The concept of “defensive management” is easily the least understood and practiced management concept throughout the world of golf.
Yet, “defensive management” techniques are capable of helping to save more superintendents’ jobs than any other practice, or discipline.
The primary problem defensive management is intended to address is the matter that superintendents can do a good job, get caught in the political infighting within their club/course environments and lose their jobs accordingly. Therefore . . .
. . . defensive management can be defined as a “before the fact” documentation policy intended to educate constituents and to negate the negative impact internal politics can have on a superintendent’s job security.
Two Components Of Defensive Management
The two fundamental components of defensive management are: (i) an aggressive pro-active golf course management program; and (ii) documenting all work related/supporting programming before implementing golf course policies and practices.
Following is the definitive documentation list that superintendents should adopt to assume a “defensive management” posture:
1. Establish and maintain a mutually agreed to all-encompassing job description to define specifically what tasks the superintendent will, and will not, be responsible for throughout each calendar year.
Once finalized, the job description should be attached to whatever employment agreement is in play with the superintendent at the time.
2. Schedule an annual post-season evaluation meeting to include the golf course superintendent, the general manager and members of the Green Committee for the purposes of: (i) identifying the pros and cons of the superintendent’s job performance for the recently completed golf season; (ii) establishing new/revised maintenance program objectives for the coming golf season; and (iii) updating the existing job description to include all newly and revised maintenance program objectives for the coming golf season.
Minutes of these annual evaluation meetings should be taken and distributed to the superintendent and the administration/committees following each meeting.
3. Establish a second in-house web site targeted to educate and to keep members/players current on a weekly basis regarding maintenance program’s purposes and schedules. (More on this subject in next week’s blog.)
FYI: History shows that private and public golf course operators are generally willing to incorporate the above three documentation practices into existing employment agreements.
While the above defensive management techniques will not guarantee job security, they will make it significantly more difficult for a politically motivated rogue GM, or rogue Board/committee member to arbitrarily take down a superintendent.
Virtually every major corporation and small business of sufficient size across the country provide outreach programming to assist their employees when they leave a job for whatever reason. Outreach programs can justifiably be considered the most vital service an employer can offer its employees because . . .
. . . effective outreach programs sustain/redirect careers, stabilize families and extend the quality of life itself at the most anxious of times.
Yet, disappointedly – outreach programming has not found its place within the world of the golf course superintendent to this day; i.e., a surprising circumstance once we acknowledge once again that superintendents’ job security is consistently at greater risk than any other profession throughout golf.
I have spent the better part of my 30-plus years in golf providing effective outreach programming to the hundreds of golf course superintendents who have lost jobs and intersected with my career path.
I have always been able to help a superintendent out of a job to restart a career – not because I personally always had a job opportunity available; rather – more times than not – because I knew who to call upon to provide the specific applicable assistance needed. This is the essence of outreach programming; i.e., . . .
. . . there will always be career solutions available to those seeking jobs provided the outreach process can identify with and readily contact enough people with a thorough working knowledge of the job markets.
Where Does The Responsibility Lie?
Some may think GCSAA should be the ultimate provider of outreach programming for the profession. But, this is not possible because effective outreach programming depends on local/regional knowledge of job markets – a database that GCSAA can not possibly identify with on a national scale across 50 states.
Regional Chapters Are The Answer
Therefore, it should be apparent that the 100-plus regional GCSAA chapters are solely qualified to provide effective outreach programming to their members because they alone can identify with and develop job opportunities within their regional job markets.
Accordingly, full consideration should be given to:
- Chapters amending their bylaws to mandate that quality outreach programming be made available to their members.
- Chapters adding a non-voting, experienced private sector Human Resources individual to their Boards Of Directors, or an appropriate sub-committee.
- Chapters rewriting the job descriptions for their Executive Directors to include providing outreach programming to chapter members.
- GCSAA scheduling annual GIS workshops to educate chapter officials and Executive Directors how to develop effective outreach programming.
If we consider outreach programming to be the one available insurance policy guarding against eventual career collapse – what choice do chapters have but to provide this key service to their members?
In this day and age when surveys consistently indicate that roughly 80% of golf course superintendents feel that they lack job security when there is virtually no justification for this circumstance – where should superintendents look to feel comfortable in their jobs with optimum job security?
The answer to this question will surprise most because it is a concept that rarely comes to mind when thinking of job security; i.e., being recognized as a participating member of the Family Of Golf.
What Is The Family Of Golf?
The Family Of Golf is the community of people who make up the inner sanctum of the golf world; i.e., those people who inherently shape the playing and/or the staging of the game of golf.
Who Inherently Belongs To The Family Of Golf?
Regular playing golfers with official handicaps and a working knowledge of and a demonstrated respect for the Rules Of Golf; golf professionals because they are seen as the gatekeepers of the game; Rules officials per se; club/course officials; golf association administrators and the like.
Are Superintendents Considered To Be Inherent Members Of The Family Of Golf?
While golf course superintendents should be considered the most prominent members of the Family Of Golf simply and always because of the consistent quality of their work product – they are not so perceived because: (i) the golfing community does not fundamentally understand the art and science of growing grass; and (ii) golf course superintendents have consistently allowed themselves to be perceived as “outsiders” within the daily comings and goings of the golf world.
Can Superintendents Correct This Oversight?
Absolutely – by taking the time to address/commit to the following:
- Playing golf regularly and visibly at appropriate times.
- Earning and posting an official USGA handicap.
- Taking and passing the PGA/USGA Rules test.
- Becoming a participating member of their golf course/club Rules Committee.
- Volunteering to become a participating member of their regional golf association’s tournament/Rules operations. (Optional)
The benefits that accrue to golf course superintendents once they are perceived as being members of the Family Of Golf are that they are virtually guaranteed of: (i) enhanced job security; and (ii) a more certain path to salary increases because . . .
. . . employers basically want “Family” members to succeed and, accordingly, they get the benefit of doubt when issues and problems arise.
Analysis through the years consistently shows that roughly 85% of dismissed superintendents were not perceived as being members of the Family Of Golf.
Assuming a superintendent is covering his bases,
. . .the best job security he can have is to be perceived by his constituents as playing the game properly and having an investment in the Rules Of Golf.
(For further commentary on this subject see my October 23, 2009 blog message.)