Dealing With Upset


There are times as a human being, or as a poker player when you will be upset. You may be upset with yourself, your opponents, the dealer, the cards, Lady Luck, just about anyone or anything. The usual time players get upset is when they’ve had a ‘bad beat’;

bad beat n. – comic —  When a very strong hand that is a statistical favourite to win loses to a much weaker hand that hits a lucky draw

Some “bad beats” aren’t really that bad—Your AK v 2 3 sounds like a bad beat, yet, statistically AK will only win 2 out of 3 times.  But sometimes a bad beat is a bad beat and this can, naturally, lead to some form of upset. The upset may take form of an internally (bad mood) or externally (a sulk or a rant). These techniques are rarely satisfactory and do nothing to achieve the objective of getting back “off tilt”.

A very useful way of getting off tilt is to understand why you were upset. It may seem straightforward but it really isn’t.

There are basically only 3 reasons people get upset. By understanding the emotion and rationale behind your upset you will be able to adjust more rapidly.

The first cause of upset is linked to a BROKEN AGREEMENT.

This can be written or unwritten, formal or informal, spoken or unspoken. It will include lies and perpetrations. This tends to occur in personal relationships.

If this occurs during a poker game it is usually best to move away from the poker table and attempt to resolve it in private. I don’t mean a gun fight or anything like that, but a discussion. For instance if you believe a colleague has lied to you or broken some kind of agreement you need to resolve it. If you don’t resolve it there will always be a friction and a difficult relationship between you – a “history”. This will invariably put you on tilt against them.

The second cause of upset is UNFULFILLED EXPECTATIONS. This would be the situation where you expect something from the game, people in the game, the organisation of the game, etc. that doesn’t happen. For instance you may expect a player to behave in a certain way at the table and they don’t. This will affect you. You now have a number of options:

  1. Address the situation
  2. Leave the situation
  3. Sulk, tilt and lose all your money

The order of the above is the preferred order.  If you can address the situation—do it. If you need to use others to help—use others. It will continue to affect you even if you think it doesn’t. You may not realise it until you’ve left the game and can think rationally about the situation.

The final cause of upset is BLOCKED GOALS. This is the one that is the most personal to you, and the one you can deal with most effectively.

This situation occurs when you’ve set yourself a goal, a target, and you don’t achieve it. Someone, or usually yourself, has stopped you reaching it. In this situation it is tempting to blame external factors for your lack of success: it’s the dealer’s fault, the opponent, the room, my table position, luck.

“Madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Once you’ve recovered from the initial upset it would be useful to look at yourself. Did you set a realistic target? Have you the skills to achieve this? Did you just have a run of bad luck? Do you consistently have a run of bad luck? Thinking about questions like these will give you some ideas to improving your game and perhaps adopting a more realistic approach to your game. It may be that you need to improve on some facets of your game in order to reach the next level. Or you could genuinely have had a run of bad luck. This happens.

If you keep having bad luck, and keep losing when you shouldn’t, you need to break out of that cycle. Looking at the cause of the upset will really help. Remember Einstein’s definition of madness:

“Madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Perhaps, eventually you’ll be able to handle triumph and disaster as well as Berry Johnston did at the 1985 WSOP Main Event:

“There were three players remaining: chip leader, Bill Smith, TJ Cloutier and Berry Johnston, nearly even in chips. TJ had Berry covered by a few chips, and Berry was all-in with A-K against Cloutier’s A-J,” Mike recalled. “The flop came A-7-3, and a jack came on the turn. TJ won that pot to knock Berry Johnston out of the tournament. I’ll never forget it because Berry handled that bad beat as well as anybody could possibly imagine. He didn’t moan, he didn’t cry, he just shook his head a little bit, ya know? And he got up, shook their hands, and wished them good luck. He walked over to his wife, who wasn’t much of a poker player, and she said, ‘Oh, honey, are you out now?’ ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Oh, good.  Now, do you want to go get something to eat?’”

This article first appeared in Blind Straddle – December 2011


Why Women Aren’t As Successful As Men At Interviews Yet In The Future Will Probably Take The Majority Of The Seats At The WSOP Main Event Final Table


  • The female brain develops at a different rate to the male brain;
  • The corpus callosum is “the caring membrane in the brain”.
  • Girls’ CC is three times larger than boys’.
  • Boys frequently cannot demonstrate empathy unless it is related to a physical action.
  • Every report into education standards seems to reach the conclusion that girls consistently out-perform boys at school;
  • Girls tend to be more flexible in their approach to learning and adapt to different learning styles. Boys tend to prefer activities.
  • One report suggests that girls have more ‘sensory capacities and biosocial aptitudes to decipher exactly what teachers want’ – they are better at understanding people.
  • Boys tend to learn by doing. Girls tend to learn by thinking
  • When given a sheet of blank paper most girls draw animals, flowers, people. Boys tend to draw an action scene.
  • Observations show that when completing a jigsaw puzzle girls tend to ask for help three times as much as boys will.
  • In terms of competitiveness on equal terms, women tend to compete as aggressively as males – however there seems to be a psychological ‘brake’ on women competing due to societal upbringing – “ little girls –seen not heard”
  • The basic concept of problem solving is different from men and women; men tend to adapt a high risk high payoff strategy over a low-risk, low-payoff strategy adapted by women. So men will rush toward a ‘close enough’ solution, women like to conceptualise a solution then implement it
  • Some of the differences in problem solving is cultural as males tend to be admired for the ‘good enough’ approach


Research shows that men are more successful than women at interviews as these traits continue in later life.

