You’re Now the Leader

In today’s world, where technology, media, and consumer demand intersect in a constant state of disruption, leadership starts with understanding and dealing with change. Henry DeLozier provides perspective on how superintendents can rise to the challenge.

Times have sure changed. Now you’re the one whom young men and women — the ones who aspire to your position one day — look to for guidance and assurance. And it’s in those hopeful faces, full of equal amounts potential and self-doubt, that your biggest challenge and the most important aspect of your job lies.

It’s called leadership. And in today’s world, where technology and media and consumer demand are intersecting in a constant state of disruption, leadership starts with effectively understanding and dealing with change. Among the biggest changes for golf course superintendents in the last decade:


  • Agronomic knowledge has become “table stakes.” Knowing the science of growing grass efficiently and effectively has gotten most superintendents into the game. The superintendent is often the best-educated member of the management staff in many facilities. There is no way to overstate the importance and reach of agronomic knowledge, and yet the job is so much more now.
  • Techniques have advanced. Generations of superintendents schooled in the college of hard knocks have found new and innovative solutions to age-old problems. These solutions have resulted in more efficient usage of water, advanced and less damaging pesticide management, and improved playing conditions arising from healthier and denser turf.
  • Environmentalism is of top-tier importance. If everyone was as diligent an environmental steward as golf course superintendents are, we would live in a better, safer world. Trained in the chemical sciences and well informed through professional resources like GCSAA, new generations of superintendents have introduced planet-friendly solutions to fertility and water scarcity challenges.
  • Golfers’ expectations have become more robust and detailed. In their insistence on improved playing conditions, golfers — God love ’em — have continued to push for tournament-quality conditions daily. Their demands, not unlike the quality demands of consumers for any other product or service for which they pay a premium, add stress and push budgets across the country.

If those are some of the major changes currently affecting the superintendent’s world, what might be over the horizon in terms of effective leadership qualities? From our perspective, it’s retaining your best talent. Although job-hopping in many industries has slowed this year as economic uncertainties weigh on employees, the situation could change as the economy and job market continue to improve, especially if employees aren’t feeling supported by their employer. It’s a challenge shared by your peers in organizations across the board.

“Employees crave a rewarding and purposeful workplace atmosphere. Now is the time for organizations to evaluate what is working well for their people, and what’s not resonating,” says Laine Thomas Conway of Alight Solutions, a global consulting firm. “When employees feel their employers are continually improving their offerings and working to enhance the employee experience, they are likely to remain positive and committed to their organizations, and in turn, employers can better retain top talent.”

In other words, says Tom Wilson, the CEO of Allstate Insurance: treat employees like customers. “They don’t pay you in dollars, but in hard work. That has led us to an employee choice model in the new world,” he says. Here are several tactical suggestions to help your team members:


  • Education grants for the children of your crew. When the club or golf course funds educational support for the children of its workers, your crew will see you as the employer of choice.
  • Field days for employees’ children. Help families share in the workplace culture and pride with your team. Most children want to see where their parents work, and what cooler place is there than a golf course?
  • Regular feedback sessions. Give employees the same feedback opportunities customers have with retailers and service providers.
  • All-team meetings. Help crew members understand their place in the overall team effort, including other departments and functions at the club and course.

It’s no longer enough to react to changes affecting our careers. To be an effective leader and to encourage your best players to remain part of the team, we must anticipate the next wave of change heading in our direction.

This article was authored by Henry DeLozier for Golf Course Industry magazine.

Effective Beginnings

A good friend says he starts his list of New Year’s resolutions with one word written across the top of a legal pad. The word is “effective,” which is a good choice because it implies results. Results normally require action on our part – and usually not the same things, done the same ways. We need to do things differently and better before we can improve relationships, be more efficient and increase the value we bring to our businesses.

If you hope to be more effective in 2019, here are 10 suggestions.

1. Track your time. Even the busiest and most efficient people waste parts of their day’s most precious resource. The time-stealing culprits are numerous and easily mistaken: idle chit-chat, social media, meetings. Like a sensible diet, each has its place, but moderation is the key. Keep a log for a week to know where every minute was spent. Evaluate how much was spent effectively, in pursuit of goals and objectives. Then repeat the task the next week, keeping in mind the previous week’s wasted time, and compare results. You might be astonished.

2. Measure accomplishments, not effort. It was the Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle who wrote, “We live in deeds, not years.” It’s worth knowing how long it took you or your staff to accomplish a task or project, but it’s the outcome that is the ultimate measure of our work. Did that 12-hour day you just put in move the needle on a strategic objective? If not, where could your time have been better spent?

3. Stop multi-tasking. People like to brag about juggling multiple tasks and priorities. But time and efficiency experts agree that often these same people are deluding themselves, actually doing twice as much work half as effectively. Focus on one task, complete it and move to your next priority. Effective multi-tasking is called delegating.

4. Get started. If 80 percent of success is showing up (Woody Allen is supposed to have said that), getting started must account for at least another 10 or 15 percent. Knowing where to begin starts with knowing where you want to finish. So, start with one of your goals and work back. Develop a routine that gets you going each day. Whatever works, do it consistently.

5. Dress to impress. Unfair though it may be, people begin forming opinions of others before their first word is spoken. They do it based on an untucked shirttail, an ill-fitting sport coat and the shine on a person’s shoes. Don’t let any of those things negatively influence an opinion.

6. Write simply, clearly and factually. Most everyone is called on to report on programs and results. Maybe you’re making a pitch for a budget increase in your area. All of those things start with putting your thoughts on paper. What and how one writes greatly influences how people respond. Organize your thoughts, express them in short sentences composed of carefully chosen words, without misspellings and typos, and then edit carefully. Before hitting “send” or sealing the envelope, read what you’ve written out loud to yourself or a colleague. If the logic seems jumbled or the words don’t flow easily, take the time to fix it.

7. Read and then read some more. President Harry Truman noted, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” For many of us, reading to keep up with trends and developments in our field is the last thing we seem to have time to do. If that’s the case, schedule reading time just as you would time for any other task.

8. Improve your workspace. Your workspace is a reflection of your state of mind and organizational abilities. Are golf clubs, coffee cups and boxes scattered about? Or is it purposely organized to help you to focus on your most immediate responsibilities and tasks? Simplify your work-setting by eliminating the clutter and you’ll find it easier to focus on priorities.

9. Establish your own wind-down routine. Be deliberate in finishing your work, just as you were in starting it. Make your priority list for tomorrow as a part of winding down and then leave, knowing there will always be more work to be done and that there’s always tomorrow.

10. Dream big. How else are you going to be really effective?

GGA’s Henry DeLozier penned this article for Golf Course Industry Magazine.