For years, I have played golf with credit union CEOs and their executive teams all around the country. I’ve watched them play 18 holes, shake hands at the conclusion of the round and head home for the evening saying, “Wow, that was better than any day at the office.”

I’ve often wondered, as the credit union executives drove home, “Did they realize that the four to five hours of golf were not just a day out of the office?”

In fact, the missed birdie opportunities and golf balls that found water hazards may have been an allegory for some of the issues in their organization that hinder growth. If so, playing eighteen holes may serve as an outside the box approach to identifying some of your team’s strategic focus concerns.

Believe it or not, golf is a perfect vehicle to provide strategic focus. Success on the course requires focus, awareness, patience, accuracy, honesty, luck…and some artistry.

So, here are three golf tips to help you reach Masters status at the office.

Stay In the Present

In order for golfers to stay out of double bogey trouble, avoid hazards and finish with a solid round, they must consistently remind themselves to stay in the present. Staying in the present is simply a way to better observe circumstances, course conditions, and cope with playing companions that can wreak havoc on your mind and cause you to feed on negativity.

The key is to recognize when this is happening and to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones, before you take your next shot.

I call this a Zen moment. Practicing this under stressful situations in business means to relax and allow the negative forces to ebb away.

As a result, you will no longer focus on negative events that haven’t yet occurred. With enough practice, staying in the present will become a habit. My team and I work at this daily.

Every Club Has a Purpose

A golf bag full of clubs is very much like a Swiss Army Knife, where each club serves a specific role and purpose.

The steadiness and predictability of your accounting team may be viewed similar to that of a reliable 3-wood.

Because the lending department is responsible for the majority influx of revenue, they can be viewed much like the putter. Let them keep putting for dough and closing out each monthly loan goal.

When driving for show is what you need, look to your marketing department and CEO to be your driver off the tee. Together they set and deliver your brand and create awareness among credit union members and non-members alike.

Each team and specific function in your credit union is unique. Just like the clubs in your bag, they all play an important role to deliver the best results possible.

Awareness and Adjustment

The core purpose of a strategic plan is to help a credit union focus on long-range success. A bogey on the first hole is not a reason to jettison your whole strategic game plan. Likewise, minor ROA underperformance in January is not a sole reason to overhaul your whole business plan.

Remember, there are always hazards and changing conditions on the course leading to some bad shots during your round. Become aware of the issues and environments that lead to poor results on the course and with your teams at work. Regroup, focus, and make small adjustments.

Awareness of lackluster performance in golf may lead to the understanding that it’s more effective to use the 3-wood off the first tee rather than your driver, or a eight-iron just off the green instead of a sand-wedge.

When you play your next round of golf, or even your first round, consider how the game of golf and your approach to it can fit into your next leadership discussions.

Larry Hayes is CEO of CU Holding Company

By Larry Hayes | From the September 25, 2013 issue of Credit Union Times Magazine | View Original