Tee Off

Tee Off


Article written for Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) Schoolguides website, August 5, 2009

One important rule in golf is to never rush to hit a golf ball. That’s why they call it “addressing” the ball–you acknowledge the ball, evaluate its relative position to the fairway, the slope of the hill, the depth of the turf, any obstacles that may be in the way, the distance to the hole, the type of club that you’ll be using. Before even swinging the club, dozens of estimations and adjustments have to be made, most of them inside the golfer’s mind.

Now, compare that to a confrontation in the workplace. How many evaluations and acknowledgements take place before someone says something about somebody?

If I could be as consistent in the workplace as I am on the golf course, I would approach every confrontation like this:

First, I would evaluate my own state of mind. On the golf course, if I am angry at badly hitting the last shot, I would take time to calm down. In the office, if I had just left a heated meeting and was about to talk to a coworker about another problem, I would take a five minute break to relax.

While relaxing, I would focus strictly on the problem that needs to be resolved. I don’t think about that last meeting. I don’t think about what happened in the past. I don’t fill my mind with useless, trivial things that have nothing to do with the problem in hand. In golf, if I am about to putt the ball into the hole, thinking about what happened two holes ago won’t help me sink that putt.

I try to imagine a resolution, then think backwards to how it can be resolved, just like a golfer walks to the other side of the hole to see the path that the ball needs to take. I try to imagine different ways to solve the problem, and choose the one that is the simplest, easiest, and causes the least amount of trouble for all those involved. Usually the simplest solution is the best.

Just like accommodating for wind and whether there’s a slope to the right or left, I also accommodate for the office atmosphere that I’m about to enter. Is it late in the day, when people are very tired and the only thing on their mind is going home? Is it too early in the morning, when they’ve just gotten through an hour’s worth of driving through bad traffic? Is it right after lunch, when they have a little bit of food coma and their minds are a bit more relaxed?

There’s a really nice version of golf called “best ball”. This is when two or more players form a team, and at the end of the round, only the best scores from each hole are counted. It allows players to show off their strengths on certain holes, without having to worry about any players bringing the team down. There’s no blame, only accomplishment, and everyone gets credit for the team’s success.

Whenever I initially feel like teeing off on someone, I practice my golf swing by first writing my thoughts down, either on paper or on the computer. I look at my swing a number of times, rereading what I’ve just written. I imagine how far the ball would fly, then I would rewrite, over and over, until I can see the ball sailing toward the hole with the least amount of problems, least amount of obstacles, trees, and sand traps. I would rewrite until the language and intent stayed true and complete without hurting anyone, including me.

And then I would take a steady, honest swing.