In golf, your ability to play the “short game” is the quickest way to lower your score. You cannot shoot low scores in golf if you can’t chip and putt. Obviously, the pros spend hours refining this aspect of the game. And guess what skills go the quickest if you don’t play regularly? For me at least, it’s chipping and putting. This has never been more evident to me than last month ─ my once a year golf outing at Sage Valley. This year, I shot the worst score of my golfing career (108). That fantastic little score included triple bogeys on four holes. It was ugly, really ugly.
That evening, I jotted down two new hashtags because I was so tired of hearing the words. #SYT (Still Your Turn). Logically, you must be closer to the hole than your playing partners to get a break from swinging clubs at this little white ball. I experienced something similar on the greens ─ #YSO (You’re Still Out).
Even with the help of an experienced caddy, I still found myself chipping after my first putt in some cases on these super speedy greens. Eventually, I found myself lagging and hoping for a better outcome. We’ve all heard the quote “Hope is not a strategy,” and I certainly proved this theory on the golf course that day. But this painful lesson has insights for us in business also.
What part of our business game should we be practicing regularly to continue a legacy of relevance, impact and success? Is our ability to score well as a profession being threatened by declining existing skills and the need to learn some new emerging skills (like hitting with a hybrid club)? Today, certain skills are essential to scoring in business, just like chipping and putting are to golf. Let’s look at four existing or emerging skills that we might find help our future business game scores.
Strategic thinking skills: Clients need and are searching for strategic thinkers, problem solvers and advisory services. They may “have to” buy compliance services but they need and are shopping for advisory services. Are we proficient in these conversations? Have we practiced moving past the symptoms and pain to find the real problem? Are we comfortable talking about strategy or challenges where we do not have all of the answers? Are we competent enough in our client’s industry to help evaluate strategy? Would our clients call us strategic thinkers? That one might hurt some. Reminds me of putting off the green and getting my pitching wedge back out of the bag!
Pricing skills: Clients want and deserve more input into the worth of our services. Clarity in scope and price without worrying about random and undiscussed out-of-scope bills flying in. How many of us still give ranges for pricing? What price does our client assume when we give them a range? Pricing today to capture the real worth of our services requires better conversations, due diligence and scoping. Using judgment on worth and helping clients justify and understand the value of various services. How comfortable are we going to the client to discuss pricing? (I’m thinking about as confident as I am with that downhill, double-breaking putt on a green that is like glass.) Ignoring the need for better pricing skills can be very costly as our services move up the ladder to higher value work.
Anticipatory skills: Clients are experiencing rapid exponential change. They are seeing disruption in their business and understand that our business environment is on the move. We have spent years honing our skills to serve compliance needs and provide insights on historical reporting. There was a time when you could run a business with a 30-day profit and loss. Are those days fading fast? Do you see your clients craving real-time information? Being anticipatory so that we not only see challenges coming but also help clients capture future opportunities. How anticipatory are the services we are providing 80% or 90% of our clients today?
Collaboration skills: Complexity and exponential change are driving demand for better collaboration on our teams to serve clients. How many of our clients are served by one primary relationship or one primary service? It’s probably a significant number. How good are our teams at really collaborating to serve clients with more advisory and high-value services? The team is always smarter than the individual. Who is serving our clients ─ the team or the individual? Research by the Harvard Business Review shows that we tend to work from silos and even when the opportunity exists to collaborate, people will tend to go back to protecting territory. Have we practiced being vulnerable enough as teams to really collaborate for a client’s best solution?
All of these skills, if practiced to a level of expertise, would provide us a better score in business. We instinctively know we are not great at these but we luck a putt in or hit a chip close enough that we put off the hard work, the practice session. Are we allowing the memory of that one lucky shot to put us at risk of not having the skills to succeed in the future? Truthfully, I am having a hard time remembering any good shot at Sage Valley. It was ugly. Let’s practice so our skills don't reflect that performance.