After posting my When It Comes Time to Play Golf with the Boss? blog, I received a few emails from Bosses wanting to know how to play with their employees. Naturally, there were several reasons given why they wanted to know, but overall I found the interest in wanting to know how to play golf with employees as confirming there must be as many Bosses who want to play with employees as employees wanting to play with bosses. So, I decided to break it down for the bosses out there who are asked by an employee to play golf or is intending to ask an employee to play golf, on how to use this opportunity to their benefit.
From the Get-Go!
OK, Bosses of the world…First, I will take it that most bosses who ask an employee to play golf are doing so, for the most part, to enjoy a casual day of golf and a getaway from the office to get to know each other better. If there is another motive, like covering business issues while playing golf I suggest you stop there and revisit the need to play golf with the employee.
It is true playing golf with someone opens up a window to a person’s true character and does build a closer relationship. However, bosses have to be very careful with this very powerful tool. In the right hands and used for the right reasons business golf can solve a lot of personal issues and improve productivity. Used incorrectly or outside the standard procedures outlined in playing business golf the golf outing could cause more problems than initially were there before the round of golf. So, from the beginning use caution, but have fun.
How a Boss Should Play
I am an advocate that all things risky have a higher reward if done successfully and have double the negative impact of the reward if done wrong. So, playing golf with an employee is risky but has a very high reward if done correctly. However, done wrong, you have compounded the problem or created more problems than you started with.
I see playing golf with the employees as a very good move and here is how a boss should go about safely playing with the troops.
Make it clear from the invite you send to an employee exactly what he is to expect. If there is a business issue you want to discuss or if you just want to get out of office for a round of golf, state the intention and stay with it. Do not change in the middle of the stream. This builds unnecessary anxiety on the employee’s part.
Reiterate the intentions of the round again on the first tee and make it clear there will be no business talked during the round. I suggest you propose a game that keeps the focus on the golf and the game being played so there is no urge to fill the idle time a normal match would produce with business questions.
Take the opportunity to relax, but yet guarded to not look or present yourself as a slouch. Dress professionally but appropriately. Never dress up or in exorbitant priced fashion. Both of those images will leave a bad impression in your employees’ eyes.
As I mentioned on how an employee is to play with the boss, the same goes for the boss playing with the employee..never think that it is a good idea to become friends. Naturally, being friendly..slapping each other on the back and telling jokes is OK, but only to a point. It should never appear that all of the friendliness displayed is part of developing a very close friendship. Needless to say, it will never work.
There are exceptions, but only after years and years of relationship building would a boss every think of one of his employee’s as a friend. The relationship gets very complicated quickly when something demanding happens and the boss has to demonstrate leadership within the company.
If the boss gives his presumed friend a crappy project the employee who thought they were friends will think otherwise and perform poorly. If the boss gives his presumed friend a cake project the others are going to react to it as being brown-nosing.
There is a fine line between a boss and employee that is best for each to stay on their side of the line to make the golf outing work.
Of course, there are many benefits to playing golf with an employee. If there wasn’t this would have been a very short blog. There are things playing golf with an employee can achieve that is very worth the while.
Get the Word Out
One of the things playing golf with anyone can do is build trust. If there is a problem in the workforce concerning the boss’ trustworthiness to doing something, playing a round of golf with a few key personnel will get the word out on the boss’ intention or trustworthiness.
Many times a round of golf can speed up communications about a concern employees have…like a rumor of layoffs or downsizing.
If the boss plays his cards right..or in this case, plays business golf correctly, he or she can receive some very frank feedback. This is good for bosses to hear. Too many times what the staff reports is not what is actually going on out in the workforce. The opportunity for the employee to be frank and provide straight-up feedback to you is unique to them so their openness is going to be guarded but factual. What you can learn could make a difference in how you should be doing business.
I personally enjoyed taking employees out for a round of golf. I knew it was a pressure situation for them but watching how they dealt with it and finding out more about how they were as a person made it easy for me to make business decisions based on what my employees are capable of doing or really wanted to do for the company.
Try it out sometime, and see what you achieve. Let me know how I can help.