As a college instructor who tries to help her students better understand behavioral differences between people across cultural and generational lines, Amy Wallis, Ph.D., loves her job. After all, as a professor of practice at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, she is immersed in a field that is relatively new and poorly understood.
Every December, Wallis brings her message to 25 or so golf course superintendents at the annual Syngenta Business Institute.
"We're not going to learn everything we need to know about leading everyone," Wallis told the 2017 class at the 2017 SBI. "We can't allow ourselves to fall into stereotyping and thinking there is some cookie-cutter approach to working across differences.
"I'm going to equip you with the tools and concepts to dig a little deeper."
That's just a slice of what attendees are in for at the 10th annual SBI, scheduled for Dec. 3-6 at Wake Forest.
In its 10th year, the Syngenta Business Institute is a 3 ½-day event held on the Wake Forest University campus in Winston-Salem, North Carolina is part of Syngenta's ongoing effort to grow the professional knowledge of golf course superintendents and assist them with managing their courses. Through a partnership with the Wake Forest University School of Business, the program provides graduate school-level instruction in financial management, human resource management, negotiating, managing across generations and cultural divides, impact hiring and other leadership- and professional-development skills.
Applicants must complete an online application that includes writing a short essay on why they should be selected for this unique career-development program.
"Superintendents have the opportunity many times a year to learn about agronomy. But what they don't get to hear about or understand is how to work with their teams and how each person in their team can be different," said Stephanie Schwenke, turf market manager for Syngenta, "hat can be based on age. It can be based on gender. It can be based on culture, and it can be based on the way they were brought up and what they were exposed to in their lives. So i think the culture and the generations session opens everyone's eyes that everyone is not just like me. And not everybody grew up the same way I did with the same culture or the same skillset. So it's understandable that there are different motivational factors for their team if they can understand how to work with them. That has been the one piece superintendents have walked away with saying, "I wish we could get more of this.' "
David Groelle of Royal Melbourne Country Club in Long Grove, Illinois, applied for the 2017 SBI because he was eager to learn ways to improve communications with his team and help them be more effective.
"It was a rewarding and educational experience, and they're not selling anything," Groelle said.
"I've been to every type of turf event imaginable. This is so off-the-wall different.
"The biggest take home for me has been dealing with cultural and generational issues and trying to understand that better. Understanding how people from the U.S. differ from people from other cultures - I think it would help with retention, and efficiency on the golf course and how they work and what is going through their heads vs. what is going through mine. I never really thought about it that way, but when I heard it, it made sense."