Keeping Motivated

Many golf courses across America are fighting to stay afloat in this depressed economy. Superintendents that have spent years building an outstanding turf management team have had to layoff several of their key staff. Reduced budgets, reduced spending, reduced staff, and still, superintendents are doing what they can to hang on to their core values when it comes to turfgrass management.

Right now, times are tough. Pay cuts that compromise family livelihood, staff reductions that complicate course expectations, and job security that renders sleepless nights. A mountain so steep it looks impossible to climb. Staying motivated is important to being successful in these difficult times. Doing a lot with a little, being innovative and working with what we have, is our reputation. We are wired for this situation.

Bob Knight, with over 900 wins in his career, has some of the same common denominators as other winning coaches: passion for the job; endurance; patience; and a focus on the players’ well-being, both on and off the playing field. ( Most of the superintendents I meet in our industry have most of these attributes. Most people in this industry agree you must have passion and endurance if you are willing to spend endless hours on the course, making sure you don’t wake up the next morning to sick turf. Managing a crew where each person has their own personality takes a lot of patience. Some superintendents have this trait and others are still working on it. The last attribute of well-being takes empathy. I would say everyone has this in their heart, but not everyone feels comfortable about this part of the job.

I have worked with more than a few superintendents on my way to becoming a superintendent and caring for your crew is either there or it is not. Rarely is it partial. Working with a crew that respects their manager because that manager has their best intentions for them is completely different than the crew that respects their manger because they are the boss. I have seen the extremes to managers talking down to their crew and mangers that go out of their way by pulling money out of their own pocket to reward the employee of the month. The manager that is frustrated when a crew members calls in sick and the other that wants to make sure they are doing well.

Motivation is not given to you by another person it is cultivated in your heart and soul. Making an environment for employees to grow their motivation is crucial. Superintendents I have met are very motivated individuals. There is a reason why they have picked turf management as a career, because they love it. When you meet these types of superintendents you know right off the bat, they are passionate about their career. How can you become a motivated manager that is contagious to the whole organization?

I have broken it down to how I stay motivated no matter the situation. Poor economy, negativity from your supervisor, Mother Nature, you name it. Things that have kept the fire burning, even through the worst storms, are me, my family, work, and other colleagues in the industry.

I was raised to be a very motivated person. My dad told me that the people that work hard become successful. I wanted and still want to become successful. I remember when I was young my dad was building our fence in the backyard. I would hold the board in place while my dad would hammer the nails in place. The bordering neighbor came to help my dad and me as we were hanging the boards, one by one. My dad gave the neighbor the hammer and I held the board in place. The neighbor slowly tapped the head of the nail with the hammer slowly tacking the board down, which seemed like an eternity. I could see in my dad’s face, as sweat dripped off of his brow, he was getting more and more frustrated with each tap of the hammer. Right then I knew that hard work may get you farther, but it also gains respect with anyone and everyone. My parents have always been so supportive in my accomplishments and I believed in my heart that I can do anything if I put my heart into it.

My dad has always told me, “If you’re not making mistakes then you’re not working.”
I have used that mindset through my entire career to motivate me to make necessary decisions on maintaining the course with sound efficiency. The confidence I have built has helped increase my motivation to do what is best for the club when it is needed and effectively educate our membership in my reasoning.

My wife and kids motivate me everyday. Getting support from my wife has helped motivate me to become a better father, husband and person. She has gracefully understood the long hours required to be a successful golf course superintendent. Being a realist, my wife has recently started to buy into my optimism. She told me that I have made her a believer in setting and achieving goals. When she met me I was an assistant working between 70-90 hours a week. I had little time to spend with her. I would tell her my dreams and goals and she would tell me she hopes everything works out.

These last couple years have been bitter sweet. With the crumble of the economy and a recent pay cut, things have become a little more difficult, but on the other hand I have gotten quite a bit of exposure writing articles and starting a blog to increase communication with our membership. Recently, my wife told me that it was hard to make her a believer in being able to achieve such lofty goals that I set for myself but after seeing me complete goal after goal she has become a believer. She thinks I am different than the average person. She has seen my passion for my career and for life in general. I have inspired her just like she has inspired me. She doesn’t realize her support has helped me get to where I am today. I turn to her to get clarity when I fail or for help to understand other people’s negativity. There will always be that person out there that doesn’t want to see you succeed.

Having a young family is the most rewarding thing that has happened in my life. I am excited to help my children believe that the sky is the limit, just like my parents helped me learn. You can achieve your goals if you work hard. Some of the upcoming people from the new generations have started getting the mentality that things should be handed to them. I am going to make sure my kids understand the value of a strong work ethic and how that will gain respect and achieve success. It motivates me to know that I am their role model.

Coming into work to see a beautiful golf course each morning gets me motivated. The rolling green hills contrasted by the pure white bunkers. The smell of freshly cut grass and the sound of wildlife throughout the course inspire me to brainstorm for ways to make the course better each day.

The industry we are in is the most motivational industry on the planet. The people that make up our career track are some of the greatest people I have met. You can pick up your directory and call any number and get a kind person that will help you in any way possible. The members of our industry are quick to give advice and understand we are all a team. I have yet to meet anyone that has not extended a helpful hand. The people within the industry have motivated me with words of encouragement and never ending support. I have tried to thank all the people I have met along the way and all the people that have inspired me to do better at my job. I would not be where I am today without the help of superintendents across America. I make it a point to let them know how they have motivated me and how much it means to have that support.

My motivation to do better at my job has led me into using social media to increase communication. I have created a blog for our maintenance department to help explain in more detail to the members what is happening on the course and to better know our staff. ( I have also made use of Twitter to help add real time information to the blog, for members to stay abreast on important information. You can follow me at: Responses to my communication efforts have been unbelievably positive, and in turn motivate me to make my communication efforts better.

Motivation is different for everyone. I have found motivation in positive thinking and hard work. I am a humble person that likes to succeed at everything I do. I don’t let people bring me down because I know I have put my heart and soul into that day. When times are tough and motivation is low, just remember what you have accomplished. I am almost positive you have made the golf course you are working at better in some form or fashion. Take a look at your family and remember how much they want to see you succeed and how much they believe in you. Motivation is an attribute you have you just need to bring it out. You can motivate yourself and in turn motivate your staff. Visit Justins blog at

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