I remember attending the Open Golf at Muirfield in 2002, when the competition came down to a play off between the South African Ernie Els and the Frenchmen Thomas Levet. Ernie prevailed but I could not fail to notice that both golfers had the same sports psychologist, the Belgian Jos Vanstiphout. Now that says something.
Although today’s professional golfers have tremendous skills, on average they only hit 12 out 18 of greens in regulation – and as they are continually under pressure around 70% of them have a sports psychologist in their team.
On my bookshelves, I have several sports psychologist books – and as a keen but average golfer (my playing partners will say very average!), I know much of the theory but am not so good on the execution.
So, for my recent birthday, it was a pleasure to receive a copy of Dr. Bob Rotella’s book – Golf is Not a Game of Perfect. Rotella is widely regarded as one of the best golf sport psychologists around – and devouring his book, it struck me that many of his tips could be used in business.
- Rotella says that planning is everything and the best way to prepare a plan is to walk or mentally review each hole backwards. For example, if I see a hole that has a predominance of bunkers on the right-hand side of the green, I might decide it is best to pitch in from the left-hand side. Hence, when on the tee, I should be aiming to land my drive on the left-hand side of the fairway.
- Similarly, business people should work backwards by starting with the basic question “What are we trying to do with our business? – It’s amazing how many times, one finds companies where the Directors or Partners will answer the question differently – and if so, the chances of having a successful business are slim.
- For any golfer, Rotella believes a good attitude is essential. For him great golfers are simply ordinary people thinking well and doing extraordinary deeds. In business, a positive attitude helps – a “Can Do” and “Whatever It Takes” attitude can make such a difference. Captain Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean fame could not have summed it up better when he said, “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?”
- Rotella believes golfers that realise their potential, embrace the three D’s, P’s and C’s namely desire, determination, discipline, persistence, patience, practice, confidence, concentration and composure. Adopt the same principles in business.
- Rotella says that it is more important to be decisive than correct when preparing to play any golf shot. It is the same in business – as the American General, George Paton said, “A good plan to-day is better than a perfect plan to-morrow”.
- Golfers must learn to love the challenge when they hit a ball into the rough, tree or sand. The alternatives – throwing the golf club and whining – do no good. It’s the same in business – no plan survives contact with the enemy – when things go wrong, there is little point in complaining, just sort the problem and move on – after all, “Golf (and Business) is not a game of perfect”.