Roles > Tasks
If you are a golf course superintendent, you would more than likely say you have a role at your facility. Your role, in the most simplistic manner, is to oversee the maintenance and upkeep of the golf course and grounds. Within your role, you have a series of tasks needing to be completed, daily, weekly, monthly or annually.
If the person to whom you report is a strong leader, then the determination of the tasks you need to complete comes from one of two things; 1) your knowledge of your role and what needs to be accomplished, or 2) observing and reacting to your work environment. Ultimately your role being to provide the best golf course possible, is what determines the tasks you must complete. But what of our staff? Do they have defined roles, or are they 100% task oriented? Always waiting for your instructions, receiving, completing, and waiting again-like a dog playing fetch.
Defining roles on your team gets harder the further you work down through the hierarchy. A defined role for an assistant superintendent is pretty standard. So too are roles for a spray tech and irrigation tech. After these typical roles, definition may not be as clear cut, but it doesn’t mean you can’t define roles for nearly everyone, even seasonal staff.
The generation making up most of our staffs want more than just a paycheck, from the work they do. They want to know what they are doing on a daily basis has meaning-they want a role. Why not give it to them? Imagine a team member talking to a family member about his/her job at a golf course. I’ll use Hazeltine as an example;
“So where do you work?” — “Hazeltine National” — “What do you do there?” — “A little bit of everything. Mostly rake bunkers and push mow, but sometimes I get to mow fairways.” — “How do you like it?” — “Its fun, the money is nice and I’m finished with work about the time my friends are waking up.”
Now imagine the same team member talking with family or friends, but this time telling them about his/her role on your team;
“So where do you work?” — “Hazeltine National” — “What do you do there?” — “They made me the leader of the team of high school kids doing most of the bunker raking and push mowing.” — “Wow, that sounds like a lot of responsibility, its awesome they’ve put you in charge of a team like that.” — “I’ve been there a couple of years and they felt I’d become a leader among the group of younger employees. This year they came to me and asked if I’d be interested in taking on this role.” — “How cool a course like that would give you so much responsibility. You must have done great work to earn it.”
I made up the conversations, but the role is something we have implemented. Being handed a role, and the responsibility that comes with it instills a great deal of confidence in people, especially young people. Rather than just completing tasks, they become part of achieving the result. When given the responsibility to oversee a result, it’s human nature for them to want to improve their area of oversight through innovation and improved efficiency.
Handing team members a role makes the job of the golf course superintendent easier as well. Certainly there will be an initial investment as you establish expectations for each role. But, I believe once you establish a person in their role, you will find your input towards their area will eventually narrow in focus to the point where it becomes occasional oversight and offering of suggestions for improvement. Establishing employees in specific roles is a win-win for the team member and the golf course superintendent.
“Give someone a fish, they’ll eat for a day. Teach someone to fish, they’ll eat for a lifetime.” Defining roles, versus assigning tasks is much the same. If you hand out tasks the employee will complete the task, only to soon return and wait for you to assign the next task. Define a role, and suddenly you’ve got an associate, helping make that particular area of the course better. I’m not saying you hand over the keys to the shop, but now you’ve got someone else as invested in the final product as you are. In conversation, I’ve often heard colleagues ask “how do I get my people to care about the course the way I care about it?” Defining roles is a great way to get your people invested in the product at the same level as yourself.
Beyond the obvious; what are some of the roles you might define in your operation? I believe anything thing you think or worry about as a superintendent, can be defined as a role for a member of your staff. We do it with irrigation, we do it with spraying. How about moisture management on greens, course set-up, maintenance of the practice area? All of these, in my opinion, are roles you can define for a member of your staff. Giving someone, in addition to yourself, the opportunity to develop intimate knowledge about a certain area of your operation allows them to “see it the way you see it”, and gives them a vested interest in the final product. Let them come up with and assign some of, or all of the tasks within their roles. Let the definition of their own role determine their tasks, the same way your role determines your tasks.
Author Simon Sinek’s recent book-Together We’re Better-uses inspirational phrases on leadership and togetherness to tell a metaphorical story. Page 103 contains a phrase I thought was particularly relevant to this post.
“When we tell people to do their jobs, we get workers. When we trust people to get the job done, we get leaders.”