September 21, 2018

James Sieckmann: Create a Culture of High Performance on the Lesson Tee

James Sieckmann, the 2018 PGA National Teacher of the Year, is the PGA Director of Instruction at The Golf Academy at Shadow Ridge Country Club, in Omaha, Nebraska.

James Sieckmann on the importance of creating a culture of high performance on the lesson tee:
Every business, organization, team or in our case, golf academy, has a culture. A great culture is the key to long-term sustainable growth and success and if you don’t take great care in creating the culture you want, your employees or students will create it for you. As a young golf professional, I remember going to David Leadbetter’s golf academy to watch him teach. I watched him go to the lesson tee early to pick up broken tees left from a previous lesson. He felt it important that students walk up to a neat area. First impressions are important, and this display of professionalism was a clear example of how great golf professionals create a culture. At Shadow Ridge Country Club, I take pride in our teaching environment. I’ve designed a world-class short game area including a distance wedge range where yardage signs are put out every day, premium range balls are used, and other amenities are provided. When first working with a student, I lay out my vision of the proper process necessary to sustain high performance. We set clear goals, and I let them know there will be required homework with accountability procedures built in. I have pre-written notes of foundational beliefs for not only techniques for different shots, but structure for intelligent practice and mental game management. I am all in for a student who will work with discipline, practice smart, and maintain a positive attitude. We value growth over perfection and therefore view mistakes as opportunities to learn. At the end of each lesson, key technical components, as well as a training regimen, is written together in my office. You can’t just assume that your student will go off on his own and do the things necessary to implement changes. When you can direct training after the student leaves the lesson, you can continue to positively influence each student while helping someone else. That is why accountability to each other is perhaps the most important part of a winning culture. If a student is not like-minded, you may find limited success. We need to coach our students like they do in other sports. Set standards and expectations and put it on the student to strive to achieve those marks.

James Sieckmann on the business impact of creating a culture of high performance on your lesson tee:
This dedication to student improvement is what keeps my lesson book full and my students coming back. In holding them accountable for their own progress, my desire to see them advance is evident. Whether it be the initial analysis, the plan we set, the goals we aim to achieve, the follow up, or the complete package, my students know I care about their improvement because I am engaged for more than just our 60-minute session. Call it a culture of high performance, a culture of true learning, or simply a culture of success, but with a large roster of Tour professionals, and a plethora of highly-skilled amateurs, this mindset works for my business. I believe that I get the most out of my students. And if I’m not, I recognize it and initiate a very important conversation. Only serious students need apply at this point. When you implement proven methods and develop real relationships with students, they talk. They tell their friends, thus keeping your appointment calendar full. Introducing golf to new players is important to growing the game, but when you develop a great reputation over time, better players will come to you because of the results you help create.


If you would like to email the author of this Best Practice directly, please email jamessieckmann@gmail.com