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Golf Builds Resilient Leaders

Re-sill-ience – The ability to cope in the face of stress and disaster.

It can happen at any given moment. At work, at home and in my experience, even on the golf course, you may find yourself in a difficult situation. It’s resilience that helps you recover quickly.

Resilience is a trait that people frequently use to describe me as a successful leader and entrepreneur. I have certainly encountered challenges throughout my career, but I credit my time on the golf course for strengthening my ability to deal with problems and seemingly impossible situations.

Shake off the bad shots. What happens when your ball is behind a tree, in the sand trap, or even in someone’s living room – yes, my friend once hit a ball through a window. Golf has taught me to accept reality and focus on solutions. Bad things do happen to good people, and even the best laid plans can become derailed unexpectedly. The faster you accept difficult situations, the sooner you can devise options to move beyond them.

Golf carts don’t have review mirrors. Nor are they equipped with crystal balls to see the future! I’ve seen rounds blow up as golfers waste energy complaining about what they did wrong or can’t do. The same is true for those who fret about the potentially bad outcomes that lie ahead. I’m guilty of missing chances to break 100 when the mere sight of water and sand on the final few holes signaled impending doom. Golf has taught me to take purposeful action toward the target ahead. My game has improved greatly by making the most of the skills and resources I have in the present moment. By keeping my focus on the immediate shot at hand, I’ve been able to turn in a double digit scorecard!

Know when you’ve had enough fun. Setbacks are inevitable and some golf holes just don’t play like you intended. Sometimes I’ll put the ball in my pocket and call it quits – but just for that hole, not the entire game. Golf has shown me that failure is temporary. There’s always another hole ahead. A fresh start and another opportunity to put your talents and skills to work.

There’s more than one way to score. I met a self-described perfectionist at a Women on Course golf event who was giving golf one last try. This successful attorney was only interested in playing to win. As I watched her on the first tee I knew this would not end well. Golf has taught me to have realistic expectations. Afterwards in the clubhouse, I expected to see a defeated golfer, but she was all smiles. Did she really develop an LPGA golf swing in one afternoon? Not exactly, but she did score an unexpected outcome – a new business relationship.

People play golf in the rain.  Days before hosting major golf events I would start obsessing about the weather. (Hence the affectionate nickname from my staff ‘Doppler Donna’) The first time I learned that golf courses don’t close due to rain I went into panic mode. I had a major sponsor expecting me to deliver a capacity crowd, and the women were dropping like flies. Golf has helped me see that challenges are not the end of the world. There is a distinct difference between having a big problem, and making a problem big. By looking at this day as one in many, I snapped into action with an alternate agenda – one that became a popular indoor event format down the road.

Most valuable lesson.  Let’s face it. Golf can be a difficult game to master, almost as difficult as starting and building a business. Golf keeps me focused on what I can control. In business as in golf there are many things you can’t change, but you do have the power to decide how to react, adapt and respond. Practice resiliency on the golf course and you will be amazed how it will trickle into your work and your life!

Donna Hoffman, Speaker and Founder of Women on Course, is now on tour, inspiring women leaders through golf. Book Donna for your next leadership conference!

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