“Process” and “Spot” – How Rory McIlroy’s Big Win Can Help Your Business

British Open GolfWhether or not you play or follow golf, you may have heard that last weekend Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy won The Open Championship (British Open) and was declared “Champion Golfer of the Year”. At age 25, he is the third youngest to ever win 3 out of 4 of golf’s modern “major” championships. What you may not have heard were the two key words – “process” and “spot” – that he credited for his victory. You may also not imagine how the principles behind these words can apply to your business.

All week, McIlroy had talked about two secret words he used as his trigger for the shots he played. He said he would only reveal them if he were to win the British Open. At the post-round press conference, he was asked what these magic words were (the press had a betting pool on the words).

“Very simple,” he said, “It’s going to be a big letdown for everyone. It was ‘process’ and ‘spot.’ That was it.” (No one won the bet – the pool went to charity).

What did he mean by these words? What were his principles behind them?

“With my long shots, I just wanted to stick to my process,” he said. “The process of making a good swing, just keeping that so I wasn’t thinking about the end result, basically.” The “spot” was about his putting. “I was just picking a spot on the green and trying to roll it over my spot,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about holing it. I just wanted to roll the ball over that spot. If it went in, great. If it didn’t, then I’d try it the next hole.”

How can you apply these two simple words to your business? What can we learn from his fantastic result in using these words?

First, he kept it simple. He didn’t have five words, he had two – one for long shots, one for putting. He didn’t want to have lots of swing thoughts – he wanted to trust that his practice would pay off. His putting mantra – “spot” – is especially simple. If you roll the ball at the right spot with the right speed, it will go in. He focused on a nearby, closer target, not the hole. In your business, do you think if you focused on having meetings with more prospects, you might generate more sales? Identify and focus on a near-term, activity-based target that will predict and deliver the end results.

Second, he developed a “process” and he followed it with tremendous discipline. He didn’t elaborate, but no doubt his “process” involved envisioning the type of shot he wanted to hit, determining the yardage and correct club to hit, and his physical pre-shot routine before hitting the ball. His focus on the process removed many variables and eliminated many extraneous thoughts. If you have ever been “in the zone” playing golf or doing anything else, you probably remember not thinking about much.

In your business, identifying your core processes, documenting them, and getting everyone to follow them can lead to much more consistent, predictable results. Examples in business abound, ranging from the incredible safety record of the airline industry (the pre-flight checklist is a disciplined process) to the consistency of a McDonald’s french fry. You have processes in your business that if documented and followed with more discipline would lead to more consistent results that are less dependent on people’s memory or unique skills.

So, what did we learn last weekend from a 25-year old champion? Keep it simple – identify the processes in your business and follow them with discipline, and identify your spots and focus on hitting them. These two principles can deliver big wins for your business, too.


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