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Surprising Lesson: Look back at the tee box

I want to share with you a surprisingly effective lesson I learned from a wise old man on a golf course. Applying it has made me a stronger business coach and more satisfied person. 

It happened years ago when I attended a golf school. In Florida. In July. My goal was to lower my handicap a little. I came away with a simple technique I've used to help foremen of construction crews, leaders of mega projects, and company CEOs become more successful. It's not magic, but it's close.    

The golf school was total immersion. Beginning early each morning until lunch, we would hit bucket, after bucket, after bucket of balls on the range.

Then, after a short lunch we would get personalized lessons while playing 9 holes with the coaching pro. Since I like to play golf, not practice golf, I particularly loved the afternoon sessions.


On the first afternoon I learned something so important that it has stuck with me over the years.  

My coaching pro, Mr. Ralph, a friendly grandfatherly type man with tremendous patience, first had me hit 20 balls from the tee box.

Then we walked out to the fairway to see where they landed. 

It was like looking at a scatter diagram. I’m an engineer, so I love scatter diagrams.

A few of my shots were in the rough. Some didn't go far. But we found my best shots in a group in the fairway.  

On that first afternoon, it was as hot as blazes. Did I mention that it was July. In Florida? Sweat was dripping down my face and my game was suffering as much as I was.

Mr. Ralph and I stood in short grass looking at where my best tee shots had landed.  I felt like giving up. I lamented that I had not driven the golf balls far enough. Surely he heard that a lot.

I wasn’t his first golf student with visions of hitting the ball a mile. Mr. Ralph patiently listened.

Then, being the gentlemanly golf pro he was, Mr. Ralph said:

“Sally you need to change your perspective. Look back at the tee box.”

Look back at the tee box? Is that what he said?

Yes, that’s what he said. So I did. And he asked me what I saw.

And you know what?

The really interesting thing was, that when I stood in the fairway and looked back - wiped my face with a towel and squinted into the sun - the tee box was 180 yards away. It was a really long way back there!

And in that instant, with Mr. Ralph’s guidance, I learned the importance of taking time to change your perspective, to reflect on the progress you’ve already made. I felt renewed. 


It’s been well over 20 years ago since that hot July day in the scorching Florida sun.

I’ve coached countless leaders and project managers on applying this principle.

Now it’s your turn.

Here’s what I want you to do right now.

Take 3 minutes and “look back at the tee box.”

  • What have you led your team to accomplish already?
  • What milestones has your team achieved that they can be proud of?

Have you celebrated those milestones?

Yes? Then GREAT!

No? Then take action!

As a leader, you can’t just simply keep plowing forward.

Helping your team "look back at the tee box” is essential.


Because that perspective, that appreciation of what you've done so far, is what will reenergize your team.

That reverse view of things will renew their confidence.

And most important, that perspective will refuel their commitment for the challenges ahead.

Remember: Turn around now and then and look back at the tee box.

Hi, I'm Sally, I help leaders on capital projects and in construction companies transform their leadership ability so they can lead their team with excellence and deliver extraordinary results that other people (and often even themselves) thought were impossible. If you're ready to transform your leadership results, reach out to Sally so you can get started now.

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