The more measured, considered approach preferred by women is frequently regarded as being weak and indecisive at interviews. Aggressiveness and risk taking is rewarded at interviews and often seen as being decisive and confident. This is often assessed by interviewers as the amount of time taken to answer questions at interview. Females tend to want to weigh up all the options whereas men seem happier to go with the likeliest. Women are less inclined to take guesses than men.

However in the work environment this gung-ho approach is seen less favourably. The female considered approach – longer thinking time, low risk, approach is favoured over the male instant decision, high risk approach. In many instances the male ‘do or die’ attitude is soon regarded as a negative trait.

However, these female traits would seem to have huge potential in the workplace; the benefits of achieving the task cooperatively would result in more motivated staff, more ownership of the work amongst the team, less task demarcation, etc… Also the targets are far more likely to be met as there are more people focused on achieving the result.

Women learn quicker and more effectively – because of their approach to learning. They learn by learning in a certain way – better – more considered. They learn more effectively when they are supported, have role models, are allowed to develop a make mistakes in a ‘safe’ environment.

Once they have learnt they are more likely to want to learn more than men.   Men tend to adopt a ‘need to know’ approach to learning.

Women entrepreneurs are financially more conservative, emphasizing profitability and profit over rapid growth, and their management policies seek to minimise work-family conflicts. Women’s businesses tend to grow more slowly than men’s, incur less debt and higher quality.

Researchers have started looking into the relationship between testosterone and excessive risk, and wondering if groups of men, in some basic hormonal way, spur each other to make reckless decisions.” – The End of Men, Hanna Rosin


Unsurprisingly these same traits appear on the poker table, or the poker screen. Many men are very successful initially with the high risk, decisive approach. This is taken as a sign of strength, confidence and competence.

Women tend to want to take longer and initially this will appear as a weakness. It may contribute to the fact that this trait is seen as indecisiveness makes other players regard this as a weakness and play even more aggressively toward them.

It has long been established that in general women tend to be more co-operative that men. However looking deeper at the research it shows that women are more likely to compete where they believe they can succeed. It’s a phenomenon known as the cheetah complex. The cheetah cannot afford to expend energy chasing its food if there is not much probability of catching it. It therefore chooses it’s times of action extremely carefully and will only commit to the chase if the odds are heavily stacked in its’ favour. In some regard women regard competition in that light,

Female are far more likely to engage in competitive activities where the environment does not inherently disadvantage women, female are more likely to be successful. This would pretty much sums up the real, or perceived, growth in online gaming. This would appear to be a major reason for the steady growth and success of women over the past decade or so.

As men and women develop their poker skills they tend to be more aware of their own and others’ strengths and weaknesses and adapt their game accordingly. This element of learning is critical in the development of top poker players.

Men, in general, seem more comfortable learning in a challenging environment. They tend to be less concerned about taking a new approach and losing. Women are far less comfortable with this and tend to want to build their learning slowly and steadily in a safe environment. The advent of the internet appears perfect. Woman can learn skills anonymously without the stress and strain of failure having a big impact.

The area of development they seem to need to push them to the next level comes from the socialisation and developing the relationships they need. This is the stage many females seem trapped in, the step from online playing to face to face playing.  The environment is now no longer felt to be safe and a number of talented players will retreat to the safety of the computer.

One approach has been women only tournaments. This allows women to take the step from internet to tournament play in a safer environment and seems to be a sensible approach.


In an article in ‘The Atlantic’ last year, ‘The End of Men’ – Hanna Rosin looks at the cultural balance between men and women and the role they have in the future. The female traits of empathy, developing relationships, producing more workable solutions seem to be what businesses want and need these days. The concluding paragraph;

“Innovative, successful firms are the ones that promote women. The same Columbia-Maryland study ranked America’s industries by the proportion of firms that employed female executives, and the bottom of the list reads like the ghosts of the economy past: shipbuilding, real estate, coal, steelworks, machinery.“ –

It seems inevitable, to Hanna Rosin, that the future at the very top of businesses around the world, will be led by females. The skills and talents required have moved over the past few decades from the physical to the cerebral. The focus has changed from processes and control to creativity and people.

The poker world is no different.  At the very top level where everyone knows the rules, the odds, the techniques it’s not about aggression or experience. It’s about instinct and reading people. Traits women seem to have more than men.


