Many clichés are rooted in reality. Doing business on the golf course is one of them. If you aren’t an avid golfer but you want to get ahead as an executive, picking up a club is a surprising but true way to accelerate your path to a corner office.
How Business is Conducted on the Golf Course
It’s all about the networking. As we’ve discussed here on The ONE Thing blog, building a network isn’t about focusing on what you can get out of someone else. It’s about building a relationship that will ultimately benefit everyone. The golf course is a perfect place to begin laying the foundation for a strong connection that extends well beyond the green. You just have to know how to finesse things throughout a four-hour game.
Holes 1-4: Introduce Yourself (If You’re New) and Focus on the Game
You have to bond over the game before you can bond over business. That’s the first rule of doing business on the golf course – you don’t do business on the golf course. Shop talk should never be the topic of conversation unless you’ve already built a strong relationship.
The next rule is closely connected with the first – do everything you can to help the other players have a good day on the course. Being all business is going to kill the other players’ focus on the game. When they can’t focus they won’t play their best. And when they’re having a bad day on the course it’s not the best time to pitch ideas.
Holes 5-10: Learn More About the Other Players
Golf provides the perfect networking opportunity. You’re together for 18 holes whether you like it or not. During a lengthy round of golf you’re given ample time to learn about the other players and make a connection. Ask questions about them – anything golf related is a great icebreaker. When did you start playing? What’s your handicap? How does this golf course compare to others you’ve played on?
This will inevitably lead to the other players opening up more about their life, including work.
Holes 11-16: Share Information About Yourself
By now hopefully things are beginning to feel very comfortable. After talking your ear off about themselves chances are the other players will start asking you questions. Deeper in the game is the time that you can ease up and talk a little more about yourself if the conversation has been going well so far. It shouldn’t be salesy or sound like a resume. Stick to providing information about what is directly asked and sprinkle in work-related details where it makes sense.
Holes 16-18: Plant the Seeds for More Play Time
By the 18th hole you should have a better idea of what the other players need that you have to offer. Keep the focus on how you can be of assistance, not how they can help you. This will not only gain their trust, it will also show that you were listening back at hole 8 when they mentioned a problem they were having trouble solving. If the game went well you can always set up another tee time as a way to keep the conversation going and pull them further into your network. If things went really well then they may just invite you to lunch or happy hour at the clubhouse.
What Golf Reveals About a Person
Because golf is a mental game that pits you against yourself, it can reveal a lot about how you conduct yourself off the course. Many CEOs and execs have said that golf is good for business because it gives you a chance to see what a person is like before deciding if you want to work with them.
How well do you recover from a shanking a ball into the rough? Do you keep your cool under pressure or choke when you have to sink a critical shot? Are you a good conversationalist that engages others around you? Do you treat the caddy like a servant? Are you making lame excuses for playing poorly?
Good businesspeople are paying attention to everything that happens on the golf course, not just the score. Even the most talented golfer won’t land a deal if they make things difficult on everyone else or show signs of being a bad competitor. In that instance others may ask you for advice on their swing but that’s about it.
And never, ever cheat. Poor sportsmanship won’t win people over on or off the course. Good golfers are those that not only play the game competitively, but also play it with integrity. Maybe that’s why CEOs who play golf earn more.
In short, if you’re a good sport who’s there to offer advice to novice players or open to getting advice on your own game, there’s a good chance you’ll be doing business off the course.
What’s Your Golf Course?
The real moral of the story is that finding a group activity that fosters interaction can be good for business. Considering that the rate of play on the golf course is decreasing, it may become a less prevalent outdoor office in the near future. Who knows, the disc golf course could already provide better opportunities depending on the industry you work in.
The advice above applies to almost all extracurricular networking situations. Make your ONE Thing connecting with the other participants and the business will follow.