Although much of my early career was spent working with children, these days most of my time is spent with adults, in a work environment. Recently the Jamaican Golf Association invited me to run a workshop for children ages 11-18. The association works to foster and promote the development of golf in Jamaica and runs youth events as one way to accomplish that mission. The kids spent a few hours in the class room with me before heading out to the course to run some experiments. In the classroom, I emphasized how focus drives performance and shared some tools that could help them be more focused.
This opportunity brought back a lot of memories for me, but it was also great fun and I even left with some lessons for myself.
Lesson 1: Show up and engage!
It’s Jamaica; the palm trees, beaches and lots of sunshine meant it was also quite hot. The driving range was small and therefore crowded and we didn’t have many practice balls. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the kids had been easily distracted by the heat or the cramped space.
However, they showed up and engaged – they wanted to be there and get better at their golf game. They didn’t let themselves get distracted by elements they couldn’t control—the temperature and crowded conditions. They just got on with what I asked them to experiment with. We all had some fun and some saw some quick improvements.
Not all of our encounters at work are ideal and maybe the environment is not what we thought or expected it to be. How we choose to show up and engage in these situations makes a massive difference. We can choose to focus on (and therefore be distracted by) things outside of our control or we can make the most of your circumstances and focus on the things we can control. Choosing to focus on what we can control, enables us to learn and execute faster.
Lesson 2: Choose what we focus on!
On the driving range, I asked the kids to practice a simple exercise. I asked them to focus on one—and only one, of the following things: 1) a clear and specific target at the end of the range, 2) the dimple on the golf ball, or 3) breathing out as they swung the golf club. The purpose of the focus exercise was to quiet their mind. I didn’t want the kids to think about their stance, how they were holding the club, or what their mom and dad or their coach was thinking.
The younger children went straight out and did the exercise. The older kids wanted to continue doing with what they were used to doing—thinking about all their swing mechanics. They ended up trying to do both the exercise and the swing mechanics at the same time, not doing either with any commitment and not executing either very well.
How many times have we witnessed or experienced this at work—we want to take the next step but we’re reluctant to let go of what we are used to doing?
For example: Dealing with accountability. Imagine having a colleague who says they will be on time to meetings, is never on time and never lets you know they’re going to be late. On the one hand you want to talk to them about how their behavior is impacting everyone else. On the other hand, your concern about how confronting them will be difficult makes you want to ignore the situation just as you’ve done in the past.
The trip was a great reminder for me that there are some things about performance that hold true in all circumstances whether at work or play, adult or child.