In general this is what the evidence tells us.  It’s not every man and every woman – it’s nothing you can point to an individual and say – “this is how you are”. It’s a generalisation based on evidence. Evidence as a percentage – a majority – a best guess. There are many, many men and women who will not fall into the broad categories outlined below. I know this. You really don’t need to point this out to me.


Reactance, Transactional Analysis and the Committee


Applicants for membership will be interviewed by the Club Captain, Lady Captain or Junior Organiser, as appropriate, who may in their absolute discretion reject or provisionally approve the application. No reason shall be given to any applicant in the event of rejection.

In most golf clubs there are rules, codes, laws, does and don’t. There are things you must do, things you shouldn’t do and things you had definitely better do. It’s all a little childish, don’t you think?

Let me state my reasons;

I am not a 6 year old child. I do not need to be told what I must do on and off the course. As a result of seeing a large notice telling me that I need to go to the toilet to pee my instinct (and I guess I’m not the only one that thinks this way) is to do the opposite. This is not good on any level;

It’s not far off bullying and people (including me) tend to react badly to bullies or to anyone telling them what to do; telling children to eat up their cabbage, telling people they are no longer allowed to take strike action, and telling female golfers they should only use the lounge after 7;30 p.m. All seem to provoke a reaction.

The appropriate length of shorts is three inches or less above the knee. Shorts that fall below the knee are not permitted”

Psychologically it brings in a theory called reactance – investigated by Jack Brehm. Brehm discovered that when you limit the choice of individuals they tend to react against it. In a experiment with people who expressed no preference for either of 2 soft drinks he found that once you prevented people having a choice (you only supplied one type at a vending machine), people would walk a considerable distance to buy the alternate drink. If you restrict people’s freedom they will react to restore it.

You will know this if you have teenagers.

“Have a nice evening” you’ll call as they leave the house,

“Don’t tell me what to do.” They’ll reply as they slam the door.


“I’d take a 5 iron and lay up if I were you.”

“Oh really”

Junior Members are not permitted to play before 11.00am at weekends, except in designated competitions or matches and with the prior permission of Match & Handicap.

So why do golf clubs insist on treating adults like children?

Walk briskly between shots and if possible decide which club to use for your next shot before you reach the ball

Do not take an excessive number of practice swings”

Another psychological theory called Transactional Analysis looks at this. Some people, especially people with self-esteem issues, tend to over compensate in their interactions with people by becoming ‘critical parents’. They tend to adopt the ‘I know better than you’ point of view, which in their mind means ‘I want to prove I’m a better person than you.”. These people behave by blaming, shouting, finger-pointing, belittling, and assuming the air of authority. The natural reaction for people on the other side of this is to turn into children; sulking, door-slamming, disobeying. This is why there is a fair amount of resentment built up, a good deal of moaning, wingeing and whispering in corners and often some quiet heated disagreements.

For me the situation of being told what to do strikes a chord with some childhood experiences. It smacks (no pun intended) of being told off and having to be punished. I remember similar pronouncements from my schooldays – “Children found running in the corridor will be reported to the Headmaster”. “Pupils failing to wear the correct attire for gym will be reported to the Headmaster”.

Guests taking dinner in the evening or late afternoon will be required to wear Jacket and Tie.

My line of thought now tends to be; “How old am I? I’m not that keen on being treated like a five year old child at this time in my life.” Added to this annoyance there would be some reactance kicking in. I’d remember in school where a teacher told me to stop playing with your pen. Even though I had no intention of playing with my pen that’s all I could now think about. Psychologically I’m trying to get that freedom of choice back.

In the golfing situation it would instil the same reaction. I may well obey the instruction though as there will be other factors creeping in. I may well obey a great many instructions for quite a well.. In the short term the problem would be solved.

However there would come a time where there would be a critical mass of resentment built up and there would be problems. Presumably I wouldn’t be the only person on the receiving end of this and pretty soon the morale of the club may well have dropped another notch. There will be more grumblings in corners about ‘nanny states’, ‘those people in their ivory towers’, ‘******* Committee members”, murmur, murmur, mumble, mumble. People don’t forget. These ‘small injustices’ never go away. They stay and come out somewhere, at some time – often inappropriately and usually with a physical, mental or financial cost – e.g. another club opens nearby and you see a mass exodus.

Our staff are empowered to judge whether an individual is acceptably dressed and to take appropriate action.

Now, I’m not advocating anarchy, as such. There are things that I will do; I will not cheat at golf, I will shout ‘fore’ if my drive is heading toward anyone, I will rake the bunker. I will stay quiet while people tee off. I do not need an edict from the Committee to tell me this.

As a suggestion I would just like people to think about the effect of their communication.. In terms of treating people when communicating do you communicate as a Parent, Child or Adult? A more productive ‘adult’ communication would entail some background, an explanation of the problem, the potential implications if the issue isn’t resolved and a suggestion. It would be even better if there was an offer of some dialogue. It’s what you would like isn’t it? It’s treating people like adults. It’s not difficult.

