Closing Is What Matters

John Whitaker Innovation, Uncategorized

Oh man, that was really painful to watch. One shot down, one hole to go, and Dustin Johnson pipes two perfect shots that only a select few humans can even dream of. Striding up the 18th fairway, “DJ” had the walk of a gun-slinger—all he was missing was a six-shooter and a black duster.

Unfortunately, in professional golf, you don’t make your money on the first two shots. You make your money closing the deal.

Standing on the “green” (subjective, considering it was actually several shades of brown), 12′ 7″ from a legendary finish and golf immortality, the entire tournament now rested on the flat blade. Make the putt, the world is your oyster. Make it in two putts and you live to play another day in a play-off, on a course on which you have a decided advantage. Yup, things looked pretty good for Dustin.

Until his third putt.

Have you been in this spot before? So close, so unbelievably close to making a huge impact in your personal or professional life, only to come up short (or in this case, go wide right?) I certainly have, and it stings. Have you seen this in your employees, your colleagues, or even your supervisor? Great initiatives, great ideas, great all-around concept—but in the end, nothing actually happens. In my own experience, I can relate a few examples about why this might happen. What can you add to the list?

1. Fear of failure ~ At some point, innovation requires the very real possibility of making mistakes. Johnson was certainly not in this category; he put himself in position to win by taking (and executing) incredibly difficult tasks. He missed the first put by firing it 4 feet past the cup, not by leaving the putt short. It doesn’t hurt any less, but taking the risk at least shows you have the heart for the fight. Instead of stopping short, it may require you to make a presentation up the ladder, put your neck out a little bit and take your chances.

2. Distractions kill closing ~ This may have been Dustin’s undoing—we won’t know unless he tells us—but can you imagine taking a 4 ft. putt in front of millions of people? I know I’m guilty of thinking of the “next” big idea while still working on Idea #1. Pretty soon, I’ll have 10 really big ideas, none of which are getting my full attention. It takes focus, dedication, and sometimes selfishness (it’s your time to give) to put the closing touches on a deal.

3. There was never a contingency plan ~ Coaching baseball, I constantly remind my players to ask themselves “what if?” before every pitch. “What if…” the ball is hit to me, the ball is hit to the gap, the runner breaks early, the batter decides to bunt… “What if?” A situation that has bounced my work on more than one occasion, “What if the decision-maker changes before my project is completed?” There is a graveyard full of dead deals that were kiboshed by the “new guy” at the 11th hour. I never thought to consider a succession plan until it was too late.

The reason this particular post came to mind was an observation I had in a meeting last week. In the room, there was discussion of some of the new advances, techniques, apps, etc. that were having an impact in the staffing world. There is no shortage of innovation right now in our world, and that should be a positive, but (and this is a Kardashian-size but) not at the risk of missing your opportunity to close on the items already on your plate. Instead of focusing on the “next” big thing, focus on completing your current “thing.”

Most of us are within 12′ of a major victory if we focus on completing the task at hand. There’s an old golf adage about putts of significance: “Never up, never in.” In other words, stopping short guarantees a loss. If Dustin Johnson did teach us one thing about himself, it’s that he’s not afraid to take a risk—even if the result wasn’t favorable, he played to win.

FOT Note: This post is sponsored by the good folks at CareerBuilder.com, who care so much about the world of recruiting and human resources that they’ve become an annual sponsor at FOT.  Here’s where it gets good: As part of the CareerBuilder sponsorship, FOT contributors get to write anything we want on a monthly basis, and CareerBuilder doesn’t get to review it.  We’re also doing a monthly podcast called the “Post and Pray Podcast,” which is also sponsored by CareerBuilder.  Good times.

John Whitaker
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is Vice President of Talent Acquisition for DentalOne Partners and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.