“If he can control his emotions today…..he can win this tournament.”

If you’re a golfer, you’ve heard broadcasters announce this many times before the final round of a
professional golf event. The statement is a very strong endorsement for what’s important to great
performance. The frustrating thing is that no one ever tells us how this golfer might do it. While
the importance of controlling emotions in attaining success is repeatedly stressed, the idea of
“controlling” and how to do it is rarely developed. 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?

Here’s a challenge for you…….

Visit a major professional golf event on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and you tell me which
players will be successful in the event and which players will be packing their bags and heading
home after Friday’s 36 hole cut off. Then, visit a conference where CEOs from a wide range of
organizations are addressing an audience and tell me which CEOs are leading highly successful
companies and which CEOs are leading companies that are just “making the cut”.

This little challenge will highlight one thing for you unless the golfers/leaders are under pressure in a dynamic, changing environment, you cannot 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/her limits; at that point one determines if they can be a consistent and sustainable performer.

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 Professional Golfers and Sales Professionals can make very foolish choices when
under emotional stress.
The ability to manage emotions under life’s pressures is the key element in separating elite
performers from average ones.

Any if you need more evidence…..golf’s greatest performer, Tiger Woods, has consistently
reminded us in media conferences following major championships that managing emotion is a
key to his success in major tournaments.

Before I give you some suggestions on how you might move to the next level of performance,let’s look at a few examples of golfers and leaders who highlight degrees of emotional competency.

The Light Bulb Goes on for Mickelson

Phil Mickelson competed for years before he won a major championship(0-46). Why? He has
the physical capability. He’s mentally capable of winning golf tournaments he’s won many over that time period. The only real knock against Mr. Mickelson was that his seat of the pants
style hindered him from winning the big one, because his overly aggressive style was not
rewarded in the “majors”.

Before the 2004 season, Mickelson did a thorough assessment of where he was and where he
wanted to go. Recognizing his style needed change in the big events, he and his coaching group
assessed exactly what they needed to do to get to the next level. The risktaking, stubborn Mickelson was replaced by the self-aware, flexible Phil managing his game to maximize strengths. He now has a more vigilant approach to the long game, strategizing to keep his ball in play to complement one of the world’s best short games. This self-aware
approach is delivering confidence and more consistent results in major tournaments.

Long John and the Missing Link

The popular Long John Daly has been to the top of the mountain in golf, but he spends most of
his time in the contrasting valleys. He has won major championships, but his inability to
consistently manage his emotions in the big events keeps him from winning more.

Here’s an example….

Unhappy with the hole locations set by the United States Golf Association on the final day of the
1999 U.S. Open, Daly smashed a moving ball onehanded
across the green, proceeded to finish with an 11 on the hole and an 83 for the day. In the third round of the 1997 PGA Championship, Long John tossed his driver over a fence on the 12 th hole after a poor tee shot. During the final round, he initiated an argument with a rules official to complete the self destruction. While Daly’s talent is undeniable and can produce results when the stars are aligned, his lack of self-awareness and emotional management has kept him in the valleys for far too long.

Emotional intelligence in leadership is no different.

Self-Awareness for Business Success

Bill George, CEO of Medtronic, stayed at the top of the leaderboard for 12 years. During his
leadership, the company’s sales soared from $740 million when he joined to $7 billion when he
retired. He credits self-awareness as the basis of his leadership success. In fact, George has focused on self-awareness since his days in college when
he worked on personality flaws with the advice of college friends, to today, where he regularly
meditates. George insists that leadership training must include not just instruction about technical
business skills, but also teaching about human behavior.

Peaks and Valleys for Eisner…and Disney

Michael Eisner, like John Daly, has been to the top of the mountain. Profits in the Walt Disney
company exploded when he took the reins…….and he could do no wrong. But the company struggled to maintain consistent growth and keep shareholders happy. Many point to Eisner as the cause of
the problems. Unlike Phil Mickelson, who assessed
the “state of his game” and his shortcomings, Eisner seems to have avoided ongoing assessment by
surrounding himself with associates who failed to criticize his actions or choices – thus restricting his growth as a leader. The lack of self-awareness created a blind spot in Eisner’s perception of how he might be affecting others in his organization.

This lack emotional growth on Eisner’s part led Disney down a negative path that peaked in a
shareholders meeting in 2003, where board members Stanley Gold and Roy Disney resigned from
the Disney board citing Eisner’s leadership as the reasons for exiting. They highlighted Eisner’s
desire for personal gain (cashing $700 million in shareholder value), a short-term financial vision
and a cannibalization of company icons as their reasons for resigning. While Mr. Eisner’s early
wins were very impressive, he did not demonstrate the key quality of elite performers consistent
performance over time.

What Does All of this Mean for You?

