What is your style?
While you gear up for another golf season, you have to ask yourself have you truly analyzed every aspect of your operation? Spray programs, check. Equipment maintenance, check. Irrigation supplies, check. Course accessories, check. Tool inventory, check. A 10% cut from last year’s operating budget, check (swallow hard). Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the maintenance team, check?
What percentage of your staff is returning from 2010, just because? Here are a few “reasons”. Well, for one, “it’s certainly not easy to train any random person to the exact way I want things done on the course”. Two, “the staff member has been here forever”. Three, “I can’t find many people willing to work for the wages I am able to pay”. Four, “that guy, even though he has a bad attitude, knows how to do everything”! Have you really analyzed your staff to receive maximum productivity and efficiency, or have you just carried on year to year hoping some team members would get the hint and just change? What is your style to get over this hump if you are currently faced with this?
At Stow Acres, we use a variety of methods to ensure maximum productivity and efficiency. Each Fall, our core management team evaluates and grades each staff member. We have in-depth conversations regarding five characteristics that are important to the success of our operation. Those characteristics are punctuality, versatility, aptitude, attitude, and personality. Once each team member is graded, we re-discuss the bottom five employees. If those employees are truly in the bottom five, then we do not invite them back. We believe that getting rid of your bottom employees not only improves productivity, but it can also boost crew morale. We have slowly started encouraging a “turf atmosphere” at Stow Acres. In fact, in three years, we have been able to transform 10 people into turf students and turf professionals. We have a very good staff that is very interested in what they are accomplishing in the field.
Sometime in February, I start by sending out a “Welcome Back” letter to the employees we have selected. This allows us time to start collecting responses and make available room for new employees. I use a common requirement for employees. At one point in their lives, they must have participated on a sports team. This proves that the individual knows teamwork, competitiveness, and team unity. I also revolve our operation around three values; Dependability, Positivity, and Teamwork. Although they are not always mentioned, the veteran staff members carry these with them everyday, and over time, the work atmosphere slowly becomes these values.
Forming an atmosphere is only the first part. Figuring out how your employees fall into this atmosphere is the key to maximizing your efforts. Did you attend GIS 2009 in New Orleans? Do you remember the opening session with Paul Azinger when he described how he picked the 2008 Ryder Cup team? He used a process called DISC profiling. What was neat about this, is that only 2 weeks prior, I had learned about this process at a leadership seminar hosted by Tom Irwin, Inc. To summarize, DISC is a personality profiling system designed to figure how to interact with people and how they may interact with others.
This system is excellent for superintendents because it allows us to profile our staff and group them together to maximize productivity. This has changed how I operate at Stow Acres, and it has definitely allowed us better results from our staff in the field. Once you have figured out what role your players have on the team, you will be able to manage them effectively. As the coach of the team, receiving input from all players allows the team to drive toward one common goal!
-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent