Chipping Away at Game-Changing Operational Efficiency

When I’m not leading my region’s global enterprise sales team for Cisco, I can be found hanging out with my family or playing golf. And while I once threw a club (out of excitement) after sinking a birdie, I wouldn’t call myself a scratch golfer by any means.

But just like work, I take my golf game seriously. Whether on the course or at the office, I’m obsessed with efficiency. Lose a round to my buddy? Show up 30 minutes early the next time to work out the kinks.

At the office, one of my most well-received management approaches is to create high-level concepts with accompanying acronyms to spin up new projects.

Here’s where the golf tie-in comes.

I tabbed a recent program, “Pipeline-Generating Activity,” aka PGA. As I built out the presentation deck to explain the program’s objectives, I plugged in golf imagery and terminology so it would be more relatable to my team.

The program has been a hole-in-one so far. In getting the program off the ground, I realized that golf is one of the greatest unifying sports in the world. You don’t need a ton of equipment to get started, and even the professionals struggle from time to time.

This article will run you through some of the basic ways you can leverage your understanding of golf – even if novice – to position your teams for more success and efficiency.

Best Ball

If you’ve ever played best ball, you know that relying on your teammates is key. If someone from your foursome strokes the best shot, are you going to ignore it just because you didn’t hit it?

We have to check ego at the door of any golf clubhouse or corporate workplace. Empower your team members to come up with ideas and watch the magic happen. Stifle them, and you will watch them naturally withdraw from conversations and start looking for new opportunities outside your company.

At Cisco, we use wide-open whiteboard (WOW) sessions, where every idea is welcome to the table. If a suggestion comes from the services or operations side of our organization, I recommend that our sales team listen with both ears open. Our job is to create and deliver the best solution for our customers – no matter who comes up with the best way to achieve this.

Staying Unstuck

Don’t you love when great golfers tell you to avoid sand traps? Here’s a helpful tip: This is impossible!

We all get stuck in the sand from time to time. At the 2022 PGA Championship earlier this year, 151 of the 156 players faced at least one sand save throughout the opening round. As our ball sinks with every flailing attempt to get back onto the fairway, we find ourselves having to dig deeper to get out of the hole.

Business works the same way. Some challenges are just more difficult to solve. As a leader, it’s up to us to help our teams steer clear of the sand. And to help them get out when they land there.

Great leaders guide teams through short stays in the sand. The best ways to get unstuck? Swing steady, focus on the task hand, move the ball up the fairway, and live to see another shot.

Who’s Your Caddy?

Ever wonder why professional golfers are so confident and cool on the golf course (for the most part)? That’s because they aren’t alone.

They rely on the advice of a great caddy, some of whom are paid more than $1 million per year. Before you go quitting your job to hold a bag for a golfer, consider all of the work that goes into intimately knowing every golf course, each club’s hitting power, and every emotional tendency of your boss.

Being a caddy is a tough profession, one that requires giving clear, consistent guidance and coaching. Whether you’d consider yourself a caddy or boss, you play a big role in creating a positive culture.

According to a recent CNBC report, nearly 33 percent of employees in the U.S. are considering quitting their jobs, while 25 percent have actually resigned over the past six months, citing “toxic company culture” as their No. 1 reason for leaving.

How you deliver and listen to advice can make all the difference.

Enjoy the 19th Hole

Speaking of retention issues, how difficult have the past few years been for your organization? People are quicker to leave their roles during this era of The Great Resignation – many times for more flexibility and less stress.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to make life easier and more enjoyable for our employees. One way we can do that is to celebrate wins when they happen. Even better, however, is when we can catalyze those wins. For example, when we leverage our ability to empower our workforce via learning and certification opportunities, we increase employee retention, engagement, performance, and morale. In turn, by focusing our efforts on individuals, the outcome of their wins permeates to their fellow players (or colleagues), inspiring them to restart this ripple effect.

Enter the 19th hole, which happens to be my favorite. It’s a post-round gathering in the clubhouse, where we share a couple of drinks, bust each other’s chops, laugh off bogeys, and brag about birdies.

Leverage this approach as a leader. The last thing you want to do is finish up a stressful, fast-paced project and immediately move on to the next one without giving your team a chance to breathe.

Slow down and enjoy what you just achieved. It will pay off every time.

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