0 The Gap Part 2 - Problem Investigation

FrankNewberry2012In Part 1 of this series, Pitchcare Trainer and Motivational Speaker, Frank Newberry, expressed his concerns about the gap between the minority of turfcare professionals - who are fulfilling their career potential, and the vast majority who are not working to their full capacity. In part two, Frank explains how to do some simple diagnostics that could close the gap and help us to have a much better motivated and skilled work team.


In my visits to Pitchcare readers at schools, golf courses, parks, sports fields and leisure centres - too often I come across frustrated supervisors, who cannot get the resources they would like, and groundsmen and greenkeepers who are working below their capacity.

Get another job with better prospects

Sadly, the ones that are often working to their full capacity cannot wait for the economy to pick up a bit more so that they can get another job with better prospects.

Employers may soon face the prospect of their best staff leaving and the rest of the team working below their capacity, perhaps indefinitely.

Their performance may not be bad enough to get them sacked but, in my experience, the majority of under-performers manage to do just enough to get by and employers are lumbered with them.

Grim situation for employers

This grim situation for employers has been, in the past, and will be in the future, sufficient to make the good supervisors (Head Groundsmen and Head Greenkeepers) want to leave as soon as they can and, well before they go, their performance could suffer because their minds are elsewhere.

This does not have to be the case, even in a fragile economy like the one we have presently. We can get more out of our people (better quality work and better productivity), but we may need to unlearn a few things like:

1. Our tendency to judge people by our own values and standards
2. Assuming we are powerless because of the recession
3. Our reluctance to take the lead in these matters

Judging People

It can be hard not to judge people by our own values and standards. I have met many supervisors, managers and employers who cannot resist contrasting what they were like, when they were young men and women, with young people they have to deal with today.

There is a fundamental flaw in these judgments. Most of today's supervisors, managers and employers have a more highly developed sense of duty, responsibility and ambition than many of the younger people today. They may even have had these traits as young people, hence they progressed in their careers to supervisor or management level. These traits, which can be nurtured through training and development, only seem to exist in about 10% of the turfcare community.

I wonder if some of us may need to stop judging people and start listening for clues that might suggest that a person has a capacity for self improvement and advancement. I know that I had to learn this lesson.

We are powerless

It can also be hard not to feel powerless in a still fragile economy. Many of us have had to deal with serious cut-backs and difficulties over recent years, and these may have affected our confidence and willingness to invest some of our time in the training and development of ourselves and others.

However, having led seminars for Pitchcare and the industry associations every year in this difficult period, I can say that people are taking the line that they are not powerless and that they can get on a free or a subsidised event at the industry shows and, of course, Pitchcare continues to expand its portfolio of LANTRA approved training courses - locally run and at very competitive prices.

Reluctance to take the lead

Over the years, I have noticed that turfcare professionals tend to expect the employers to take the lead in sending people on courses and seminars that would help to increase their capacity or develop their potential.

For instance, whenever I ask how groundsmen and greenkeepers find out about my own training seminars, the majority still say that their employer, or the club secretary, or their manager sent them. In January, one delegate even said at the end of my seminar, "I didn't know there were course like this at BTME".

Employers do not necessarily know what is best. Supervisors, who have a vested interest in their staff working to full capacity, need to take the lead.

Training Needs Checklist for PitchcareWhere to start? A good place would be to do some simple diagnostics on staff capabilities. I have put together a document that can help this process (see table).

The content of this document was derived from an awareness of what was needed. Quite a lot of training and development was needed in this instance, so it became necessary to have a way of prioritising the needs - essential and urgent first, then desirable but not essential next.

The supervisor is required to know

This document became necessary because many staff, in my experience, show little or no interest in their own training and development. I was the same at that level. Unless my boss told me I needed the training I was happy to carry on with my life.

This lack of interest is made worse by the same staff often having very low self awareness. In other words, they would not know what is needed, whereas the supervisor is required to know if s/he is going to get the very best work performance from individuals and teams.

A good up-to-date and detailed job description

Filling in this training needs checklist can, perhaps, best be done by having a good up-to-date and detailed job description.

When clients complain to me that their staff did not pull together as a team, do not have a sufficient eye for detail or do not pick up litter when they see it - I have just one question. What does it say in the job descriptions about such things?

Job Descriptions are promptly checked and phrases like 'work well in the team' are located. My advice to clients is that if there is a performance issue then 'beef up' the job description so that no one is in any doubt exactly what is expected of them.

Examples of what is expected can be inserted into the document and standards set. When we have standards, we have something to work towards and maintain over time. This progress can be enhanced by coaching and training on the job or on training seminars. These seminars can even be customised and run on your premises. The GTC (Greenkeepers Training Committee) and Pitchcare offer cost effective 'on-site' training and the essential diagnostics that precede it.

So, try not to judge others by your own standards, have confidence that you can make a difference, a permanent difference, even in difficult times, and take the lead on your staff's training and development. You will not regret doing so.

In part 3 of this series, I will look at a Code of Ethics that can help us get our attitude and disposition at work on the right track.

Read Part 1 Here: The Gap Part 1 - Problem Identification
Read Part 3 Here: The Gap Part 3 - A Code of Ethics

If you need help right now to decide which training and development activity is best for you and your team, a good place to start could be to contact Chris Johnson, Pitchcare's Training Co-ordinator at chris@pitchcare.com. She can tell you which training programmes will help you.

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