Rules for tipping: Professional staff – Do not tip cash to your country club manager. It’s not only in bad taste, it could be construed as a conflict of interest (because they manage your bills), and they may also be offended at being treated like a servant. It’s not fair because the country club manager is usually the person who works hardest for you each year, but Janet and I just tip with a token gift basket of goodies. (Tipping tip: If you want to tip your club manager with a gift basket, make sure to do it in their office. If the waiters see the git, the country club manager will feel compelled to share it with them).

Background labor– I don’t consider it expected nor required to tip the dishwashers, greens keeper or those creepy hippies who mow the fairways.”

Lost Balls, Poor Swings – Why Won’t We See The Woods or The Trees?

Looking for ball just off green at 14th hole, Pyle and Kenfig

How come you walk straight past your golf ball whilst looking for it in the rough? Yet when your playing partners point it out a few seconds later, it’s sitting up in the rough, clearly visible from space but 20 yards behind where you thought it would be . Perhaps you just don’t want to see it. You want to see your ball 20 yards further on because that’s where you planned it to be. Similarly, I don’t believe in many things. I especially don’t believe in rangefinders. The ‘150 yards’ the SkyCaddie SG 2.5 declares to be the true reading should leave me a 6 iron into the 17th. However, I know it’s an 8 iron, because I’ve always hit an 8 iron from here. OK I’ve always been short but it really is just a flick with an 8 iron;

There is the story of Christopher Columbus and his voyage to the Caribbean islands. It was written that as Columbus’ ships, the Santa Maria, Nina, and Pinta, approached the islands on October 11 1492, the natives could not see them. One account describes how the shaman of the islanders noticed that the waves washing up on the shore produced an unusual pattern. From this observation the shaman realised that something unusual was happening and looked harder out to sea. Eventually he saw the ships at a fairly close range. He then had to persuade the people to also see the ships. The natives had no concept of large ships and they simply could not recognise them. In a similar vein it’s rare for a committee man to recognise slow play in his own group yet spot a shirt not tucked in 200 yards away.

If we don’t expect something to be there we don’t look. Well we look but we don’t see. There was an experiment carried out by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris that asked people to concentrate on a basketball game. Whilst the game was being played a gorilla wandered through the players (or rather a man in a gorilla suit) and hardly any of the participants noticed. They seemed to be so focused on the game, or it was so extraordinary, that it didn’t compute.

Looking beyond external physical objects how about taking a look at ourselves? Why can’t we see the poor alignment, the short backswing, the half-hearted follow through in our own game? We see this, and frequently volunteer the information, in our friends – although after a while we barely notice even this in regular playing partners.. We are so used to it, so conditioned that it becomes the ‘dead body in the study’ scenario. This is when people are so used to seeing something that they don’t really process it.

For instance, shut your eyes and think about the room you’re in. What exactly can you remember being on the walls? What’s in front of you that you see every single day? I would guess that when you actually open your eyes and look around there will be something there you will be surprised at. We see but we don’t process. In psychological terms this ‘dead body in the study’ scenario refers to a dead body you may have in the study. Every day you have to step over it to pass through the room. Initially you, of course, notice this but before long nobody seems to recognise this until you get a new person that suddenly starts screaming “You’ve got a dead body in the study!”. In golfing terms there is enormous benefit in having an outsider / coach / professional come in to look at your swing. They can actually see things that you can’t.

It’s estimated that the eyes see a billion pieces of information every second. However the brain can only process a fraction of this information – perhaps 4000 or so pieces of data. This means that there’s an awful lot of information going un-noticed. This would explain the Columbus Caribbean experience, the dead body in the study and a fair amount of golfers’ swings.

So, the moral of the story? Basically people tend to only see what they want, or expect, to see. Golfers, being a little like people, have a mental image of themselves. On the outside they may look like an excited octopus with a stick, but inside they feel they are swinging with the style and elegance of a Bradley Dredge.  Occasionally you will need someone, or a camcorder, to let you really look at your game. It’s only when you can see what’s going on that you can see what’s going wrong.

The Learning Curve, Golf and Bernard Hinault

Bernard Hinault at bottom of learning curve
Bernard Hinault – lowest point of learning curve

1. The Learning Curve – Myth

Basic Learning Curve
Basic Learning Curve

Ask anyone about ‘the learning curve’ and they’ll describe a nice, elegant smooth curve. It looks as if all you need to get through that difficult first ten years of learning to play golf is; time, an endless supply of money, patience and some resilience.

2. The Learning Curve – Reality

Real Learning Curve
Real Learning Curve

However, that hasn’t been my experience. Learning doesn’t happen in a nice smooth line. The way golfers learn is through a series of disasters interspersed with a few brief moments of pure delight. The delight is a tantalising glimpse of how the game can be played. A moment when you hit a shot as good as anyone on earth has ever played. It is as rare as a ghost orchid or a Youtan Poluo but it’s enough to make you endure the next 3 months of pain, false promise and shattered dreams.

