October 2, 2008
News & Opinion: Management Lessons from the Ryder Cup Win
"If I tell you, then I can never do a book, right?"
That's the answer WSJ Golf Journal writer John Paul Newport got from Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger after asking how he managed to take the twelve person squad minus Tiger Woods and break the Americans nine year losing streak.
Azinger says he was inspired by the Navy Seals 13-man units and their smaller sub-units constructed for specific missions. The profile matched perfectly with the composition of Ryder Cup team.
The U.S. captain also tapped his life coach Ron Braund. Braund, a psychologist, is a fan of the DISC personality assessment (see his 1995 book Understanding How Others Misunderstand You) and used that methodology to construct teams of similar temperaments. Aggressive players like Phil Mickelson and Justin Leonard were put together while "steady-eddie, unflappable players" like Steve Stricker and Stewart Cink shared the course.
The article ends with this thought:
"There was no guarantee all this strategy would work out, of course, In fact, a final part of Mr. Azinger's strategy was to shift the need for a team victory and more toward his personal commitment to help each player perform at his best."
This described shift is more than a nuance. Notice where the manager's action is placed.
Focusing on the team on a shared victory makes the goal amorphous and intangible for the members.
When focusing on the individuals and creating a situation where each can succeed, superior team performance (and the subsequent victory) is merely a byproduct.