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Zen and Art of Golf

One of my more popular blogs last winter was "Zen and Art of Snow Shoveling" based on the famous book Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. After yesterday, I thought I might leverage that title one more time.

Yesterday was a lovely fall day in the Smoky Mountains. The sky was bright blue with no clouds, the leaves were changing into brilliant colors, the air was warm, and I had a 1 p.m. tee time. Unbeknownst to me, another couple had signed up to play with my wife and I. As a not-great golfer, I became concerned when I saw the other man, Ed, begin to boom his shots on the driving range. On the first hole I was still somewhat nervous, but made a double bogey on a long par 5. Moving to the second hole, I hit a great drive.

But it was the next thing that happened that made the afternoon a wonderful experience: Ed began to compliment everyone's shots and form as he continued to be a long and accurate ball stroker. My second shot hit the green -- the first time I had ever done that. On the third hole I began to get on a roll. By the end of the day, I had a few pars, a birdie, and scored my best round of the year. Even with losing five balls, I shot a 93! Now, while that might not be good for many readers, for me it was a positive experience. 

What does this have to do with sales leadership? From the first hole, which I didn't pick up until the second, Ed was setting the tone for the day -- compliments, some laughs but setting a standard on distance and accuracy. He would pick up broken tees, cleaning the tee box and fixing ball marks on every green. Pretty soon, all four of us were encouraging each other, managing the course and enjoying the experience. I found myself concentrating more clearly, working my shots better, and even when Ed gave me a tip, I appreciated his concern to make my game better

As a sales leader are you setting the standards of expectations? Doing the little things (like cleaning a tee box) to make sure your team is executing more professionally? Making sales calls with your team and providing strategy and sales tips to your team to make them better? It was the entire approach -- by everyone -- to the afternoon that made the difference. Is your team helping each other? Is everyone in the organization encouraging and pressing for excellence?

Have a great fall -- focus on the details, push your team for more, but set the tone with positive strokes and perhaps you will finish 2011 as your best year ever!

Posted by Ken Thoreson on October 17, 2011