He never even played the game until a year before he started coaching it at the collegiate level in a very competitive conference.  Over a 31-year career, his teams went on to win 3 NCAA championships and runner-up 3 additional times.  His teams won 15 ACC championships, including a stretch of ten in a row. Opposing coaches groused and naturally accused him of cheating.  He told them they needed to play better.  Coaching is motivation and discipline.  No one proves the point better than Jesse Haddock, hall of fame golf coach at Wake Forest University.

Golf Coaching Legend

I thought of Jesse Haddock last week as I was reminiscing about childhood sports icons. While I was a teenager, living in Winston-Salem, NC, the Wake Forest golf team won back-to-back national championships.  Wake Forest turned out top-tier professionals such as Curtis Strange and Jay Haas.  Of course, Arnold Palmer is also a Wake alum but predated Jesse Haddock’s tenure.  In all, Jesse Haddock turned out 63 All-Americans, averaging two per year over three decades.

The Value of Business Coaching

Over the past year, I have had many conversations with business owners about business coaching.  I admit, it has not been the most opportune time to discuss coaching.  Most businesses are struggling with funding and survival, not actualization of mission and purpose.  In the conversations where I have experienced full engagement about the idea of a coaching relationship, I have sensed people struggling to jump from the world of sport to commerce.  The desire for outsourced business partners in marketing, finance, or human resources often outweighs the idea of a business coach.  Many want mentors – people who have been wildly successful in their field – to groom them to similar success.

Great Coaches Are Rarely Great Players

That got me thinking more deeply about Jesse Haddock and what he accomplished at Wake Forest.  Please remember – he had never played the game until a year before he became head coach.  He coached for 31 years.  Anywhere along the way, he could have been replaced by a big name – Arnold Palmer, Jay Haas, Curtis Strange – probably a dozen or more Wake alums who had been successful on the PGA tour.  But he won championships and moved players on to successful golf careers.  No need to replace, despite his self-described “hacker” status.

Jesse Haddock died in 2018 at 91 years of age.  His players came forth to express their love and admiration for the man.  Some said that not a day went by after leaving Wake Forest that they did not think of him in some way with deep gratitude.  Jay Haas said, “He didn’t know much about the golf swing, but he knew what made people tick.”  Prior to his death, Haddock himself said that his number one goal was to have his players mentally ready as they approached the first tee.  Other players described him as an innovator in sports psychology.  Coaching is motivation and discipline.  That’s hard to find in vendors and key players.

Your Time To Coach

You can make up your own mind about self-motivation and self-discipline.  Some people work themselves into fine shape without a boot camp or personal trainer.  Yet some decisions are difficult and complex, and every one of us has required work that is just no fun to do.  Your call.  I do know that if you are not properly motivated and disciplined, it is highly unlikely that your followers will be, and your personal success will be limited.

My greater urgency is to remind you that you are the motivator in chief at your business enterprise.  Championships are won by understanding people and getting them to play beyond their own limitations.  Haddock’s opposing coach at N.C. State once said, “He had great players, don’t get me wrong but he got them to be great when it counted.”  Wouldn’t you love that for your team?  Here are just a few ideas around motivation to get you thinking.

Knowing People and Understanding People Are Two Different Things

It is easy to get to know people, but it is hard work to fully understand people.  Employees put on all kinds of masks to “make it” in the workplace.  Use the recruiting process to begin to understand motivations and tendencies.  Coach Haddock was a force on the recruiting trail.

Understanding each person’s life story is a good start but observing people “in the moment” provides deeper insights into their attitudes and preferences.  One of Coach Haddock’s former players recounted that he would consistently have players practice in pressure situations to prepare them, but also to understand how they react under pressure.

Hard Work and High Expectations

People often grumble when pushed, but deep down most people enjoy the challenge and sense of accomplishment from completing difficult work.  Just be sure to celebrate.  Always remember that people are capable of much more than they think they are.  Just one person telling them that they can do more can be a game-changer.

Honesty and Encouragement

Honesty and criticism are not the same thing.  Many employees will think they deserve more responsibility, higher pay, or additional perks.  If they do, please do not waste time in getting it for them.  For those who do not, be very specific about their performance and areas in which they can develop further.  Encourage them every step along the way but hold them accountable for improvement.

Individual Value and Team Results

One of the most distinguishing features of Jesse Haddock’s success is team championships in a sport that is widely viewed as highly individualistic.  I suspect every player thought he deserved to be playing against the other team’s number one.  According to his player’s Coach Haddock made everyone feel great about their contribution, whether playing at number one or number eight.  Every leader is responsible for team results. In the quest for team achievement, do not overlook individual contributions.

Coaching is motivation and discipline.  If you need more of either to move your business forward, find a business coach.  With respect to your team, now is the time to lean into coaching instead of pure supervising.  More than ever before, the workforce wants to feel understood, challenged, and appreciated.