Twenty-one turf professionals from across the UK and Ireland have completed the 2020 Future Turf Managers Initiative (FTMI) at Jacobsen's Ipswich headquarters.
The intensive three-day event is focused on providing future turf managers with the skills and confidence to manage people and progress their careers, with 33% of candidates moving on to managerial positions over the seven years the initiative has been running.
In association with BIGGA, the course uses professional trainers and mentors to provide the practical tools and guidance needed, including communicating a professional image, conflict resolution and building budgets.
Mentors for this year's initiative were Craig Haldane, Andrew Laing, Steve Lloyd and James Bledge. In 2017, James became the first candidate to return as a mentor and, having experienced the initiative from both sides, views the FTMI as a unique opportunity to learn vital management skills.
"There are so many brilliant volunteering programmes, but the FTMI is different because it is proper management learning," he explained. "It's intense as well, it's seven o'clock in the morning to ten at night, it's non-stop, and it does subject you to proper hard work and proper hard learning in a classroom environment."
"When you go from being a deputy or greenkeeper to course manager, managing people is your biggest shock. The agronomy side of it is twenty percent, and the management is eighty. If you're making that transition, then it's a big bump down to earth because there are so many banana skins out there and managing people is difficult.
"Everything you get taught is beneficial, there's no grey areas or bad parts of it, you've got to be engaged the whole time and not miss anything because it's all important. There's nothing that's more important than anything else because you'll deal with every single part of it."
Because the initiative covers a range of topics, it allows individual candidates to take different things from it. Zoe Lee-Amies, greenkeeper at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club, applied to the course to increase her confidence and has already benefited from what she has learnt.
"The reason I applied to come to the FTMI as a majority of people on the course have expressed is confidence - confidence to talk in front of people. It's already helped give me the tools to cope with it. I find myself needing cue cards, so now I know that where ever I go and whatever I do I can have that, that's how I can outline bits and pieces. The coping mechanisms like squeezing the ball, pressing your hand on the table or holding my cue card really hard - those are great learning tips, and I've got a lot out of it so far."
"But, predominantly for myself, it was conflict resolution, and how to talk to people, how to get information out of them and out of myself. To be able to meet in the middle like we've been discussing and it's only when you're here that you start to reflect on yourself and others. You realise that it's a learning opportunity of yourself, it's a mirror for yourself and I've really enjoyed it."
Gemma St John, first assistant at Brokenhurst Manor Golf Club, also values the self-reflection the course offers, but like Zoe, has found the communication side invaluable for old fashioned attitudes she unfortunately still has to face as a female greenkeeper.
Gemma explained: "I applied mostly for confidence to try and deal with the older generation. I did a talk at the BCA College in front of greenkeepers from the ages of 16-19 and the question they asked me was 'why do you find it hard in greenkeeping? You're just a greenkeeper.' And I explained that they've learnt in this day and age that we're all equal, but what you've got to remember is 40 years ago we weren't. So, talking to you guys was lovely, but I've now got to go and talk to members who think 'how can you lift that, how can you use a chain saw, you can't do what he can do."
"With the FTMI, hopefully, my conversations with them will be more positive and not have that shaky voice where I do feel a bit intimidated by them. Now I know how to process the questions they've asked me and answer them in a more confident way by using the strategies that we've learnt here."
Providing candidates with skills they can use immediately is an essential part of what is on offer over the three days, and Jack Percival, deputy course manager at Chipstead Golf Club, already has plans on sharing what he's learnt to benefit his team.
"I've applied for the FTMI three years running and didn't get it, so I wanted to take full advantage of it and take as much information as I can from the mentors and use it with my team."
"I've already thought of ways that I can go back and use what I've learnt. Because I'm quite confident and good at presentations, I'm already thinking of how I can help the team back at work and get them to channel their energy and help them with their presentation skills. We've got a few guys on our team who are fantastic guys, but they're a bit shy, and I want to help them come out of their shell using what I've learnt."