Learning is not a curve – it’s a cross-section of the Alpine mountain stage of the Tour de France and you are Lance Armstrong. Each stage is more exhausting than the previous one. I lied when I said you were Lance Armstrong – you’re not Lance Armstrong – you’re Yauheni Hutarovich (2009 Lanterne Rouge)

How it works;

1. You think you understand golf ….. then it bites you on the bum –

2. You hit a 210 yards three wood to 6 feet ….. then you 3 putt –

3. You think you understand golf ….then it bites you on the bum.

Incidentally the best sporting quote ever was from a cyclist – Bernard Hinault – “I attack when I’m tired. In that way no-one knows I’m tired.”. Translated into golfing terms this means – when you’re playing your 7th out of the rough on a par 5 give it your full attention – make it your best shot (there’s a facile line that many a wizened golf writer would use here about counting the shots at the end of the round and that one shot you saved turning the 12 into an 11 will make all the difference. But we all know that that’s all tosh – if you’re shooting double figures on one hole the odds of getting in the top half of any competition are as likely as Tiger Woods three putting – oops hold that).

However I do feel that focusing on every shot, especially when you’re at your lowest, is fantastic for you as a person. I would recommend it unreservedly as one who has had a number of those moments when all you want to do is walk in. If anyone has played West Mon (the highest tee in Wales) you’ll know what I mean. It’s permanently cold, invariably blizzard conditions and there’s the 13th par 5 hole that starts uphill and keeps going uphill. It’s generally horrid – I’d like to see some of the spoilt US PGA pros leaving the South Coast of US to play a Cock of the North league match at Tredegar and Rhymney, West Mon or Mountain Ash. /RANT

Now focusing on your 6th approach shot to the green when your clothes are as wet and cold as they used to be when you went out in the rain as a small child, your lips are blue, your seven extra gloves are all soaking wet, you can’t feel your hands, can be a bit of a challenge – but it’s excellent if you can do it. And you’ll laugh about it later… perhaps a long time later … but you will remember that and learn from it. You’ll learn far more about yourself from the hard times, than from the easy times – trite, undoubtedly, but also absolutely true.

Bernard on top of Learning Curve
Bernard on top of Learning Curve

The Art of War

Llanbobl G.C. handbook
THE textbook for match play

Forget Niccolo Machievelli, Sun Pin, Carl Von Clausewitz, Sun Tzu. If you really want to learn the art of war, battle and conflict join the Saturday morning ball school. This
‘friendly’ ball school is all smiles, jokes, banter and laughter. Yet deep down there’s a mass of psychological insight on display borne out of decades of disappointment, heartbreak and angst.

For instance there’s a psychological condition known as reactance that was developed by Kansas psychology professor, and non golfer, Jack Brehm. He looked at how people react to change. He concluded that most people refuse to be bullied into doing anything. There’s a psychological condition in humans that refuses to be told what to do. He explored this and called it psychological reactance. He found that if someone tries to restrict our choice we tend to react by trying to restore that balance.

He carried out an experiment where people who didn’t have a preference for 2 brands of cigarettes (A and B) were observed at a vending machine. One of the brands was deliberately sold out (Brand A) and the only brand available was Brand B. Logically, it should make no difference and people would, you would guess, choose Brand B. However, people were more likely to try to find another vending machine and buy Brand A. This was all because they felt they were being forced to do something.

Now I’m not sure if the members of the ball school have been versed in the musings of Jack Brehm and his psychological theories but they all seem to use his findings instinctively. Jack Brehm is one of the many psychologists whose work has been explored and translated into practical actions by the ball school members. It’ll be demonstrated as a look, a sigh, a silence. It’ll be a look behind you as you’re stepping up to a twenty foot putt and a sharp intake of breath and a helping word;
“Don’t take any notice of me but this putt’s more uphill than it looks. It’s really difficult to judge and well, if it were me I’d lag up.”
Thereby ensuring you hit it six feet past and miss the return putt.

Or the comment on the second tee as you practice your swing;
“I see you’ve changed your swing.”
You know this is an old trick but you’re still thinking about as you’re looking for your ball in the left rough.

Or you’re playing well on an unfamiliar course and approach the par 3 with a long iron. You notice your colleagues have all got drivers out. They’re not exactly telling you to hit a driver but there’s the assumption that you should. You recognise this is a ploy now so confidently hit your 3 iron into the pond.

Or you’re settling over a 6 foot putt. The innocent question,
“Are you putting for a 5 or 6?”
You lift your head, start counting and by the time you take your putt you’ve forgotten the line, the distance, everything and leave it a foot short.

