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Osage Golf Scramble: A Lesson in Humility and in the Power of Teamwork

Nate Lentz
July 19, 2013

Osage Partners does an internal summer event each year for our team and includes families.  It is usually a beach day and full of all the fun that a day at the beach has to offer.  This year we did something different, mostly because no one rented a beach house.  We had an afternoon of golf followed by swimming and tennis and dinner, most of which got rained-out post golf.  It was a fun day overall despite the rain.

Golf at Osage takes on a different meaning than at many funds.  We played a nine-hole scramble pitting three closely matched foursomes.  For those of you who do not follow golf formats, a scramble is when four golfers act as a team and work from the best shot of the previous drive or putt.  When we played, we had a rule that every golfer had to contribute five shots across the nine holes including one drive from each golfer.

Our twelve people included four partners and three summer interns.  The best proclaimed golfer had an 18 handicap, two were around 25 handicaps, and the rest of us were simply golf handicapped.  Four had never golfed before, although one had meaningful baseball experience and one had cricket batsman expertise to draw from.  The four partners were self-proclaimed to be very bad golfers and two of them told the truth.  This resulted in teams that would have been even except for the partner sand-bagging.  For those who have golfed with me recently, they know that I am lobbying to push my handicap well above the 36 maximum.

I think we were all a bit worried about how much fun we would have but frankly, it beat all expectations.   Those who had never golfed came away wanting to play again.  We all got to know members of the team better than when we started, and many of us had a couple shots we wanted to remember.  We were all fairly humbled in the process and had to laugh at ourselves.  It was good healthy fun, excellent team building, and fairly ego compressing, which is consistent with our culture.

There was a real lesson in how we all performed as teams.  Remember, that over nine holes with the handicaps we had, the best score of any individual should have been 9 over par and for most it should have been 12-20 over par, yet our scores as foursomes were dramatically better.  By taking the best ball after each shot (subject to the need to use five shots per player), the winning team shot one over par, the second team shot two over, and the losing team shot five over par.  My team was on par through eight holes until we double-bogeyed to come in second.

Bottom line – we all contributed to making each of us better.  Even the strongest player’s individual ability was well bested by the power of the team.  High functioning teams perform this way and understand that any team member may make a critical contribution at any time.  Poorly performing teams let the strongest individual team member, or even worse the most aggressive member, dominate and subsequently suboptimize.  Of course, a high functioning team of highly performing individuals will perform at well below par (in golf) and well above expectation in business.

When you manage teams, do you focus on making sure there is an equal opportunity for broad participation?  Do you make sure as a leader that you do not dominate other contributions?  Are you optimizing team performance or individual performance?

In other words – does your team scramble?