There are always lessons to be learned from roles in other disciplines when considering leadership qualities. A golf caddie is one of those roles when considering the characteristics most valuable in a trusted advisor.
1. Build on the positive
In a recent golf tournament, Rory McIlroy was playing poorly. His caddie supposedly turned to him and reminded him who he was – one of the world’s best players and four-time major championship winner. What ensued was a significant improvement in his performance. Effective leadership is demonstrated by accentuating the positive rather than just giving critical advice or a commentary on what is not going so well. When working with employees or clients, being positive and giving affirmation is always going to get better results than other approaches. Always start with praising the good, even if you need to follow up with input that points to necessary corrections. Build up the human spirit and provide a positive platform for improvement.
2. Time your advice
A caddie won’t last long if he or she commented on their player’s poor shot with, “you should have used a different club!” Providing feed-forward is often better than feed-back – help people to succeed, rather than to correct. If a leader does need to provide a correction, then it needs to be accompanied with evidence and a solution – not just “don’t do that again”. There’s also a good and a bad time for providing advice. Consider what else is going on at the time and be sensitive to what advice is going to be received and acted on. Be a great coach and provide timely, helpful advice.
3. Study to be trusted
Caddies need to know the course, the yardage, the clubs, their player’s game, and the conditions to give the best advice. This doesn’t just happen by accident! They need to study, learn, and be informed. Any great leader needs to do the same. They need to have the intellectual, emotional and relationship intelligence to know how to impart advice. They will be trusted when the recipient of their advice sees that they know what they are talking about and learns that their judgment delivers results.
4. Diligence in the small things
It isn’t just the big calls that make for a trusted caddie. They need to fill divots, rake bunkers, clean the ball, and carry the umbrella. Trusted advisors aren’t just judged on the big calls. Those who they advise look for congruence in their practice and consistency in their experience. A trusted advisor is also someone who never thinks they are too important to consider the every-day needs of their employees or clients. Building trust is often accelerated if a trusted advisor gets the coffee, offers to do photocopying, and writes the communication briefs.
5. Keep your eye on the ball
A golf caddie always needs to know where his or her player’s ball is. They need to know where to take the bag and where to guide their player who may have been distracted by other things. Likewise, a trusted advisor always needs to know where his or her employee or client is in their journey. They need to have a view on the past, present and the future. And they need to help frame the next step.
Being a trusted advisor is a critical leadership role and looking to the best golf caddies provides for a great learning opportunity. The reward is often in seeing others win and knowing that you helped to make it happen!