Now these examples are fairly standard, innocent even… for the first dozen holes. For the last few holes though things change. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing for the club championship or a pound coin – the tactics are the same. There are some people who play differently when it comes to money. There’s a different mentality that kicks in – not meanness but … some kind of primal instinct. There are a number of golfers that play differently whether they’ve a score card or a £5 note in their hand.

Perhaps the area that causes more grief, stress and psychological torture is the grey, dark, undefinable world of gimmes. Gimmes are those putts that are conceded by your opponent when it’s obvious you would hole them… well that’s one definition of gimmes. Another definition is that it’s a device for psychologically wounding and damaging your opponent. The best psychological demonic experts can break weaker players with just a few words.

It’s demonstrated at the ball school with the 4 balls playing in pairs with a pound for
the winning pair. For the first 12 holes its…
“Pick it up, it’s only 5 feet for goodness sake.”
“Oh don’t be daft of course you can have that one – you can’t miss that.”
Or they’ll (in your innocent mind) very generously knock your ball back to you when you’ve just missed a putt with, “bad luck but that’s a gimme.”
However as it gets to the end of the round, and the scores are tighter it suddenly
becomes quieter on the green. You walk up to a two feet putt expecting your opponent to give it to you when suddenly they’re looking at something else and talking to their partner giving their full, total concentration.
Have they conceded it or not? You decide you’d better putt it. You hole it a little nervously when you hear “Oh, you didn’t need to putt that for pity’s sake.”
On the next hole you concede their putt and approach your four foot putt half-hoping to hear your opponent – again silence. As you settle over the putt you realise you’ve only had one or two small putts all day. In fact you’ve hardly had any putts at all. You’ve no idea of the pace of the greens. No idea how well you’re putting and you’re starting to get nervous. You know if you miss you’ll still have to the return putt – no more gimmes from now on. So you think about leaving it just a little short… which you do…. twice.

Now there’s nothing illegal in this. It is part of the game, part of the fun and the sooner you learn these new rules the sooner you can start using them on your opponents.

Aristotle and Two Looks at Change

Aristotle, known to have a temper, with ex doubles partner who wouldn’t lay up at par 5 9th

Aristotle would argue;
People don’t like change.
Golfers are people.
Therefore, golfers don’t like change.

Look 1 – Breaking The Habit
One fundamental reason people, and by inference, golfers, don’t like change is that they like the comfort of routine, custom or habit. At a basic psychological level there are 5 basic reasons they resist change; uncertainty, lack of confidence, anxiety, stress, confusion.
You spend £100 on a crash course with the pro to get rid of your slice. On the range it’s perfect. You hit ball after ball straight, straight, straight. Then you get on the first tee and all your frames of reference have gone. What do you line up with? Normally you’re aiming at the 18 tee, but now? What reference points are there in the middle of the fairway? As you prepare to hit the drive you’re really nervous. Everything seems unfamiliar – what do you do with your legs? your arms? How high do you tee it up now?
Anxiety creeps in. (by the way anxiety has best been defined as the anticipation of pain – it’s not the pain itself).
You hit a bad shot and the stress builds. For the past 6 months you’ve hit bad drives on this hole but have put it down to rushing, not warming up properly, a difficult tee shot, a big breakfast. Yet today it’s the fault of your new swing.
Stressed as you are it’s inevitable you hit the next drive badly and suddenly you’re hot, sweating and barely know the general direction you’re heading for.
You return to your old ways, have a miserable round and vow never to change your swing, or anything ever again.
Look 2 – The Coping Cycle

The Coping Cycle – A model for helping golfers : Adams, Hayes and Hopson

People and golfers go through a number of stages as they go through change. In the model by Adams, Hayes, Hopson suggest that everyone has to take this journey. For some, it’s seconds (they’re shown something new – they copy it, assimilate it and move on) others never get to the end of the journey (see story 1). People give up and go back. The joy of this model is that it gives hope. Golfers, and people, need hope – they need to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

As they move along this path their performance and self-esteem fall, then rise. This is inevitable – for everyone.

At the start there’s the inevitable defence and denial stage – this comes when us golfers are asked to confront our demons. We have not been playing well and although the figures, the jokes of our colleagues, the self knowledge points toward making change we rationalise… “It’s not a hook it’s a draw.”, “I’m an aggressive putter not a useless putter.”, “if it wasn’t for those 4 bad holes I would have broke 100” – any excuse to put off the pain of the first steps.

The next stage is the adaptation. This is when the change is finally happening. We’ve bit the bullet, accepted the inevitable and done something about it –new clubs, new shoes, warming up, or God forbid – even a lesson. This will be the lowest point in this whole change cycle process. Our self-esteem is at its lowest. Our performance is at its lowest. We know this is true.
When we’re working on a change to our swing all we can think of initially is your arms, your legs, your elbow, your head – anything except hitting the ball. At this stage everything else goes to hell. Where once it was only our driving that was bad now it’s our approach game, our chipping, everything – just because you’re going through a radical change and nothing seems natural.

