You Say You’re a Leader? Fix Your Divots.

Divots happen. They’re a sign of impact. And so is how you deal with them.

The best golfers know that club scuffs in the turf and ball indentations on the green aren’t all bad. It’s part of the game. But so is fixing your divots. It doesn’t matter if you leave your mark because of something positive or negative, the aftermath is your responsibility.

When it comes to hitting the links, “An unrepaired divot can take months to heal, and it may never fully recover” (; May 2019). The same is true for leaders and the people they serve. The swings you take have natural consequences that need to be addressed whether you’re celebrating a great shot or a bemoaning a big miss. If you don’t fix your divots, the impression you overlook will be messier to deal with when you play the hole again.

Are you game to hit the practice tee to start fixing your divots as a leader? Here are three exercises that have little to do with golf etiquette and everything to do with leading well.

Exercise #1: The Great Shot

The time to celebrate passes quickly. Leaders easily get caught up in the moment and abruptly move on to the next challenge. The people you lead need to know you can recognize great shots along with what it takes to be ready for another amazing opportunity. You might have a system set up for honoring what went well and key contributors; but, how do you handle sacrifices made along the way and anyone who got dinged in the process?

 Ask teams these three questions to fix your divots after a great shot:

  • What resources (supplies, finances, etc.) need to be replenished before we hit the next hole (initiative, project, etc.)?
  • How were those who contributed to this amazing effort honored (compensated, affirmed, etc.) and dishonored (overworked, disregarded, etc.)?
  • In what ways can I/we celebrate this accomplishment and care for any casualties, so the moment is marked and we’re ready for whatever’s next?

Exercise #2: The Big Miss

Mistakes happen wherever risk-taking is involved. It’s frustrating and normal to go through with best-laid plans and still miss the mark. Don’t let foibles deter you from getting after what you believe is best to pursue. But be prepared, it’s your leadership responsibility to deal with the natural consequences of you and your teams’ actions. Good leaders give it a shot; excellent leaders fix their divots.

Ask teams these two questions to deal with the aftermath of a big miss:

  • How was my/our initial response to this imperfection encouraging (mistakes happen, what did we learn, etc.) and discouraging (how could this happen, who’s to blame, etc.)?
  •  What do we need to repair (plans, assets, etc.) and adjust (teams, tactics, etc.) so that we don’t make the same mistake twice and everyone’s onboard moving forward?

Exercise #3: Oops, I Forgot

Whether it’s in business, politics, education, religion, or family life, honorable leaders leave things better than they found them. If you blow it, take time to own it. If you forget to own it, go back and make it right. No leader is above stooping down to deal with reality. It’s detrimental to your character and causes you to be loose with language and be shocked when people are upset that you didn’t mean what you said. 

If meetings feel meaningless, it’s time to revisit how prepared you are for the ones you lead and the example you’re setting. Your devastating quarter isn’t a green light to play the “oops, I forgot to own it” card. At some point, you’ll leave a gash in the ground and everything in you will want to ignore it. Don’t justify not fixing your divot because others overlooked theirs. Slow down. Determine if the mark you made needs repairing. Then follow through on leaving your team, organization, and this world better than you found it.

Ask teams this one question to limit the damage of “Oops, I forgot” leadership:

  •  What great shots (advancements, innovations, etc.) and big misses (fallouts, errors, etc.) have we made in the past three to six months that we need to revisit and repair for the sake of a healthier future?

Whether you’re hitting the links or hanging out on your home turf, leave your mark in a way that serves everyone well in the long run. Do your part. Set the example. Fix your divots, friend.

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