"Leading & Managing" featuring Cameron Doan of Preston Trail GC

June 6, 2011

Cameron has been a Class "A" PGA Professional since 1994. Prior to attaining his Class "A" distinction, Cameron worked for Bill Eschenbrenner at El Paso Country Club. When Bill retired, Cameron assumed the role. After his time at El Paso CC, Cameron earned the Head Professional position at Preston Trail Golf Club in Dallas, Texas, once the longtime home of the Byron Nelson Classic. During his career as a PGA Professional, Cameron has been featured on The Golf Channel and in Golf Digest. In addition, he has been recognized as the Sun Country PGA’s Player of the Year from 1996 to 1998 and by his peers as the 1997 Sun Country PGA Teacher of the Year, and the 2003 North Texas PGA Teacher of the Year.

When I asked Cameron what came to mind first when he heard the word "leader", he aptly stated,

A combination of experience, presence, confidence, humility, success and work ethic.

If you notice, everything he said are intangible characteristics. Because that is what leadership is. It's not something you can feel, touch, or see. Leadership is something you experience. So if that is what leadership is, what is management? I asked Cameron what came to mind first when he thought of the word “manager”.

Someone between the guy in charge and the guys at the bottom of the totem pole.

I asked Cameron what he thinks are the differences between the two as they relate to our jobs as golf professionals. He stated,

Leaders are involved, out front, big picture oriented. Pushing, prodding, taking charge, and taking responsibility for problems, then solving them. Managers tend to carry out someone else’s orders, play it safe, stay in the middle of the road.

In a previous article in PIFG, Bruce Carson from Onwentsia described his relationship with staff as “my staff knows that there is one chief and the rest are indians”. So when I asked Cameron about his experiences and how he feels leading and managing should be balanced when it comes to managing a staff and a golf operation, he gave some great insight that sort of reminded me of Carson’s insight:

The golf professional in charge has to be a leader. At times, he may have to manage, depending on the organizational structure and politics of a given operation. But ultimately, if he’s not a leader, he’s easily replaceable. He needs managers underneath him to carry out his vision. Some of those guys, like a first assistant, will be leaders themselves someday. Others, like a caddie master, are best suited for the manager role long-term. Good leaders find out which positions need either transition or permanent management, then fill them w/ the right skill set.

As assistant professionals, we are always trying to figure “it” out. We have staff around us and without the right approach, they will fly away and do their own thing. We have to approach them the right way. Are we leaders or are we managers? When I asked Cameron about his opinion on if the requirements of assistant professionals are more managerial, and do we become more of a leader when we become HP? He had this to say:

Yes to both parts. The tough part is knowing how to lead when you’re not in charge. If you’re working for the right guy, he’ll teach you that, and give you opportunities to lead in certain areas, while also giving opportunities to watch leadership in action.

I then asked Cameron, with regards to leading and managing, what are the overarching principles that he wants his assistants to embrace and take with them as they move on in their career?

Leadership is understanding that when you’re the boss, everybody is watching what you do, 100% of the time. You can’t let up, you have to set an example. Keep your temper in check unless turning it loose will be productive in the long run. Give your staff the room to make decisions and mistakes on their own, once they understand what your standards are. Follow up afterwards and turn the mistakes into learning experiences. Evaluate them constantly, explain what it takes to succeed, give them suggestions on how to get their. You can’t make someone want it, but if you have someone that wants it, you can help mold them into a successful professional.

For those of us who feel like we are not taking on a leadership role at our clubs, I asked Cameron how assistant professionals can become better leaders and how can we become better managers?

Leadership - Get in the game. Hold your fellow assistants accountable. Don’t sit around waiting for someone to tell you what to do, find something to do. Come to work every day with the goal of making the club and yourself better. Managing – explain what’s expected, walk the walk yourself, and evaluate.

In wrapping things up with Cameron, we decided to bring everything full circle. I asked with respect to leadership, if he could think back to his previous bosses and current mentors and tell us what they did that set them apart and what he has learned from them?

The two men I worked for expected a lot from me, and they let me know that early and often. Their standards were high for themselves and their operations. They communicated that and lived it. They answered my questions. They gave me responsibility and supported my successes. They taught me that some positions in an operation are hard to fill and keep filled, so find a good match, illuminate strengths and hide weaknesses of those employees. Realize you’re always on stage. If you can’t handle that, you shouldn’t be in charge.