I recently got the opportunity to participate in an out-of-town golf meet arranged by a popular travel company, as part of their efforts at promoting a beautiful part of the country as a tourist destination. In my post-Corporate life, since I now do not have influence over spending a large company’s large budget and resources in favour of a particular service-provider, for valid reasons of course, such opportunities are few and far between. Being a considerate person, I considered whether it would be fair to accept the offer or not, since I may not be in a position to influence the movement of a large corporate’s large budget towards a particular vendor, for valid reasons of course. And since, like any normal self-respecting male, I don’t suffer from debilitating diseases like scruples and morality, after due reflection, I grabbed it eagerly.
The four-ball (a group of four people who play a game of golf together) groupings were decided based on handicap (indicator of competence, or incompetence in my case, in golf), as they normally are for such a motley collection of people. My four-ball included some people. I mean regular folks. Like me. And, it included the CEO of a large company, controlling revenues of over a billion dollars which, by any standard, is BIG.
I was, obviously, thrilled to be playing with the CEO of a large company. You don’t do that every other day. I was also equally apprehensive. I had to be on my best behaviour lest he put me in his proverbial “little black book” effectively ruling out future employment with a large corporation.
He apparently had the same handicap as me which is why we had been clubbed together in the same four-ball. I was surprised at first, me sharing a handicap with a CEO, but I am sure stranger things have happened. Rather than worry about the how and why of it, I figured it would make more sense to look at the positive aspects of the situation. I made a mental note to make a mention of this on my Resume as soon as I got back home, so that potential hirers would know that with a handicap like that, I could also be in the running for the next CEO role becoming available.
But back to the game.
I was looking forward to valuable golf lessons on the course. Everyone knows golf lessons are expensive and cost an arm and a leg which is why I have stayed away from them, and from driving-ranges of all shapes and sizes, lest a roving coach coax me into believing that I need lessons. Here was an opportunity to get lessons for free. Even though the level of his game was the same as mine, I was looking forward to all the great tips he would give me on the course. CEOs, we all know, are good at telling others what to do without having a clue of how to do it themselves. I emptied a full packet of earbuds cleaning out my ear-wax so that I did not miss any of his tips through a stray collision of his nuggets with lingering ear-wax before they reached the eardrum.
On my part, I was planning to give the CEO lessons in counting. Quid pro quo. Fair deal. He gives me golf lessons. I give him counting lessons. One to eight, since beyond eight in golf it ceases to count, or matter. As CEOs have people for doing most of the mundane and menial tasks for them, it has been reported that they sometimes become deficient in basic areas of human knowledge. Like counting. This becomes more evident on the golf course where they have to count the number of strokes they took to complete the hole and normally forget to count a few. I was certain the CEO would need help with counting and I was eager to show my knowledge by helping him count correctly and make a lasting impression with my counting prowess.
Besides, we would not need to worry about having to wait for the four-ball ahead of us to finish a hole so that we could tee-off. Surely the CEO would have important business to conduct which can only be done when he is on a golf-course, while informing the caller about that fact (of him being on the golf course). This would clearly open up a distance between us and the four-ball ahead. Of course the group behind us might complain but surely they would see the need for the CEO to conduct business on the course. The benefit for me was that we could take our time over shots and walk slowly. Since I was just getting over a bout of fever it was a big benefit, especially since carts were not available.
Anyone who has strayed onto a course (different from straying on a course which most of us do between tee and pin), and who has played the game knows that at any point there are probably a million things one needs to keep in mind while addressing the ball. Like “keep your head down”. Like “take a slow backswing”. Like “complete your follow through”. Like “keep the left elbow straight”. And, at any time, any one of these million can go wrong, leading to unintended consequences for the ball. The ball either going anywhere but where intended, or stubbornly not going anywhere at all.
To this was added item no. one million and one, “ignore the ringing mobile phone”. Of the CEO naturally. Conducting business on the golf course. Though a challenge to handle the one million and oneth item, the eternal optimist in me was looking forward to this opportunity as a learning experience which would stand me in good stead in future life when I would be playing with more CEOs. Most people get stuck at the million. I was boldly going to go where few had gone before. I was whistling a joyful tune and striding boldly.
By the end of the game, I was thoroughly disenchanted and in a foul mood. I did not once get an opportunity to correct his counting. He could count correctly upto eight. Not just eight, but, can you believe it, he could count well into two digits, which is what he did on three holes and had to be told to stick to eight. He did not seem very happy about being told what to do. While readying to strike the ball, I was providing for ignoring the last-minute mobilephone ring as I was preparing to hit a shot, and I was distracted because that ring never rang. How do you ignore something that is not there? I got no lessons on the course. On the contrary he asked for help with his swing after a few mishits. We had to walk fast and keep playing as he did not do any business on the course. In fact, to rub salt into my wounds, he said that he had not brought his mobile along as it might be a disturbance on the course, and had left it in the locker.
I looked at him, aghast. Who was this guy? Was this a CEO I just played a round of golf with? What right did he have to play with the persona and image of CEOs that has been so carefully constructed, polished and maintained by a long sequence of legendary CEOs before him.
If this is what CEOs are like, I don’t want to play with them ever again. It is like playing with a person. I may as well play with any person.
Immediately after the game I invited the other “persons” at the meet for a beer and a discussion. This was important. I narrated the events on the course to the group. There was disbelief at first, then widespread condemnation of his behaviour, followed by concerns that this was a disease that could spread and destroy the ideals set by his illustrious predecessors. One person in the group wanted to know if it was a contagious disease in which case we would need to take immediate steps as the CEO in question was interacting with others at the meet. Another expressed that our youngsters will not have any role-models to look up to. We will have a generation bereft of direction.
At a personal level, I was also concerned that the reputation I have built as a writer of corporate satire, will be in tatters. I will have nothing to write about.
Back from the meet, we, as a group of responsible citizens with the interest of society at heart, have petitioned our local councillor for setting up some basic standards for CEO hiring, for the sake of the development of the nation. The councillor came across as a reasonable man and joined us in expressing concern. He was a golfer himself. He has promised to take up the matter at the right forum.
I am also planning to send the CEO an invoice for the advice he asked for on the course.
More suggestions are welcome. This is important.