The trick, of course, is to stick at this and recognise that it will be better. Remember when you learnt to drive – all unnatural and strange for a long time – now it is the most straightforward process you could think of.

Eventually we work through the stage and it just becomes how it is. This is how our swing is. We’ve internalised and adapted and we’re hitting it better – further, straighter …. It’s at this point that our putting goes to hell ………………

2 short articles on interviewing

of course I love you

1. Interviewing – First Love

“Not surprisingly, interview specialists have found it extraordinarily difficult to persuade most employers to adopt the structured interview. It just doesn’t feel right. For most of us, hiring someone is essentially a romantic process, in which the job interview functions as a desexualized version of a date. We are looking for someone with whom we have certain chemistry, even if the coupling that results ends in tears and the pursuer and the pursued turn out to have nothing in common. We want the unlimited promise of a love affair. The structured interview, by contrast, seems to offer only the dry logic and practicality of an arranged marriage. “ – Malcolm Gladwell (‘The New-Boy Network’)


2. Interviewing – First Contact

Log on to the internet and google “interview” and “first impressions” and you will come up with over a million matches. The vast, vast, vast majority of the results are practically identical. To save time I’ll précis this information for you;

“Turn up at the right address, on time. Wear clothes. Don’t be late. Bring a firm handshake. Don’t kill any of the interviewers and smile.”

Paradoxically when interviewers are being trained there is almost as much advice telling them to ignore first impressions. It goes by a range of names; self-fulfilling prophecy, stereotyping, horns and halo effect (of which more later), interview-enhancing behaviour, etc. yet they all amount to more or less the same thing. This is the basic advice that has been handed down by interviewer trainer to interview consultant to interviewing facilitator from generation to generation and pretty much consists of the following;

Research indicates that interviewers decide which interviewee will get the job within the first X minutes and then spend the rest of the interview confirming their initial analysis; i.e. if they like the candidate they ask easy questions and treat the responses more favourably. Or, if they take a dislike to the candidate they will ask difficult questions and look less favourably on their answers. As interviewers you must fight against this, and remain totally objective.

(The value of X is any possible single integer – depending on age, laziness, of trainer.)


Executive Stress

First appeared in ‘Financial World’ (UK)
From the late 1920s stress has been defined as a “fight or flight” reaction to a threat, or a perceived threat. This definition by Walter Cannon now appears to be incomplete and research also suggests that the order is wrong.

Jeffrey Gray, amongst others ethologists, redefines the onset of stress as having three distinct stages – freeze, flight and only then fight.

The initial stage, “the freeze response”, is described as a state of hyper-vigilance (being on guard, watchful, or hyper-alert). This “stop, look, and listen” stage is associated with fear. Ethological research has demonstrated that prey that remain “frozen” during a threat are more likely to avoid detection.

Following this initial freeze response, the next response in the sequence is an attempt to get away from the danger. Once that option has been exhausted, there is an attempt to fight. These reactions always occur in this order.

These observations within the animal world are still thought to apply to humans as a hangover from primitive times. When we get into stressful situations the body automatically carries out a number of functions:

  • Firstly it discharges large amounts of adrenalin into the blood stream.
  • It shuts down the digestive system to allow an increased blood flow to the muscles.
  • It thickens the blood so that if the organism is cut, the blood will clot quickly.
  • These chemicals stay in the body and cause the symptoms we associate with stress these days – upset stomach, palpitations, heart disease, depression, etc.

Today a modern financial executive is more likely to encounter stress with a last minute presentation to the board, rather than being attacked by a wild animal. Yet the same stages are involved. We’ve all experienced the freeze response – or denial response, as some psychologists interpret the threat. It takes the form of: “Why me?” This is followed by the flight option. This can be quite tempting at the time, and occasionally the stress is so bad that flight – physically or emotionally – is the only way out.

However, more often than not the final option kicks in. This inevitably manifests itself as the “challenge”. The CFO has to respond as rationally and calmly as possible whilst the adrenaline builds up. Once or twice this is good. However, over a number of months, or years, it can eventually cause headaches, ulcers, etc as well as potential psychological and behavioural problems – depression, sleeplessness, etc.

The timing of stress is different from executive to executive. Graham Beasant, director of Finance and Corporate Resources at theUK’s Central Office of Information (COI), feels stress for him has an almost seasonal element: “I feel more pressure from April to June due to the end of the financial year and the preparation of COI’s annual report. During this time there are deadlines placed on COI by Parliament, the public and auditors.”

Maurice Phillips, finance director, Southdown Housing Association identified different aspects of the job as having more stress: “If you have a chance to work in finance then you will realise that most finance jobs are very busy in any organisation and stress comes with the nature of the work. The higher you go the more demanding and stressful the job becomes.”

Stress isn’t all bad though – we need some stress in our lives in order to perform – those last minute energy rushes to meet a deadline, the adrenaline that gives you the ability to see sharper, hear more and react quicker when placed in uncomfortable situations. We need stress – without it life would be incredibly boring. On the positive side stress is a source of motivation and a necessary component to survival. But it’s this excessive or prolonged stress that inevitably takes a toll on health.

