Success in the field relies on skills similar to those required on the golf course. Former professional golfer, John Haime, examines the main drivers of emotional intelligence.Will you make the cut, or end up bunkered?
“If he can control his emotions today, he can win this tournament.”
If you’re a golf enthusiast, you’ve probably heard broadcasters announce this many times before the final round of a professional golf event.The statement indicates what is essential for great performance.
The frustrating thing is that no one ever tells us how the golfer might do it. If controlling emotions is so vital to winning, wouldn’t you like to know how to do it – so you can perform at a higher level?
Surveying the leaderboard
If you were to observe the lead-up to a major professional golf tournament, it is unlikely that you would be able to tell which players will be successful in the event and which players will be packing their bags and heading home after the 36-hole cut. This highlights that unless professional golfers are under pressure in a dynamic environment, it is difficult to separate the contenders from the pretenders.The separation occurs when the heat is turned up, when results really matter, when the performer is pushed to his or her limits.The same applies in the professional selling environment.
Brain structures, like the amygdala in the emotional or limbic regions of the brain, can ‘hijack' intellectual processes when intense emotions are experienced in the system.
This is why even very talented professionals can make very foolish choices when under emotional stress.The ability to manage emotions under life’s pressures is one of the key elements in separating elite performers from average ones.
Golf’s greatest performer,Tiger Woods, has often said that managing emotion is a key to his success and consistency.Yet this is relevant to other highly-pressured professions too; studies have shown that in careers that involve sales, employees with high Emotional Intelligence are 12 times more productive than employees with low Emotional Intelligence.
Full set of clubs
There are a few fundamental competencies that are “must haves” to reach sustainable and consistent levels of elite performance.
The driver: Self-awareness Self-awareness is the foundation for great Emotional Intelligence and, while it sounds simple and obvious, it can be elusive. LearningLinks’ assessment work with sales professionals in the pharmaceutical industry has found that more than 50% could improve in this area.As a quick test, ask yourself several key questions:
• Do you clearly recognise emotions as they happen and how they impact your performance?
• Do you understand how your emotions impact others?
• Do you clearly understand your strengths and limitations?
• Do you believe in your capabilities and have presence when addressing others? If you are self-aware, you have answered “yes” to each question.
Consider an example: Before 2004 Phil Mickelson was 0-46 in golf’s major championships, but after a thorough assessment of his approach following the 2003 season, the risk-taking, stubborn Mickelson was replaced by someone more self-aware and flexible. He now has a more vigilant approach to the long game, strategising to keep his ball in play, and this approach is delivering confidence, consistency – and wins in major tournaments.
"Tennis, running, and golf: depending on whether I want to abuse my elbows, my knees, or my emotions."
Phil Knight, Chairman, President and CEO of Nike Inc.when asked about his passions outside of work.
The short irons: Emotional self-control A direct effect of high selfawareness is emotional self-control. Successful people, whether they are medical sales reps or professional sports people, recognise emotions as they happen, and therefore have the opportunity to keep disruptive emotions under control in pressured situations.The best golfers stay composed and positive after poor shots and do not allow the negative energy to impact future shots. Similarly, elite sales professionals have to re-focus quickly after a below par sales opportunity. An optimistic approach on each shot/opportunity is critical following obstacles and setbacks.
The putter: Desire for success A hunger for meeting a standard of excellence is the competency that perhaps most contributes to the consistency and sustainability of the world’s best golfers,Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam. Great golfers, like successful sales people, every area of their business, take calculated risks and always believe that they will succeed whether they are doing well or struggling.They believe in their hearts that they will find a way to win no matter what the obstacle.
Insiders on the PGA Tour believe that Tiger Woods has an additional, major competitive advantage over his rivals.Woods has the ability to adapt from tournament to tournament, golf course to golf course and shot to shot. He has been successful on all styles of golf courses and has won each major championship multiple times.
Adaptability is also a key competency in the pharmaceutical sales industry. As customer and industry needs change, successful sales professionals adapt to customer and industry demands – and they do it quickly.
Golf is hard, selling is harder
One major difference separates professional golf from professional selling. Sales professionals require the core social competency of empathy to be an elite, consistent performer in their field. This difference, in my opinion, makes excellence in selling significantly more difficult than excellence in golf.While the elite golfer must only be concerned with their own emotions and the impact on their performance, sales professionals must understand, not only their own emotions, but those of their customers (and colleagues). At a time when medical sales reps have become more of a trusted advisor to customers, it is critical they have much more than basic listening skills. They must develop a sensitivity to understand and respond to subtle customer signals. Today’s sales professional must understand the challenges and issues the customer is experiencing and target needs with solutions.
We’re all performers in life and pressures are unavoidable. So it’s best to be prepared and have the capacity to maximize your performance when the pressure arrives on the first tee, in a big customer meeting or during a big decision. Improving your ability to control emotion can enable you to win. Just ask Tiger Woods.
|Here are a few simple steps to enhancing your emotional intelligence:
• Assess your Emotional Intelligence. Unlike IQ, EQ or Emotional Intelligence can be assessed. Become familiar with your strengths and limitations.
• Enhance self-awareness through practice. Do you understand how your emotions impact your performance? Do you know how your emotions impact others? Do you clearly understand your strengths and limitations? Do you have presence when presenting ideas? Identify your tendencies under pressure – pay attention to the physical signs.
• Concentrate your energy and emotion on only those things you can control and influence. Determine what you can control and focus only on those factors. People are notorious for blaming everything under the sun for their own failures (just ask the average golfer!).Any focus on those things you have no control over will lead to frustration.
• Reserve judgment on yourself and others. In each stressful situation you encounter, step back and give yourself a small amount of time before reacting.
John Haime is President of Learning Links Inc. and a former World Tournament Professional Golfer. LearningLinks adds value to corporate initiatives through the game of golf.
The company’s “Mastering the Game” program is an industry-leader in experiential emotional intelligence education and has been delivered for some of the world’s top organisations.
John can be reached by phone at (613) 296- 6636 or by email at email@example.com.