What I Wish We Could Learn From Earl Woods

by Joe Lavelle on December 14, 2009

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What I Wish We Could Learn From Earl Woods

My friend Gwen Darling issued the challenge in her latest post “When Playing a Round Becomes a Career Hazard and I can not help myself but try to take the challenge on head-on.  What is the challenge?  Take the Tiger Wood’s situation and apply it to my topic, which is career acceleration.  Gwen, please know that I couldn’t live with being labeled a chicken!  Here goes, I hope I do as well as Gwen did with her post!

I understand that there is a long line of people judging and vilifying Tiger.  Many of you may be in that camp.  It is very easy to jump on the moral bandwagon and gang up on Tiger for his admitted infidelity.   Many people I know do this same kind of ganging up on our co-workers, our boss, a vendor or other person that makes a BIG mistake or error in judgement at work.   There was an equally large number of people doing the same to Bill Clinton when he “did not have sexual relations” in the Oval Office years ago including Newt Gingrich who I will get back to in a minute.

You can put me in a whole different camp.  I feel the bigger opportunity is to rush to the assistance of the offending party.  I feel incredibly sorry for Tiger, his wife Elin, and their children.  Tiger is in deep do-do.  Everything that he values besides golf could very easily come crumbling down.  I know Tiger is embarrassed and very ashamed.

But you know what, I’d bet my BMW that if Tiger’s father was still alive, I am sure that Earl Woods would be in my camp.   He would rush to Tiger’s side and although he would firmly communicate his disappointment privately, he would offer whatever assistance he could to help Tiger repair the damage he has done.  He would commit himself to doing nothing else until he helped Tiger emerge from the mess he created.

Look, everyone makes mistakes and errors in judgement.  Some mistakes are REALLY big ones.  Was Bill Clinton’s judgement error really big?  If you ask Newt Gingrich, he may now plead the 5th because at the very same time he joined the angry mob to throw stones at President Clinton, Gingrich was having an affair of his own!  It may be that it is human nature to be highly critical of the morally fallen, but that does not make it right and it surely won’t help you accelerate your career.  In my first and probably only Biblical quote in my blog, “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

So I ask you, what if the next time someone really messed up at work, instead of jumping on the bandwagon to crucify the person further you committed your energy to helping them repair the damage they have done to their career and to the company.  What if you helped them out of the deep hole they had dug and helped protect them from the clubs and arrows of the angry mob?

I will tell you what will happen because I have made a career of jumping into the worst messes that you can imagine at my employers and my clients.  You will become very important to your company and/or your clients.  You will develop deep relationships that last a lifetime.  You will accelerate your career because your leadership in times of crisis will be observed by many.

I wish there was some way I could help Tiger and Elin, but I don’t even know them personally.  So the best I can do is stay away from the angry mob.  I will keep supporting the companies that stand by Tiger for as long as they support him.  They have all made millions and possibly billions of dollars of Tiger for years.  I will not continue to support those companies that dump him like my former employer Accenture.   Tiger led me to buy Nike balls and Nike golf shirts because of his golf and his performance, not because of his (lack of) personal demons.

In summary, my career acceleration advice from Tiger’s situation is to do what Earl Woods would do for Tiger.  Change your mindset to realize that there could be great opportunity for you to help your company and another individual when a large public mistake or gaff is made.  Avoid the bandwagon of spear throwers, especially if you are gaffing in private at the same time.

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