Is Your Training a Birdie or a Bogey?

By Donald Guzauckas, Jr.
Vice President, HB Live, Inc.

I recently had the opportunity to enjoy a round of golf with some colleagues at a course that featured young caddies. Having been a caddie for several years when I was a teen, I immediately harkened back to my own experience. I was introduced to the game by my grandfather and father and finer points of caddying were drilled into me by numerous other golfers, all with less patience and higher expectations than my dad. I believed that the boys and girls we would soon meet had undergone formal and detailed training and that they would enhance my experience on the course. I looked forward to the chance to walk 18 holes on a gorgeous Friday afternoon.

As we approached the first tee a young man came over and introduced himself. Hector is 13 and had only caddied for about a year. He easily shouldered the clubs and off we went.

As we walked the first couple of holes, we chatted somewhat awkwardly about school and life of a teen, as I have two boys of my own. I talked about my own caddying experience and asked some questions to try and get him to open up a bit with little success.

Does your staff know how to talk to clients and is personality an important part of your business? Spend some time teaching them how to engage in a conversation.

Yardage, course features, hazards, greens slope and speed — these are all things that a guest player would love to know as they play their round. Each hole I asked, “So what are we looking at here?” — hoping to get some guidance on where I should place my tee shot. I would do that at each consecutive shot again hoping to take advantage of his knowledge of the course. There was little to be had. As I grew more discouraged and he seemed to become more embarrassed, I asked about the caddy school: What did they teach, was there continuous mentorship, did anyone continue to help him develop? He answered that they taught the essentials and the rest was up to him.

The mentoring began. I explained that he should make the effort to learn the intricate details of the course like landmarks for yardage and direction and then demonstrated what I meant. The following holes were a fun opportunity for me to be a better teacher than the customer of my youth, and I truly felt he was open to it. We talked about reading greens and figuring out where a lost ball probably landed as well as soccer and food and other goofy stuff — he is a kid, after all.

I’ve been playing golf for years and have knowledge that has simply become muscle memory, stuff I “just know.” Try to teach someone and you’ll realize that there is way too much to go over in just one round.

Are you giving your staff the bare-essential training and putting them in front of clients? Do you assume that they should all “just know” stuff because you do? Do they know the finer points of your business that will make them stand out as exceptional? What do they want to get out of the job: continuous improvement and development, or just a paycheck? As business leaders we need to help our teams develop the muscle memory that will grow our businesses.

As we got to the 18th tee, he suggested a club and told me where to aim, a first for the round. It was the right time for the right club and I drilled the best shot of the day. We started walking and I asked, “Did you have fun today?” He replied with a giggle, “yeah.” I knew he did. He then continued, “And I really appreciate all you taught me.” I knew he really did.

And I parred the hole.

This column was reprinted with permission from Donald Guzauckas, Jr. and originally appeared here.