Lessons from a Winning Masters Caddie

I think our couch is older than Jordan Spieth. But what a thrill to see this poised and talented 21-year-old win The Masters Sunday. Then I liked him even more when I read a Wall Street Journal article about his caddie, “Why Masters Champion Jordan Spieth Hired a Former Schoolteacher as His Caddie.”

Not long ago his caddy, Michael Greller, was teaching square roots to pre-teens as a 6th-grade math teacher. He had done a little caddying on the side and liked being able to use real-world examples of math for his students. He and Jordan met when Jordan needed a caddie for the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur. Michael knew the course and was recommended to Jordan by a friend.

When Jordan turned pro in late 2012, there was no shortage of more experience caddies who wanted to work with him. But he wanted a caddie who could travel with him all year, no matter how well he was doing. So Michael left the classroom for good and became Jordan’s caddie. Just a little over two years later, Jordan put on the famous green jacket as the winner of the 2015 Masters.

What struck me about the article was this observation from the author, Brian Costa. “When Spieth double-bogeyed the 17th hole Saturday, Greller didn’t say much as they walked to the 18th tee box. He mostly just listened.”

As Michael said, “You don’t want to overanalyze or make it harder than it is. I just try to be a calming influence on him.”

I thought about that in the context of my work as the Turnaround Authority. I deal with a lot of people who are under a great deal of stress. When a financial institution or a company hires me, the situation is a dire one. People may be on the verge of losing large sums of money, defaulting on their loans or ever losing their entire business.

A lot of what I do in the beginning is listen. And listen some more. I need to gain a clear understanding of what is really happening in the company and how it got to where it is.

And I definitely don’t want to make it harder than it is, as Michael said. A large part of my job is to break down extremely complicated situations so they are manageable and can be dealt with in an efficient and productive way.

Michael understands that part of his function is to be a calming influence. That’s one of the things my clients have often said about me, and actually, I believe to be a crucial part of my job. I need to calm people down because nothing is going to be accomplished when people are in a highly emotional state.

With his quote, he cited two of the most critical skills involved in being a successful turnaround guy. To paraphrase the famous phrase with variations being found everywhere, “Keep Calm and Listen.”

Etiquette Observed During Masters Good Lessons for Business

As the eyes of the sports world turn to the perfectly manicured green course at Augusta National as the annual Masters Golf Tournament begins, I thought about how some of the etiquette of golf can be applied to lessons in the corporate world.

As one of the only sports where there are no referees or umpires to enforce rules, golf relies on players observing the traditional rules. Attendees at the Masters must observe certain rules as well, including absolute silence during play. (Just try yelling out, “Way to go, Bubba!” after last year’s champion makes a challenging putt and find out just how seriously these rules are observed.)

Here are just a few of the rules of golf that you can apply in a business setting:

Masters_Logo_040509Be prepared to hit your shot when it is your turn.

When you’re playing a round of golf, you’ve got to keep your group moving in consideration of those behind you. In the business world, when you are charged with responsibilities for a project or a big deal, you have to meet your commitments and deadlines to keep the deal on track.

I’ve worked with several companies where key employees just didn’t seem to understand that if their work wasn’t completed in time, the whole project could derail. One of the ways I deal with this, as I mention in my new book, “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me,” is by using a whiteboard. With everyone involved in attendance, we outline the entire process and place goals at appropriate intervals. Not only do I get buy-in from the entire group this way, they also see that if they don’t meet their deadlines, it affects everyone else.

Don’t spend too much time looking for a lost ball, especially if there is a group behind you.

When something goes wrong in a company, it is important to figure out what happened so the mistake isn’t repeated. But spending a lot of time looking for people to blame and generating massive reports after the fact can keep a company from moving forward.

Accept the loss, take action or put policies in place so it’s not repeated and move on.

• Keep carts away from greens and hazards.

A business leader needs to maintain focus on the path ahead and keep his company nimble enough to respond to any potential obstacles. Take a look at Kodak, once the standard for photography. Everyone had Kodak moments. Even though Kodak actually invented the first digital camera in 1975, the company failed to foresee that the rise of the popularity of digital photography would decimate its market. After 131 years being a pioneer in the industry, Kodak filed for bankruptcy last year.

Rake sand bunkers after hitting to erase footprints. Replace divots.

Always rake sand bunkers after hitting your ball to erase your footprints and damage to the area where your ball was. If a business owner or CEO makes a mistake, I always urge him or her to correct the error and also to admit it. They may have ended up in the sand bunker of the business world but there are lessons to be learned while you’re there.

If you hit a hole in one, buy everyone a drink.

Okay, so this one isn’t really a rule but it’s a nice tradition. If your company lands a big account, meets an aggressive deadline or completes a large and challenging project, celebrate together. It’s a way to recognize your employees’ efforts, build morale, and encourage them to work hard on the next opportunity.

When I was successful in helping a company I call Cheerleader Supply emerge from bankruptcy, I bought the judge and everyone in the courtroom a set of pom-poms. They are a reminder that even when things appear most bleak, it’s important to keep a positive attitude and keep on trying. There’s always a chance you’ll come back.

Just ask Tiger Woods.