I’m putting away my golf clubs for the season. As I do that, I can’t help but reflect on what a great metaphor golf is for leaders and leadership.
In my role as Executive Coach I have engaged this metaphor with clients who are also golfers with some surprising results.Like the complex and changing corporate environment, there are constant unknowns in the game.
There are hazards everywhere and when we find ourselves in one of them, it requires some thought, a reframe, refocus, a decision and action. And after all of that, and you take the next stroke, there is the knowledge that there is no guarantee that the outcome will be what is intended.
Moving out of a trouble spot requires another look at what club the golfer (and for the Executive, what tools or skills) might be used to move forward…toward the goal that isn’t always visible and is often surrounded by several more hazards!
I also realized halfway through this golf season, that asking for help to enhance my skills (which at times are highly developed already! Well, sometimes!!!). Even the greats have Coaches and must practice to enhance their game.
One of the things that has had a great impact on me this year was to recognize the benefit of quieting, calming and centering. In the Spacious Complexity process we engage quieting and reflective learning as one of the most fundamental, effective development techniques that leaders can use. And in using the golf metaphor, the quieting and reflection is similar to when the ball lands in a water hazard where it stirs up the silt making it impossible to see the lost ball.
When we too quickly attempt to retrieve that ball, we stir up even more murkiness, similar to when we may too quickly react in the organizational environment. Yet if we simply wait, often for only a short moment, the silt settles, the water becomes clearer and we can see so much more clearly…to retrieve or recover. It is the next shot that makes the difference!
What is your next shot?
What tools are in your leadership toolbox?
Who is your silent partner?
What are your resources to bring you to the top of your game?

Like the skiers in the photograph, leaders are often faced with decisions that are complex and where making the wrong decision could have serious consequences.  In such situations, decision makers can find themselves at either end of the decision making spectrum – analysis paralysis on the one end or falsely simplifying the ‘landscape’  or context to make the decision easier on the other.  In the case of our back-country skier – either method could have life threatening results.  In business it may not be your life that is at stake, but it could cost the ‘life’ of your project, your credibility or even your business as a whole.
Struggling with decisions in complex or ambiguous situations doesn’t mean you’re a poor decision maker, it likely has its root in other factors.  A big contributor is the myth that; “While there may be more than one way to do it, there is only one  BEST way to do it”.
If you find yourself in agreement with the ‘only one BEST way’ thinking, you are probably missing many great decision opportunities.
There are very few situations where that thinking is true – even fewer when it involves people.  Any time a decision has impact on people it is more likely to have an optimal range of BEST decisions to choose from.  The ‘only one BEST way’ thinking is borrowed from a mechanical mindset.  A context in which it is often true, but not so in most leadership decisions, as very few leadership decisions are purely mechanical.
Try it out for yourself.  Think of a complex or ambiguous situation where you believed there was only one BEST decision.  Maybe you’re in one right now?  How did that impact your decision making?  Many great leaders find their decision making compromised because they are holding tightly to the belief that there is only one right answer, only one best way to proceed.  It is true that there are right and wrong decisions, good and bad decisions.  Think of your scenario.  Imagine it on a continuum with the analysis-paralysis at the one end and ‘quick-n-dirty’ decision at the other end.  Where on that continuum do you see the optimal decision making range.  Think of 5 to 8 decision options you could make from there.  Assess them at a gut level.  Which are your top 3?  What more information do you need before you act on them (using the same continuum scale)?  Choose and act.
Take the time to try it out and we’d like to hear how it changes things for you and for the outcome as a result.