Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Ryder Cup Experience
Some Business Lessons

Its been an amazing week, probably the best week in golf for a very long time. Not that I am a particularly good golf player, I mean, I tell people I am a "natural", no lessons required..., yea, a natural 120! But, I play more for laughs and don't take my golf too seriously. So, what went wrong (again) for the Americans??

1) Technically and on merit, the US players in general are ranked higher on the world stage, though if more European players played on the US tour, they could figure higher in the rankings. However, without a doubt, you have Woods and Mickelson, its like having Ronaldhino and Drogba in your team. It was so obvious, the Americans were too individualistic in spirit and attitude. Just look at them standing together in a group, while golf is a very solo thing, the Ryder Cup is certainly not.
Biz Lesson - No point hiring or having primma donnas in your company, even though they may be highly qualified unless they come with strong people skills as well, and can get acceptance quickly. Nothing ruins a company faster than a "virus" in the team. It distracts and distances.

2) Team spirit and comraderie are not useless feel-good stuff. Just look at the European team. They run on things other than their ability. You can sense that they are playing more for each other, while the Americans, especially Woods and Mickelson were largely playing for themselves and concerned with how they'd be viewed. To cultivate "team spirit", one must be genuine, it cannot be forced. Tom Lehman knows the team needed team spirit but the characters just did not gel.
Biz Lesson - Team spirit cannot be coerced. It has to cultivated genuinely. Aligning common interests and goals. They have to fight for something more than themselves. The sense of achievement for the team. A lot of it could be due to the fact that Europeans play more team sports when they were younger, while American golfers tend to concentrate on golf from young, hence golf is very much a personal, solo game - you play for yourself. In Europe, you have football, rugby, cricket, etc... and coming from various countries under a common "association" brings with it a sense of "for the greater good". This is empowerment, you empower the players by signalling them as a crucial team members just by being picked from a pool of high quality players. Just look at how disappointed Thomas Bjorn felt after realising he had not been picked by Woosie. By bringing the idea of having the cream of the crop, they feel empowered to performed. If you look at the rookies in the US team, they don't even know why they were picked in the first place. Too many rookies.

3) No money involved. When no money is involved, what are you playing for?? Does the Ryder Cup mean more to the Europeans than the Americans, you betcha. Most Europeans make a lot less money than the American golfers (with the exception of the top few), there is a history, there is a bit of David vs Goliath thing, and the ugly American fans a behaviour a few years back still leaves a sour taste ... and as a group, the Europeans are really good buddies, and not just people you meet at golf tournaments. I don't think Woods and Mickelson would have each other over their house for dinner, would you?
Biz Lessons - Most employees will be motivated enough with monetary incentives, but it will not be enough - things like personal enrichment, sense of achievement, loyalty, recognition, respect, being empowered are all essential things as well.

4) Individuals vs Friends. Most of the Americans came over in their private jets, enough said. Most Americans play only in America. Europeans are more cosmopolitan, open and need I say it, humble. What's with the aggressive high-fives, fist-pumping, adrenaline hoo-yeahs ... the irritable "get in the hole" mostly by the Americans. Humility, quiet dignity, no need to rub it it when you are in front...
Biz Lessons - Always better to have team players.

5) Empowerment. Look at Woosie's captain's picks, Darren Clarke and Westwood. They did not get picked on just merit but on trust and belief on the part of Woosie, both won all their matches.
Biz Lessons - People will feel appreciated and valued when they are recognised and given proper responsibility / recognition, especially when the chips are down. They dig deeper.

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