3 Keys to Success I Learned From a Caddy

I want to talk about how you can be successful in your interpersonal relationships.  The three keys I am about to share, I picked up on a golf course the other day from a caddy. Let me begin by saying I am new to golf. I decided to take up the sport last year. Actually, my favorite playtime is basketball. I play full-court b-ball twice a week at the health club where I have a membership. Yet, since so many of my friends are golfers, I decided to learn the game. So, last year I took a few lessons, and played about a dozen times or so. A week ago one of my best buds John, who is a member of a business owners group with me called me.  He invited me to join him and a couple of other friends in a foursome at Medinah Country Club, where he is a member. The only other time I was on this course was when I attended a PGA open and watched Tiger Woods and other pros in a tournament.  Golf Medinah?  I’m in! Talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire!  I haven’t been out golfing yet this year, not even to the range! So the day before, I go to a nearby range and hit a bucket of balls. Early indication of golf readiness was not good. The next day we had our business meeting at Medinah, followed by a 4:15pm tee time. Throughout the day my anxiety rose like the temperature, 90 degrees plus humidity. Thunderstorms were predicted. I prayed for rain…no such luck. Before we arrived to tee off, John announces we will have caddies with us. Anxiety spike!  I’m thinking, “now I’m going to embarrass myself in front of 5 people”. Teeing off was a pretty sight, at least for my friends: Chris, John, and Jay. Center cut shots, or slightly off the fairway. Now it was my turn. If I was a pitcher, one might say I throw a nasty curve. But this is golf…and it’s Medinah. Can it get anymore intense? After my curve ball tee shot landed in “no man’s land” I confessed to my caddy, a young college-age kid named Joey, that I was a new golfer. What he said next changed everything and resulted in the best golfing experience I ever had. In fact, my caddy’s whole approach in working with me taught me a lot about how to be successful in relationships. I would like to share with you 3 keys to success I learned from my caddy.

Begin and end every encounter with respect

At the first point of contact, Joey established the tone of our relationship. He held out his hand, gave me a firm shake, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Sir, I am ready to assist you in any way possible to make your experience enjoyable.”  His demeanor did not change over the course of the afternoon even when some of the balls I hit went off the fairway and into the thick grass. If you want to be successful in life you will have to develop good interpersonal skills that convey respect. I am concerned that in our media-driven culture we are becoming less proficient in this area. Texts, tweets, and IMs have replaced the face-to-face encounters that are necessary to form a real connection. While technology makes connecting more efficient in terms of speed and accessibility, the downside is the quality of the interaction.  It’s easy to misfire when communicating.  This can cause a myriad of problems. If you want to be successful in your personal and professional life treat everyone you encounter with respect.  It begins first in the home and moves from here to public places and professional settings. Limit the use of gadgets to interact. Engage with people. Look them in the eye. Smile.  Express yourself. Show an interest in them. Be present. By the way, the use of the word “sir” was reciprocal.  As Joey handed me a club and said “here you go sir”, I responded, “thank you sir”.  I make it a point to look people in the eye and say “sir” or “ma’am” to everyone person I encounter whether it is in a fine restaurant, or a drive-thru McDonalds.  I find when I treat providers with respect, the quality of service improves. Begin and end every encounter with respect.  If you want to know more about this subject, read my new book: Bringing Respect Back: Communicating Without the Conflict”.

Identify needs and offer right solutions

The first thing Joey noticed about me was my anxiety. He knew if I were to play worried it would affect my performance. When I made a confession about my lack of experience and level of play he said, “It’s okay sir, I started playing a few years ago and know the feeling.  We all go through this.” One might say it was a case of the “blind leading the blind”. Not for me. In the moment it didn’t matter how much he knew. What mattered to me was that he could relate. Immediately, I felt a good portion of the anxiety melt away. Now my confidence had room to grow. As Joey studied my habits he carefully chose the right club and offered suggestions that would make me successful for that particular shot. He explained his rationale, told me what type of swing to take and where to aim. When he noticed my swing was off, he suggested adjustments to improve my swing.  As the game progressed, I shot better (for me), grew in confidence, and was having fun.  Joey delivered what he promised when he first shook my hand. If you want to be successful as a parent or professional, or relationship partner, pay attention. Listen well. Ask good questions. Once you understand the situation from their perspective, you are likely to provide solutions that work for them.  The key is to understand before you offer a solution.

Maintain support from start to finish

Joey never gave up on me. When my performance sagged, he remained supportive, encouraging, and tuned in.  He did not overstep his boundaries, but he was always nearby, ready to assist. I found Joey’s encouragement to be such a steady force throughout my play. I was able to relax and be focused on my game at the same time.  When we finished I felt more than relief. I felt successful. My performance improved.  You wouldn’t know it by the score. But I had learned some things and enjoyed myself.  That was good enough for me. Joey was rewarded with a handsome tip that day.  Not just from me, but the other guys as well. Why not?  He was successful in his job.  He was respectful, resourceful, and supportive. If you want to be successful in your relationships be supportive from the start of the day to the end of the day.  We all have our moments when our patience is tested.  However, if we keep our cool, remain steady, and offer encouragement to others, we will have successful relationships.

Join the conversation

Sometimes the best lessons on life, leadership, or interpersonal relationships are not learned in a seminar or conference.  We see them in action in the most unlikely places, as in my case, from a young caddy on a golf course.  Who are the teachers in your life? What kind of situations or events have taught you lessons?  I’d love to hear one.  Feel free to leave a comment below.