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By Bill Catlette

I recently had the occasion to attend the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Golf Tournament. In addition to taking in some of the most majestic scenery on Earth, I got the chance to observe the talented men and women of the Pebble Beach Company in action, and to renew my appreciation for the great game of golf.

One of the things that makes the game unique and such a pleasure to play and watch is that, by both rule and custom, it is inherently self-policing. Players are expected to accurately count their own strokes, promptly announce their own rules violations, and impose the appropriate penalty, whether their opponent or an official has witnessed the event or not. Indeed, in most golf matches, there is no official. If, for example, an errant shot leaves a player with an unplayable lie, he or she may take a drop at the expense of a one shot penalty. You don't just kick your ball back out in the fairway and hope that nobody notices. Similarly, should your ball move ever so slightly as you remove loose impediments, you record a penalty stroke on your scorecard. In other words, you're expected to have the honor, decency, and be man or woman enough to use the expression, "my bad."

For the benefit of non-golfers, this is akin to calling a foul on yourself in a pickup basketball game, or telling your tennis opponent that you foot-faulted on your last serve - things that just don't normally happen. The duty is the same whether you're an amateur hacking your way around the public links with your buddies on Saturday morning, or your last name is Woods, and it's a certain Sunday afternoon in April at Augusta.

I was reminded of golf's "my bad" approach while watching Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Invitational Tournament this afternoon. For more years than I can count, Mr. Palmer has been a respected icon of American sporting tradition. He and the game he has so ably represented for several decades stand in such stark contrast to recent events involving politicians, celebrities, athletes of other sports, and unfortunately, business executives who have been caught cheating or just behaving badly.

Clients and others often ask us how they can improve business outcomes by getting people to take responsibility for their actions and performance. My sense is that one of the best places to start, not unlike the game of golf, is with a higher order of expectation. Indeed, I will submit that the only way to routinely get people to act as if they are truly stewards of the enterprise is to make it clear to everyone that your standards are, in a word, higher. No equivocation, and no apology. It can be difficult to set and maintain the bar at a higher level, but when you do, you can really move the needle.


Want a more engaged workforce? Want the performance benefits of creating a great place to work? Bring Bill Catlette or Richard Hadden in to speak or conduct leadership training for your organization, or to keynote your association's next convention.

Contact Bill (901- 853-9646) or Richard (904-720-0870), and let's talk about how we can make your next meeting a colossal success!

Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette
Contented Cow Partners, LLC

phone: 904-720-0870
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