Skillsets are Nothing without Mindsets

By Tom Davidson

I’ve been in leadership positions since I was 12 years old, but at age 57, I’m just a beginner at golf.

Shortly after my father died, I eyed his last set of clubs, which had fallen into my dubious care, and decided to take them for a spin. After swinging wildly at the local golf course (mine has a doublewide trailer as a club house), I discovered that golf – much like leadership – is not a game one should learn on his/her own.

So, I signed up for a few lessons with the local golf pro, Joe Ritchie, an ex-cop and the kind of no-nonsense teacher every golfer (and new manager) should want. After a few months of bringing my elbow in, keeping my head down and pulling my self-esteem up, I was ready to try a “real golf course” while on vacation in South Carolina.

But before I left town, I asked Joe one question, and it was the same question I would ask the pro in South Carolina.

“If I were to read just one book on golf, what should it be?”

Without blinking an eye and 450 miles apart, they each said, “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect by Bob Rotella, a sports psychologist.” It’s a golf book that has nothing to do with how you swing a club.

But wait. There must be a thousand moving parts to a golf swing, and Amazon and YouTube are crammed with how-to books and videos that break them down and build them up to the nth degree. Golf pros are standing in line to teach us newbies the basics, and keep the experts in line. I can even have my golf swing analyzed by digital imaging and high-speed radar to reveal the dozens of gross errors and fine points that need fixing! Shouldn’t I read the best book on how to swing the club?

No. True professionals know that it doesn’t matter how masterful your skillsets become in golf, life or leadership, without the mindset to go with it, those skillsets will fail to get results. Rotella coaches some of the most famous golfers in the world, not on their skillsets but on their mindsets.

Here are a few mindsets you should put ahead of your skillsets:

  • Learning. After coaching hundreds of new and experienced managers, there is one factor that separates the ones who struggle from the ones who succeed – their learning mindset.
  • Listening. While you may have been taught the skillsets of “active listening,” unless you have a curious mindset, none of them will work.
  • Leading. Take all the classes you can on the tools, techniques, models and methods of leadership, but don’t expect them to work very well if you don’t have a caring mindset.

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