Are you a productive leader?

March 1, 2022
Tom Moriarty says understand the aspirations of your direct reports so you can tailor mentoring to match each individual.

Back in the 1920s and 1930s, a professional golfer named Tommy Armour was at the pinnacle of his sport. He had won all of the major golf tournaments of the day: the 1927 U.S. Open, the 1930 PGA Championship, and the 1931 British Open. After his competitive career was over, Armour spent his winters in Boca Raton, FL. In the morning he gave swing lessons and tutored golfers on finer points of competitive golf. During the afternoons, he played in high stakes matches to make a few bucks.

Human Capital

This article is part of our monthly Human Capital column. Read more from Tom Moriarty.

One day, Armour was in the locker room and overheard one of the guys he had given lessons to making a bet with another golfer that he could break 90 during that day’s round. Armour offered to back his student, as long as he would be able to give the player advice. With the conditions agreed to and the bet set very high, the round began.

The first hole was a long par four. Armour’s player sliced a long drive into deep rough. His second shot was 170 yards to the middle of the green, which was elevated and guarded by several traps. The player grabbed a five-iron and prepared to try a difficult shot to the green. Armour said, “Put the five-iron back. You’re going to play an eight-iron to the fairway thirty yards short of the green. Then you’re going to chip up through the opening between the sand traps to the green. The worst you’ll make is a five. If you go for the green and mis-hit that five-iron just a little bit, you’re looking at a six or seven.” The player was smart enough to pay attention to what Armour was telling him. He played the eight-iron shot, chipped up and sank the par putt. A similar scenario played out for the rest of the round, with Armour giving the player advice, and the player taking his advice. The tally at the end of the round was indeed under 90. In fact, the duffer actually shot a 79! Eleven strokes better than the wager.

Armour had transferred his thought process. He knew the player’s capability and devised a strategy that would achieve the objective. He didn’t change how the player swung the club or the player’s equipment. He simply mentored-passed on advice and knowledge.

When a person decides they want to move into a leadership role, there has to be a shift in their performance. It’s like a golfer wanting to break 90. They can’t keep doing what they’ve always done and expect a different result. Changing your level of responsibility requires that you change some of what you’ve always done. Organizations have a span of control-the ratio of leaders to their direct reports. A proper span of control allows a leader to get to know their direct reports-their strengths and weaknesses and aspirations.

Recently I was giving a Productive Leadership workshop at a large commercial facility. None of the attendees could recall any leadership training that had been provided in the past. One of the junior attendees stated that he couldn’t decide on his vision. Immediately after the workshop, I saw the person he reported to using a vision exercise from the workshop to help him clarify his vision. It was satisfying to me seeing productive leadership in action.

Whether a direct report wants to become a master tradesperson, or whether they want to advance in leadership roles, a productive leader will know that about each direct report. Productive leaders then provide mentoring to help their direct reports get there.

Get to know each of your team members. Find out what their aspirations are. Ask them about their vision for the next two to five years. What would they like to accomplish? What are the intermediate steps needed to get them there? If it’s on-the-job training, arrange for them to get those experiences. If it’s something that they need training for, build it into the training plan. Keep track of each person’s intermediate steps. Meet with them periodically to see if they are making progress. If not, why not? Help them and encourage them.

Tommy Armour understood his player’s capabilities and mentored the player giving him the missing pieces. Be like Tommy Armour. Go forth and do great things. 

This story originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.

About the Author: Tom Moriarty
About the Author

Tom Moriarty | P.E., CMRP, President of Alidade MER, Inc.

Tom Moriarty, P.E., CMRP is president of Alidade MER, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in asset management, reliability engineering, and leadership improvement. He is a member of SMRP (Florida Chapter Board Member and CED Director), a past Chair of ASME’s Canaveral Florida Section, and author of the book “The Productive Leadership System; Maximizing Organizational Reliability”. He has a BSME, an MBA (organizational development), is a licensed professional engineer (PE) in Florida, and a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP). Contact him at [email protected], (321) 773-3356, or via LinkedIn at

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