An overlooked responsibility of the modern day golf course superintendent is the skill of motivation: The ability to inspire and get the most out of one’s staff. Think of motivation as “the general desire or willingness to do something.”

Let’s compare a superintendent to a head coach in football. How about New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick? Although not everyone’s favorite, even Belichick’s harshest critics have to admit he’s a heck of a leader who gets the most out of his players. He knows how to motivate.

He has a somewhat unique ability to take players who aren’t exactly household names and put them into positions to not only help the team, but even succeed to individual levels they never reached before playing for him.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to do that at your golf course with your staff?

We hire and train new crew members. We show them the right way to do things, as well as tell them what we expect. And, after some time, we determine their qualities as an employee. We make decisions about how we can use them to best help the operation. We find strengths not only in their maintenance abilities, and how they pick up on things, but also in their attitudes, judgments and dedication to the maintenance of the golf course. We file all this away, and use each employee the best we can. That’s called managing.

But is this enough? Along with these judgments we’re making, are we doing our best to motivate them? To motivate them to be better and more useful employees to us? If we aren’t inspiring them and helping them grow, are we not hurting ourselves, as well as shortchanging them?

We need to not only train and judge, but we need to motivate. This is true with new employees, and with the long-termers as well. In fact, the more senior a crew member, the more motivation may be required.

But how do we motivate? Do we have motivational meetings after our monthly safety meeting? Do we hang framed inspirational quotes – “BE THE BEST YOU CAN BE!” – in the break room?

No, I think motivation is subtler than this, something not actually made reference to. I’m sure Belichick doesn’t have weekly meetings with his players telling them, “Okay, now I’m going to motivate you.”

Here’s five things that may work as far as keeping your employees inspired and giving you the very best they can:

  • Money. Naturally. Money is the rabbit we’re all chasing after. Pay your employees not only a competitive wage, but slightly more than a competitive wage. And always up this annually. I like to think of this in comparison to tipping at a restaurant. Sure, you can get by with a 15 percent tip, but don’t most of us tip 20 percent if we get good service? Why do we do this? We do this not only because the service was good, but also because we want the service to be good the next time. We’re paying it forward.
  • Team spirit. People love to be a part of something. Make them feel like they are. Folks don’t like to let others down. Let them know they’re an important cog in the machine.
  • Deadlines. This may not seem motivational, but most people tend to love structure, even if they’re not really aware of it. Giving someone a time frame (with a positive spin on it) to complete a job will make them more motivated to get that job done on time.
  • Lead by example. Get out there and work side by side with your crew from time to time. Show them how motivated you are to provide a great golf course. And try and put new workers alongside dedicated and hardworking older employees whenever you can.
  • Kindness. Respect goes a long way. Get people on your side and they’ll do a heck of a lot more for you than if they don’t like you. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.

So remember, hire well, train well and make your judgments. But don’t stop there! Motivation in the next step.

And that step is up to you. Are you motivated?