A recent development in the study of stress links to control – the less control people have over their lives the more stress they tend to have. In terms of management within organisations, occupational psychologist Cary Cooper says: “Senior managers have ‘a sense of control’ … they feel they’re involved in decision-making. Research over the last couple of decades has shown that people who feel they have no control, no autonomy over the job they do in the workplace are likely to get a stress-related illness.”

How much control, as employers and managers do we have over these factors? Quite a bit, it would seem. Many of these factors relate to job design and communicating expectations – these are probably within the control of managers. Some organisations seem to take these factors very seriously indeed and many have introduced schemes for managing stress amongst their workforce.

Patricia Galloway

200bwpatgalloway.jpgDr Patricia Galloway has recently completed her term as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). She is the first woman in the organization’s 152 year history to hold that office.

She has been appointed by President Bush to the National Science Board. The Board is composed of 24 part-time members, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. They are selected on the basis of their eminence in basic, medical, or social sciences, engineering, agriculture, education, research management or public affairs. Dr. Galloway has been appointed for a six-year term.

She is CEO and CFO of the Nielsen-Wurster Group. The Group, was founded in New York City in 1976 by Chris Nielsen. It is a 150-person construction management company with offices at 345 Wall Street. She became president of Nielsen-Wurster in 1999, and was appointed CEO in 2001, when Chris Nielsen, whom she married 20 years ago, stepped down. Pat had joined the firm in 1981 and has taken on consulting projects that took her all over the world – 84 countries, and counting;

Pat on her first job assignment;
“My first job assignment was as a tunnel inspector on a deep rock tunnel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was the first woman to serve as a tunnel inspector on this project, which was a wastewater treatment project. At the pre-construction meeting with the contractor, the older Italian male owner of the company pointed at me and said, “That woman will not be allowed in my tunnel!” My project manager just calmly responded that he would gladly award the project to the next lowest bidder the next day. I was mortified and could not believe that someone would not allow me to work because I was female!”

On working for Nielsen-Wurster;
“At Nielsen-Wurster they throw you off a pier and if you swim, they let you swim as far as you can. I have been fortunate to work on the Panama Canal, the Xianghli dam in China, the City Link Toll Road in Melbourne Australia, the Tsing Ma Bridge in Hong Kong, a multi-purpose irrigation project in Northern Lugon in the Philippines, and the Kuala Lumpur Malaysian International Airport.”

On her life outside work:
I have four stepdaughters and a wonderful Border collie dog named Rings, who travels with me everywhere I go domestically. You might ask how I can fly everywhere with my dog. Well, I have my own plane! In fact, I am President of a women-owned enterprise called Unionville Aviation. We own two planes that are mostly used for business travel with my company, as well as charter flights. We employ a full time pilot, but my husband and I are also private pilots.

I interviewed her in April 2007

Q. What situations cause you the most stress?
It can be stressful when there are lots of deadlines, lots of quality issues. I usually have a very busy schedule with high quality, tight deadlines – it can get very stressful.

Q: How do you cope at these times?
I’m lucky in that I really do love what I’m doing. I could imagine I would feel a lot more stressed doing a different job. My Work life balance is important. I enjoy my time off.
For instance, I had a very busy, stressful period a number of weeks ago. It was very difficult but I took the whole weekend off and never touched the computer once. I came back on Monday more refreshed and more effective than ever.

Q. What support mechanisms have you?
I have a very understanding husband who knows the business, the pressures. I also have a dog that doesn’t. It’s very important to have people to talk to.

Q. What support is there for employees in your Organisation?
This is similar to how I manage my stress. We have an open door policy – all employees are welcome to talk to me. There is a mentoring scheme within the organisation – “an open ear” for all employees. It’s important that people have a system of release. Everyone needs to be able to vent.

Q. Is there different stresses for your different roles within the Company?
I am the Financial Executive as well as a CEO. I find the finance aspect extremely stressful. Managing money is a very stressful item as you always have to watch the bottom line. You need to make sure you’re constantly on top of things with invoices etc…
An added burden for CFOs is facing a lot of questions from the board, shareholders who want to know why things can’t be done better, cheaper, etc..

Q. Is there a time when you’ve been under more than your usual amount of stress?
A few years ago I became the first female president of ACSE and found it very rewarding but very stressful. I had little control over engagements, travel, expert witness testimony, etc.. It was a fixed term appointment and I was relieved at the end of the period to return to my ‘normal’ stressed CFO and CEO role. I probably had more travel, more deadlines to meet but I felt calmer as I had more control of my schedule. It was a great opportunity as president but for me was a more stressful.

Q. Any final thoughts on stress and control?
I feel stress and control go hand in hand. I can imagine that it would be very stressful for executive directors of public companies. They would have less control and more stress.