So, what can you learn from Phil Mickelson and Bill George to help yourself to create a steady,
upward climb into the positive, proactive parts of life’s emotional spiral, where consistent
performance under pressure is possible?

Here’s some ideas that can help put you on the path to consistent, sustainable performance:

1. Assess your Emotional Intelligence. Unlike IQ, EQ or Emotional Intelligence can be assessed. It’s not a bad idea to understand exactly where you might be strong and where you might need work. This is a good first step.

2. Build a great plan and stay the course. Understand where you want to go. A plan is
crucial to consistent development. Keep your eye on the big picture and the eventual goal and periodically revisit the plan to make adjustments. There will be bumps in the road – but the bumps (and frustration levels) will be much smaller if your plan is well developed. Golf is a great example of this – most golfers do not have a master plan for improvement and are therefore consistently frustrated with their progress.

3. Enhance self-awareness through practice. Ask yourself these questions: Do you clearly
understand how your emotions impact your performance? Do you know how your emotions impact others? Do you understand your tendencies? Do you clearly understand your strengths and limits? Identify your tendencies under pressure – pay attention to the physical signs (heart rate, nervous feeling, etc.) Be aware of behavior in stressful situations and chart results.

4. Create reasonable expectations for yourself and others based on an analysis of capabilities and experience. Expectations are emotional traps, setting you up for frustration and disappointment.

5. Concentrate your energy and emotion on only those things you can control and influence. Golfers are notorious for blaming everything under the sun for their failures from the weather to the golf course and point to anything else they have no control over.

6. Concentrate energy only on those things you have direct control over: your attitude, your expectations, your decisionmaking
ability, your equipment your plan or your strategy.
Any focus on those things you have no control over will lead to frustration, and keep you from moving up in the emotional spiral.

7. Reserve judgment on yourself and others on every result. In each stressful situation you
encounter, step back and give yourself a small amount of time before reacting. Choose
your response after a quick evaluation of the situation.

8. Fear can be managed – build confidence at every opportunity. Everyone experiences fear – it is a primal human emotion. It can paralyze performance. Knowledge and understanding about yourself (self-awareness) and more time in the positive, upward part of the emotional spiral will help you deal with it and move past it.

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
meeting, during a big decision, or at a family outing. Like the broadcasters say, the ones who
control their emotions……..win. Just ask Tiger Woods.

John Haime is President of LearningLinks 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 innovative, experiential emotional intelligence solution and has been delivered for some of the world’s top organizations. John can be reached by phone at 613 271 7356 and by email at jhaime@learninglinks.org.

Author's Bio: 



John Haime is an innovator and currently President of LearningLinks Inc.

From 1985 to 1991, John successfully competed on international golf tours in Canada, Australia, Asia, South Africa and the United States. Along with numerous professional victories, career highlights include a career low 62 in a professional event in Melbourne, Australia. Before turning professional he was one of Canada’s top amateur golfers.

Following a successful career in professional golf, John began a career in international business with a leading Canadian Trade Policy Consulting firm. He specialized in international trade strategy, negotiation, and dispute resolution, making written and oral submissions to governments on behalf of Fortune 500 clients.

In 1994, he founded Corporate Golf Links Inc, a company specializing in client golf events and production of major professional events. CGL organized some of the corporate sector’s most unique golf events along with professional tour events. In 1998, LearningLinks evolved from client requests for targeted education within a memorable and fun golf program. Clients for LearningLinks include; Cisco Systems, Nortel, Bell Canada, General Electric, KPMG, Capital One, RBC, PSS World Medical, The Hay Group, GlaxoSmithKline and YPO. LearningLinks programs have helped companies worldwide enhance their team and leadership capability.

John Haime’s LearningLinks Inc., has developed a number of unique corporate performance solutions including “Mastering the Game: Leadership Effectiveness at Work, In Life and In Golf”. Mastering the Game was inspired by the international bestseller Primal Leadership (Daniel Goleman) and integrates the power of golf and Emotional Intelligence to maximize the potential of leaders and teams. The programs have been delivered around the globe.

John is an accredited Professional of the Hay Group’s Emotional Competency Inventory and acts as an Emotional Intelligence competency coach to client companies and executives worldwide. The partnership with Hay is a global one where John delivers leadership programs in North America and throughout Asia. He has also participated in a host of workshops on performance development including “Coaching for the Future”. John has been published in some of the world’s leading business and leadership publications.

He is from a prominent national golf family. His father, Peter, was selected the Canadian Professional Golfer’s Association Club Professional of the Year in 1994 and brother Kevin was the 2000 Canadian Professional Golfer’s Association National Golf Instructor of the Year.

John can often be heard on Canadian radio on Saturday mornings on The CHUM Radio Network’s popular, long-running golf show “Tee It Up”. He is a regular on television speaking about golf and leadership performance.

A graduate of Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana (Management), he was a four-year NCAA golf team member and multiple tournament victories.