I said to myelf late last week I wasn’t going to do it.
The notion popped into my head to discuss The Ryder Cup but I said “no, it’s really a business blog and you’re spending way too much time on golf even if it does relate to business.” Then, of course, The Ryder Cup actually took place and the final day was one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever seen in sport (even the Mrs. sat down and watched which generally requires it to be The Olympics or some sport set to music).
There are some great business points we can take away from the competition, no matter how you feel about the outcome. The European side made a historic comeback on the last day – equalling the one made by the U.S. side in 1999. The Americans didn’t lose this thing – the Europeans won it. That’s a big difference. When your opponent makes three long (over 25 feet) putts in a row to win the last three holes, you were beaten, you didn’t lose. I wrote about that a few months ago and that will suffice.
Another thing you might hear about today was how badly a few members of the U.S. team performed throughout. Tiger Woods earned 1/2 a point in 4 tries. Steve Stricker, who was put on the team as a Captain’s pick mostly because Tiger likes to play with Steve as his partner, didn’t earn a single point. Lesson: you can’t count on a high performer who is in a slump to break out of that slump as a strategy. While Tiger has demonstrated that his game can be what it once was in VERY limited doses (one or two rounds out of a four round tournament), he is far from the consistently dominating player he was 10 years ago. Counting on any great performer who is off form is not a sound strategy (and Tiger has never played well in Ryder Cup!).
Lesson 2: changing your business strategy to honor the wishes of someone who isn’t a key to the plan (Stricker on the team to benefit Tiger), is nuts. Even though Steve is a top player, there were other players left off the team who have been playing better the last few months and might have been better choices. As the CEO (or team captain in this case), you do what’s right for the overall strategy.
Lesson 3: the power of strong motivation. The Europeans were playing the first Cup since the death of Ryder Cup legend, Spaniard Seve Ballesteros. He was a mentor to many of the golfers on the team and the team literally wore Seve on their bags and shirts. This team would not quit and was highly motivated to honor his memory. As leaders, it’s our job to foster this sort of passion.
Finally, we learn the lesson of working as a team. Golf is a solitary sport yet The Ryder Cup forces golfers to play matches as a team two of the three days. The Captain needs to send out singles matches with the overall team’s play in mind on the third day. For whatever reason, The European golfers seem to be able to subordinate their own egos and style of play to that of the team while the Americans have more difficulty Something to think about when hiring and something to stress to your team. It’s a different game working as a unit. Not everyone can adjust.
This was great drama and a massive display of skill and passion by the Euros. Like Seve, who often made impossible shots look routine, they were inspired by their Captain to “believe” (his word) that they could do the impossible and come back. They did believe, they did come back. Can you get your team to that same sort of belief in themselves?