Through my 30-plus year career I have consistently been referenced into situations where superintendents have lost jobs and been asked: first, to help stabilize the impacted families emotionally; and then, to help restructure the fallen superintendents’ career paths. I have personally been involved in these crisis situations 50 to 60 times during my career and have been made aware of hundreds of similar situations across the country.
Because superintendents are routinely released with little, if any, notice – these dismissals generally have had a catastrophic impact on the suddenly unemployed superintendents and their families; for example: maintaining a home quickly becomes an issue; children’s schooling gets scrambled; and panic-driven financial pressure immediately builds because separation agreements are generally inadequate, thereby forcing superintendents to hurriedly invade their often meager savings accounts to survive.
In summary, outside of a death in the family, there is no greater emotional trauma for a family than being so callously discarded. Parents universally fear for the welfare of their children and growing despair can easily overcome the senses.
And yet, what is the common denominator running through all of these case studies? Tragically, that in not one single instance that I am familiar with through all these years has a dismissed superintendent’s chapter made any attempt to help see a distressed family through its crisis.
Stricken families are too often treated (whether this be intentional or not) like they had leprosy; i.e., allowed to drift out of sight and out of mind.
Having said this, I fully expect to see chapters, once they become aware, respond quickly and positively to rectify this circumstance because chapters are managed by compassionate people.
Each chapter should establish an “Outreach” program/committee that would:
1. Make contact with the families of recently dismissed golf course superintendents to help them begin to look hopefully ahead and not behind; i.e., help these families to begin to see a “Light of Hope” at the end of their tunnels. Also, keep the stressed families in the social mix of the chapter.
Experience has universally shown that the greatest need families of dismissed superintendents have is to know that people “care about them” and are willing to “listen” to their problems.
2. Develop (with GCSAA or local private sector assistance) and present a step-by-step outreach program that would enable distressed families to begin to stand tall once again – emotionally and career-wise. I have never known a dismissed superintendent to fail to reconstruct a career once he/she had peer counsel/support.
3. Consist of, for example, several chapter past Presidents and their wives dedicated to implementing a caring effective outreach program for their fellow chapter members.
The United States Marines have a long-standing credo that they stand behind every day: “Never leave a fallen comrade behind.” Can there be a better philosophy for golf course superintendents to emulate?
Several recent blog messages have suggested that it is time for “leaders to lead” throughout the profession. My concern with delivering this message, however, is that because so few people understand the true nature of leadership – it is rarely found today. For example: presiding over Board of Director meetings, or serving as President of an association are not examples of leadership per se. Rather, these are examples of “managing forums” – an important/necessary task that is too often confused with leadership.
The difference between managing a forum and providing leadership is that – by definition – leadership requires advancing a cause.
Historic examples of leadership are: Martin Luther King advancing the cause of racial equality; Mahatma Gandhi advancing the cause of world peace; George Washington advancing the cause of American independence; Sister Theresa advancing the cause of Christian charity; Dr. Christiaan Barnard advancing the cause of human heart replacement; Dr. Edward Stimpson, Sr. (inventor of the stimpmeter) advancing the cause of measuring green speeds; and on the negative side – Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Mao Zedong and the like advancing the cause of tyranny.
Chapters Must Lead The Way
It must be remembered that the “battle” for advancing the cause of superintendents’ job security must be fought and won on a chapter-by-chapter basis. (See previous blog messages on this point.)
However, this having been said, it should be understood that there is absolutely no possibility of advancing the cause of superintendents’ job security until the chapters first amend their mission statements to include the following…
“The primary function of this chapter is to promote the career welfare and to enhance the job security of its members.”
Once this bridge is crossed, however, chapter personnel will have the “cause” needed to allow them to provide true leadership wherever needed.
At a time when virtually no superintendents can feel secure in their jobs and the economy promises to further decline for some time to come, it is imperative that chapters take the first step to address this massive challenge; i.e., amend their bylaws as recommended above and then proceed in due time and in a manner as recently suggested within this series of blog messages.
It would be the height of irresponsibility for chapters to let their current lot of passive mission statements stand as is.
It all began early on, when the “back of the house” temperament of the superintendents’ world was instinctively compared to the “front of the house” temperament of the golf professionals’ and managers’ worlds. Unquestionably, a divide resulted that has denied superintendents job security parity for all these years.
Has Anything Been Done To Address The Lack Of Job Parity?
Unfortunately not – as I realized just a few years ago when I met at GCSAA headquarters with a group consisting of several GCSAA Board members, two chapter-oriented committees and staff leadership to educate/persuade those at hand to take the initiative with job security issues. However, after some discussion I was point-blank told, “It would not be prudent for superintendents to take the initiative on job security issues because it would anger employers throughout golf and, therefore, be counter-productive to their welfare.”
I was point-blank told, ”It would not be prudent for superintendents to take the initiative on job security issues because it would anger employers throughout golf and, therefore, be counter-productive to their welfare”…
With this having been said and then noting that not one of the nation’s 100-plus chapters’ mission statements to this day makes any mention of a chapter’s responsibility to protect and advance the job security of its members (when the mission statement of every PGA section does so) – I can only conclude (i) that the golf course superintendent’s profession is and will likely continue to be universally reluctant to take the initiative to address job “insecurity” issues; and (ii) that the profession’s constituents have paid a horrible price for this passivity for decades.
Can The Job Security Situation Get Any Worse?
Very likely it will because the current deep recession is not about to bottom out any time soon; the pervasive “redistribute the wealth” programs will continue to strip American golfers of their “discretionary spending” dollars – putting new financial pressures on course operations; and finally, razor sharp “bean counters” will be monitoring course economics and determining superintendents’ fates vis-à-vis the more compassionate GMs and committee members of the past. Everything will tend to get more volatile.
Where Does The Profession Go From Here?
The profession – through its leaders and chapters – has a fundamental decision to make: either stand up to the job security challenge for the first time, or yield to it and continue to lose ground. This current series of blog messages spells out what should be done to effectively address this challenge – all of which is quite doable and affordable within a bad economy.
The profession – through its leaders and chapters – has a fundamental decision to make: either stand up to the job security challenge for the first time, or yield to it and continue to lose ground.
Basically, everything begins with leaders leading and chapters following down a path that begins with establishing effective private sector-based long range planning programming and concludes with the hiring of an Executive Director – all without hurry and in due course.
I understand that a widespread chapter Executive Director hiring program will not move through the chapter community until a single “pilot” program is initiated and successfully proves the concept - in a manner similar to the PGA’s success. Once initiated, the pilot program would be fully documented for other chapters to emulate and follow suit. After the documented pilot program is successfully concluded, it would be made available to GCSAA to manage and disperse throughout the chapter community.
Chapters interested in qualifying for the pilot program should contact me with questions and/or to express interest in the program. I promise, it will be a worthwhile journey that has the potential to benefit this and all future generations of golf course superintendents.