[As promised at the beginning of 2022, we're bringing some additional voices to the monthly newsletter. This month's content is from Mary Faulkner, a principal with IA.]
When Tiger Woods crashed his SUV in February 2021, it appeared that his golfing days were done. Despite having won the Masters in 2019, Woods’ future was already in question after having yet another back surgery in 2020, and the injuries sustained in this latest crash threatened whether Woods would be able to keep his leg, let alone compete at a professional level.
And yet, a mere fourteen months after that shocking accident, Tiger was back playing golf. And not just any golf – he returned to Augusta to play in the Masters Tournament. And while his final score was far from what he wanted, his first round beat out several younger, healthier players and he made the cut to play the full weekend.
What struck me as I followed the coverage before and after the Masters was his approach to the moment. During the peak of his career, Tiger was known as much for his focus and mental strength as his golf abilities. He seldom smiled and was all business. But this time was different. In the months leading up to the Masters, Tiger played a father-son tournament with his son Charlie, and was more relaxed – informal, laughing, making jokes at his own expense. And during the Masters, this shift in demeanor remained. He was focused more on just making it through the tournament, testing his own abilities, grateful to even be there at all. When asked afterwards if just playing in the tournament was a victory, he was quick to answer, “Yes.”
This is not a Tiger Woods appreciation column, although what he has accomplished is astonishing. Rather, it’s a real-world example of how to approach change. No, we aren’t all professional golfers with 15 major wins. But we are all human beings who have faced situations that caused us to have to redefine success for ourselves and others. For some, it’s the shock of suddenly losing your job during a reorganization; for others, it could be a cross-country move; and for still others, it might be a life-changing diagnosis. Whatever it might be, there is power in approaching the change with self-awareness – acknowledging the reality of it; admitting your reaction to it; allowing yourself to be angry, disappointed, depressed, excited, anxious, and all the feelings. And to accept that whatever happens, things will be different.
Professionals in any industry hold themselves to a certain standard. It’s hard to recalibrate expectations in the moment. We see it when we work with organizations trying to improve their business processes. They sometimes struggle to accept that change sometimes means defining success in a new way. Where success may have once meant number of transactions, the new measure may be impact on employee experience, which isn’t always easy to understand.
Tiger Woods’ return to golf is a remarkable illustration of how perseverance, patience, humility, and determination can lead to moving forward rather than waiting until the return of “normal.” And while Tiger can’t fully let go of his core focus and drive, even he was able to recognize – sometimes just being in the game is victory enough.
With warm regards,
— Mary Faulkner
Principal/Closet Golf Fanatic, IA