Don’t stop believing – lessons from Europe’s Ryder Cup 2012 Win

I decided that today was the day to shamelessly jump on the bandwagon the fantastic European win in the 2012 Ryder Cup. As a spectator  – from my armchair – I went through the gamut of emotions from frustration, through despondancy  to hope and finally elation.

For those of you who missed it  teams of 12 professional golfers from the USA and Europe meet every 2 years to compete for the Ryder Cup. This year it was being played in the US so the American fans had home crowd advantage and indeed the more consistent form of their team members.  On opening day on Friday after 8 games it appeared that the European team was not just not going to win but indeed  – on that form – they were in for a drubbing.  Come second day – Saturday – it appeared it was going the same way. I have to be honest here and I gave up late(ish) in the evening as I felt that I had taken all I could.   But it would appear that just as I did the tide started to turn. Europe won the last 2 games.

But still – on the last day – Sunday – Europe came in to the singles games 10 -6 down. That meant that from the 12 games that day they needed to win 8. This was a team that had scraped through the first couple of days so few of us thought that there was any chance. But then something wonderful happened. It was clear that rather than losing heart over the previous couple of days the players had steeled themselves to play better – to their full potential – on the last day. And of course the rest is history. They did indeed win 8 games and drew one  which meant that they won ( did not just draw).

There is a lesson for us all here.

1 The players are all professionals. Playing golf is how they earn their living. There is considerable money involved. They don’t get paid for playing in the Ryder Cup though. And it is one of the rare occasions where they play as part of a team and not just in their own right. Rory McIlroy – the current world number 1 player and a young chap from Northern Ireland got his times mixed up and nearly missed it altogether. Leaving aside how that could even happen when he was interviewed he said that if that had happened in any other circumstances he would have taken the consequences because it only impacted on him but he was not going to let it impact on his team mates. So without any warm up at all he stepped on the tee and played brilliantly to win his match.

Lesson – those in the know say that Rory is a “natural ” golfer but still it is pretty special that he can just turn up and do what he does naturally so well.  Whatever else he had in his head on Sunday was overwhelmed by his focus on doing what he does to the best of his ability.  What could you learn from that example?

2 The captain – Jose Maria Olazabal –  clearly thought long and hard about the order of when each of his players should go out for the 12 matches working on the basis that if the stronger players could get some European wins on the board that would inspire the players coming out later to believe.  That’s exactly what happened

Lesson – sometimes at work things don’t go well. Sometimes the manager making a small and encouraging adjustment can be all that is needed. It means though that the manager has to be clued into the strengths and talents of their team. If you are a manager how well could you do that?

3 For each hole the players had to focus on rectifying shots that had not gone well. Unlike when I play ( I expect I am not alone in this) one bad shot did not automatically mean a lost hole. They took each stroke at a time their ultimate goal.

Lesson – some goals are huge and breaking them into chunks can make them manageable.

4 When the earlier players had finished  – instead of basking in their success – they dashed back to the course to follow their team-mates around and encourage from the sidelines.

Lesson– It’s OK to recognise and be please with your own performance but when it’s for your team make sure that it is balanced by recognising the support others need.

Have I missed anything?

By the way  – you might notice that the tee I used in this picture (which was clearly not taken on a golf course!) is a rather snazzy pink which just happens to be the colour used by Breakthrough Breast Cancer Scotland . Take a look at their superb One Day campaign.