and old program "safety" (OSHA) procedures at every opportunity every year!   b. Assemble updated professional video libraries and regularly quiz crew members on each video topic.   c. Use staff evaluation meetings: to ask employees for new ideas; to review and adjust staff job descriptions as necessary; to present plus/minus critiques of job performance; and to update compensation packages.   d. Assume a moderate (versus an over-demanding) CEO role that would allow key ground crew members to grow personally and professionally. Constructively monitor their work.   e. Establish/monitor delegated chains of command within staff; i.e.- from superintendent to assistants and from assistants to specific staff members.   3.   Golf Associations: The consensus industry opinion today is that all but two of the approximate 300 national golf associations and their many regional chapters and sections across the country have collectively and separately reached their Peter Principle levels.   The two organizations mentioned above that have not met their Peter Principle limitations are the National Golf Foundation and the United States Golf Association because they alone have incorporated adequate private sector expertise within their administrations. More on this topic at a later time!   How to counteract The Peter Principle: Specific recommendations re: how golf associations can effectively deal with their Peter Principle limitations will be presented within this blog series later in the year.   Borrowing from an old university cliché ("publish or perish"), the people on this good earth have the option of either coping with the Peter Principle, or wishing they had, because a lifetime of confusion and disappointment will likely follow if they don't.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

 

Why Workaholic Superintendents Are Job-Vulnerable

Myth: Golf course superintendents who consistently allow their personal work schedules to stretch to 60 and 70+ hour work-weeks are perceived as being dedicated to their jobs and are respected for this commitment profession-wide.   This is a dangerous myth that has cost more than a few superintendents their jobs through the years.   Why? Because the vast majority of those responsible for hiring superintendents are private-sector executives who require the managers they hire in their day jobs to be effective within standard work hour week schedules.   Consequently, employers eventually become impatient with and perceive over-extended superintendents to be weak managers because they lack the skill set to get their work done within a traditional time frame.   Failing To Delegate Is The Source Of The Problem When superintendents fail to delegate properly the following debilitating results generally follow:   Because they do not trust assistants to do the same quality work as they can, they perpetuate the problem by failing to train staff and, consequently, take on an over-extended workload themselves that drives their weekly work-hour totals noticeably beyond reason.  History shows that superintendents who mismanage their own work schedules will also tend to mismanage staff work-hour schedules as well -- something that adversely and noticeably impacts program budgeting.  Because they feel their programs cannot function the same when they are away for a day or more at a time, they often work seven days a week and will not seek or accept in-season vacations, which suggests to employers that the superintendents have not trained, or installed proper discipline throughout their staffs.  They tend to over-play or under-play the role of a CEO superintendent, which confuses their ground crews and alienates their superiors.  They have little time to give to organize their office or maintenance facilities. (See consequences at Oct. 23 blog.)   The invaluable lessons to be learned here are that workaholic superintendents: (i) Sacrifice family time together to the point where they have the highest percentage of unstable marriages throughout golf; and (ii) Similarly, the highest job dismissal rate throughout the profession because employers do not respect their work ethic.   Allowing for unexpected emergencies and bad weather . . .   The sooner superintendents learn to delegate effectively and to work within industry standard work-hour weeks (six days at +/- 50 hours), the sooner they will be respected as professional managers and earn all the admiration and job security that comes with the designation.

Jim McLoughlin

Jim McLoughlin

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