Lessons on Attitude from the US Open

If you read here often you know that I look at nature and the game of golf as parallels to leadership.  Next week will be nature, but with the US Open just completed, there are too many lessons to pass up.

Luckily my colleague and fellow blogger Scott Eblin also blogged about the US Open, and lessons learned watching Tiger Woods deal with adversity- his own and the same weather conditions everyone endured.  I highly recommend that you visit Scott’, blog, The Next Level and read his observations.  That leaves me free explore what caught my eye.

This year’s open champion is Lucas Glover.  He is not a superstar and those who watched the tournament know that his victory was a matter of slogging against a tough field and his own lackluster play.  (No judgment:  (If I shot 3 over at Bethpage Black, I would likely die of shock on the spot. )  The entire field was struggling but Lucas outlasted them all.  So why does this matter?

To understand you would have to go back a couple of years.  Glover is talented, no question, but his attitude and comportment had deteriorated during the years he was struggling to make a name for himself on tour.  His anger got the best of him and both he and his caddy recognized that they were having less and less fun competing.    Helen Ross, Chief of Correspondents for the PGA Tour describes it this way:

“Two years ago, if Lucas Glover had a bogey-double-bogey stretch like he did midway through the third round of the 109th U.S. Open, no way he walks away with that big silver trophy like he did on Monday.

Shoot, the double bogey he made on his first of 72 holes at Bethpage Black on Friday alone might have been enough to do him in. He didn’t slam a club, though. He didn’t get mad at himself, either.”

Lucas did something really remarkable 2 years ago.  He put his clubs on the shelf and took a an extended vacation.  He went fishing, traveled and  spent time with his family getting re-centered.  When he returned to work, it was with a new attitude that he had purposefully cultivated.

Dan Cooper, Lucas’ caddy explained it this way: “The three months leading up to that off time, neither one of us had fun out there — and we always said we do this for fun,” Cooper said. “He came back (thinking) a bogey’s a bogey, a double’s a double, go on to the next hole and that’s what he’s doing.”

So, what can we learn from this hard faught championship?

Recharge from Stress- (Yes, It Is Having An Impact on Performance)
Leaders generally carry a lot of stress.  Some stress can be a positive focusing element.  But like many things, overused it becomes toxic.  And the worst is that the effects of stress can be so endemic that we do not even realize we are behaving in ways that create more stress.  Effective leaders understand the need for rest and recharge in order to show up more fully focused and able.

Remain Focused on the Future
Once you have scored a bogey, lost a sale, made a bad deal with a partner, hired the wrong executive or vendor, allowing your anger to take over your focus of attention only makes matters worse.  Be angry if you are angry, but understand that using your anger as a weapon has impact.  Especially if you use it as a weapon against yourself.

Watch Your Self Talk
If you play golf, you have doubtless developed an entire vocabulary of names for yourself for use when you leave that 10 foot put 3 feet short or top a wedge.  It is that kind of game.  But we program ourselves and our organizations based on our responses to failure.  One of the things that Lucas learned was how to leave his failures behind.  Learn from them but do not carry them with you.

Time away allows us to shed the guilt shame and anger for mistakes, learn from them and get back in touch with passion we have for our vision of what we can do and who we can be.  The longer we put it off, the longer we need to decompress.

So- when was the last vacation you took (hint: vacations with your Blackberry do not count)

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