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Motivating high performance staff

‌By Steve Deschênes

Golf managers wear many hats, but one that is often overlooked or perhaps not exploited to its full potential is the one of the motivational leader.

Golf managers will often have under their supervision many department head and/or supervisors, whether it is the golf pro, the club house manager, the superintendent, the F&B manager or any number of others. The GM must understand the power of motivational tactics and strategies when it comes to getting the most from human resources.

I have had the chance during my career to work under many GMs with many different personalities and with different tool boxes loaded with expertise and knowledge. I can’t say that one was better than the others, but some definitely had more impact on my career, and I believe that as managers we should always aim to have the greatest impact possible on the future of our staff.

I trust that in today’s golf industry that people are performing well when guidelines, anticipated results and services standards are clearly and precisely explained and transferred to not only departments heads but also to the majority of club employees.

So, in order to better understand how managers can have a greater impact on the motivation and overall success of its staff, here is my personal list of things to apply in the future when managing high performing employees or employees who play important roles at the Club. 

  • First make sure to be present and involved. Leading by example and showing the right way to go about things will help you gain respect and commitment from your employees. Of course, your leadership skills will be put to the test. It’s not only about showing the way but about having the right approach and also having enough charisma for people to want to go along and enjoy the ride by your side. 
  • Be smart and knowledgeable about what is asked of you as a manager but also don’t be afraid to tell your staff you don’t have all the answers. At least not yet!! They will appreciate the fact that you’re just like any of them, always growing and learning and that you are in the position you’re in because you’ve displayed that you’ll go and get the answers and that you’ll make the best of it. Your staff should also be aware and reminded that the same is expected of them. 
  • Clearly explain the impact that your best employees have on the overall success of the business. They need to feel that their involvement and engagement plays a big part in the success of the Club. 
  • Establish an easy and proper way for employees to communicate their concerns as well as their ideas. Let them know that they not only transfer the info but that it is also received and taken in consideration by management. Establishing a proper way for employees to voice their comments is mandatory so that it is done with respect and productivity in mind. 
  • Find a way to connect with your employees on a more personal level. Outside of work activities should be organized by management to allow some happy times! Again, the type of activities as well as the management participation will play a big role in the positive perception of employees. You can always use these activities to transfer valuable information to your staff, but remember that this has to be more about giving back and recognizing their personal and individual needs as people and not as employees. 
  • Rewards and bonus work, too, but sometimes have a smaller or shorter impact on the productivity and happiness of your employees. Given today’s economy, it can be tougher for smaller companies to go to that extent. 

There are many other ways to motivate your key employees, and I would love to hear about your ideas and experiences. Motivating and managing high performing Club employees is not a precise science but one that demands that the GM be as much creative as sensible to what employees are feeling. We all have fine employees who seem to not have fully tapped into their full potential; maybe they are aboard and on the bus but maybe not in the right seat yet.

Given your training and dedication as managers you should be able to help them reach new levels of performance.

Message from the author: I hope through my occasional articles that you can find material that will teach or enlighten you about important principles about golf courses and club management. I remain available for comments and discussions since I believe that the golfing community needs to be as united and as strong as ever with the challenging future ahead of us.

Steve Deschênes, PGA of Canada Professional,


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