Empathy is the ability to identify with or understand another’s situation or feelings. You haven’t walked in their shoes but you have the ability to understand what someone else is feeling or going through and how this affects their reaction to certain situations. This requires making an imaginative leap, recognizing that other people have different tastes, experiences, and world-views than our own, and that all of these differences are valuable.
As a golf course superintendent, the ability to empathize is vital because it keeps me aware of everything happening around me. I have empathy for the maintenance crew which allows me to understand how and why they approach tasks in certain ways and assign tasks based on their strengths. I have empathy for my co-workers which allows me to identify areas that I could volunteer support and assistance. I also have empathy for the members and guests of the golf course. I understand that everyone approaches the game from a different skill and experience level and for different reasons. Having these understandings gives me the ability to focus on providing experiences that maximize the value they receive when playing the course and providing them with an experience that instills a sense of pride and ownership in the course they choose to play. I believe that being available and taking the time to experience how members play the course is an essential element to the feedback process. This gives me the chance to identify what is working and what is presenting challenges to the members and guests. I can then make decisions about adjustments and changes based on these experiences, or openly communicate the reason for not making adjustments. All of this establishes a strong relationship built on trust and confidence that allows dialogue to remain open and authentic. This environment is where the most positive change occurs and you achieve success.