Great Expectations

Not surprisingly with the weekend approaching, your writer’s thoughts turn to golf.  Every golfer who plays regularly should have a handicap index.  This is probably the most misunderstood statistic that golfers use.  The short explanation is that for every round one plays, you (or a computer, usually) figure out the stroke differential between what you shot and the stroke rating of the course.  You adjust that for something called the slope rating (a measure of how difficult the course is relative to other courses) and add it on to your list.  Your handicap index is 95% of the average of the ten best (lowest) adjusted stroke differentials of your last twenty rounds.  Clear?  Good, because it’s a great business lesson too.

Typical elements of a hole on a golf course: t...

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Your index is NOT your average score – it’s your BEST scores.  It’s a measure of your potential as a golfer, and most golfers rarely shoot a score that’s at or far below their handicap.  This is, in my mind, what makes many of us nuts – we know how good we can be but we don’t often hit that mark.  It’s the frustration of reality vs. expectations, and that is something we find in business as well.

We sometimes think we can do the boss’ job or that of a co-worker or partner better than they are doing it, and maybe we can.  Maybe we know that we’re capable of a lot more in our own roles.  Sales can be better since the market is doing well.  That differential between the reality of today’s performance and the internal index we keep in our heads can be a source of tension or problems with others.  As a supervisor, we look for that in our staff – who is not scoring up to their potential?  Whose index is rising due to bad performance?  Well, there’s something I’ve found in golf that might help.

The reality is that if par is 72, a golfer should be shooting around 75 to play to their index.  Not perfect, but very well.  We need to temper our expectations – golfers and business people rarely are perfect.  The standards don’t change but our demand should be that everyone performs to their potential.  We want that potential to keep improving over time until it gets to be at or better than the standard.  When executives or partners or financial results start trending the other way, maybe some help (like golf lessons) are needed.

I play regularly with a guy who is much better than I am at golf.  He’ll often score five or six shots better than I will, yet when we post the rounds my stroke differential is as good as his.  I’m not (yet) as good a golfer but I’m performing as well when measured by the same standard, which is all I think we can ask of ourselves and our staff.  We need to keep improving our potential and do all we can to live up to it as individuals an enterprises.  Otherwise, that gap will do more than drive us crazy – it might put us out of business.

What’s your index?  How well are you playing these days?

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