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Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

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Latest release on Jan 11, 2021

Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

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Rank #1: Tennessee Turfgrass Association – Member Spotlight Interview with Frank Turner

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Tennessee Turfgrass – Julie Holt, Content Director, TheTurfZone.com

The Turf Zone: Welcome to The Turf Zone. In this episode of Tennessee Turfgrass, we’re interviewing Frank Turner, General Manager of Tennessee Green Lawn and Landscape and recipient of the Tom Samples Turfgrass Professional of the Year. Frank, thanks so much for talking to me.

Frank Turner: Thanks for having me, I appreciate the opportunity.

TTZ: Well, I’m going to just start at the beginning. Let’s go way back, and tell me a little bit about how you got into the turfgrass industry.

FT: Sure. I started when I was probably in high school, maybe after my senior year, I took a job at a golf course in Middle Tennessee, in Hendersonville. It was Bluegrass Country Club, and I’d played golf before, I enjoyed the game of golf, and it was just an opportunity for a summer job, so I took that after graduating high school. My freshman year in college I was planning to major in forestry, and noticed quite a few students in that program, this was the early 70s and I think everybody wanted to be in forestry, so it looked like the job market might not be that favorable after four years, so I decided to change my major and went and talked to the department head at UT and found out that they offered a program in turfgrass management and so I changed my major going into my sophomore year.

TTZ: And you had the privilege of having as your advisor Dr. Callahan, is that right?

FT: Yes, Dr. Lloyd Callahan was my advisor and I still remember speaking to him the very first time, asking him about job possibilities and what the program was like and he was my advisor throughout my four years at UT.

TTZ: So what happened after your studies at UT? How did you start actually working in the business?

FT: Again, Dr. Callahan was instrumental in pretty much all of the golf course jobs that I got after I graduated from UT, indirectly or directly. He had encouraged me to apply for a scholarship from the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association, which was the Charlie Danner Scholarship, and I was fortunate enough to receive that award. Charlie Danner was a golf course superintendent that was noted in the southeast. He was the superintendent at Richland Country Club in Nashville at one time. He was also superintendent at Capitol City Country Club in Atlanta, and he was noted at the time for converting bermudagrass greens to bentgrass greens, which is somewhat ironic in that now we’re converting bentgrass back to bermudagrass. I received that scholarship award and was asked to apply for the position of assistant superintendent at Capitol City Country Club in Atlanta and I took that job, was there for about two-and-a-half years before moving back to Tennessee and a superintendent’s position at Graymere Country Club in Columbia, Tennessee.

TTZ: And have you stayed in Tennessee since then?

FT: Yes, I was in Columbia for about six years. In October of 1986, I took the superintendent’s job at Cherokee Country Club in Knoxville and was there from 1986 to 1998. I’m thankful that I was given an opportunity with the Litton Cochran family here in Knoxville to form a landscape department and build that department, supervise that department and we maintained their properties. They were owner-operators of 31 McDonald’s restaurants in and around Knoxville, and we worked exclusively for them and within their company just maintaining their properties. And then in October of 2018, Mr. Cochran decided to retire, and he sold a number of his stores, but still kept nine of them. And so I had to make a decision what I was going to do next. Because nine stores was not going to keep myself, and four men that work with me, busy 40 hours a week. So Mr. Cochran and I talked it over and with his financial backing and his business and professional experience, we decided to form our own lawn and landscape company and we did that and we continued to maintain the nine stores that he currently still owns, and we have picked up additional commercial and residential accounts to build our business.

TTZ: So we’ve gotten to current day with your work in turfgrass, but I’ve got to rewind a little because something that I think you and Dr. Callahan had in common was a commitment to the TTA, to Tennessee Turfgrass Association. You’ve shared with me some information about the history of it, and I’d love to hear your impression of how TTA has grown and changed over the years.

FT: I have some great, great memories of TTA conferences and the association going back all the way to January 1981, which was my first TTA conference as a superintendent. In those days, Dr. Callahan was primarily responsible for the program, and we always had a great program, but one thing that was different from today is that we would have a banquet on either Monday or Tuesday night of the conference. Everybody would come, you’d wear a coat and tie, they would have a social hour, an open bar that everybody enjoyed for the hour before the banquet. We got to spend time with each other, and then we’d have the banquet. There’d be a few awards, not as many as there are now. Usually it was just a scholarship to a student, and I think they would announce the new board of directors, the new officers at the time. And then we also had entertainment after the banquet. There was all sorts of entertainment. There was an entertainment committee. There was one year there was a magician, one year there was a comedian. We had some country music and bluegrass performers come and entertain us. So it was always interesting and exciting to see who was going to be the entertainment for the night. Another thing that was interesting or different was that the major companies, like the Jacobsen distributor, the Toro distributor, some of the other bigger companies would have a hospitality suite somewhere in the hotel. In those days we were in the Roadway Inn, down on Briley Parkway. On one of the upper floors, some of these companies would have hospitality suites and instead of going out to eat dinner, which we do now a lot of times, everybody would just jump on the elevator and go up to the sixth floor or wherever the suite was, and they would have plenty of stuff to eat and drink and there would be people standing out in the halls, the doors would be wide open and we’d just have a great time at those hospitality suites. There might even be a card game going on in one of the other rooms. Everybody stayed right there and it was just a great time.

TTZ: Definitely those conferences have changed through the years, and certainly doing it virtually is a – we’ll call it new, necessary way of conducting the conference, but even if there are no hospitality suites and card games, we’ve definitely got some incredible researchers and educators coming into the conference. Is that something that you’ve been a part of helping develop for the association?

FT: You know, that’s probably been the biggest change in the turfgrass industry in Tennessee is how the University has built the turf program. When I was in school there, Dr. Callahan was the only professor and I think he taught maybe two undergrad classes in turfgrass management and there was one upper-level graduate course that was maybe a design course and that was the extent of it. Any other information we received was from the plant and soil science side, and we got good information, good knowledge, but it was never really directed at turfgrass management, it was more a crop science, you know weed science in soybeans, something like that. So when Dr. Callahan retired and Dr. Sorochan came on board, well actually even before that, when Dr. Samples came on board as an extension specialist. Again, Dr. Callahan was doing all things – in the university there’s research, there’s extension, and there’s teaching – those three branches, and Dr. Callahan was doing all three. He was teaching classes, he was conducting research, and then he was on call for extension. When people would call and ask turf questions, he would be the one that would field that. We got Dr. Samples in there to sort of take over the extension wing. And then when Dr. Callahan retired, UT hired Dr. Sorochan and he has just continued to build the program where now we have Dr. Brosnan with weed science, Dr. Horvath with pathology and diseases, and it’s just continued to grow and I’ve been amazed at how big. If you look at the field days, how many more people are attending field days and the number of sponsors, it’s just grown and grown, and I’m not that familiar with all the other universities in the country right now, but I would guess that Tennessee is probably one of the premiere universities in turfgrass management because of all the work that Dr. Sorochan, Dr. Brosnan and Dr. Horvath have done.

TTZ: In thinking about the changes you’ve seen in not only education, but in the industry in general, what would you say is the biggest change at large in the industry from the time you started managing turfgrass until now?

FT: Certainly one of the things is what I mentioned earlier, that when I was first getting into the industry, courses in the south were, I don’t want to say struggling, but most of the courses in the south at that time probably had bermudagrass greens and they were slowly converting to bentgrass greens, because at the time bentgrass was a superior putting surface. Now we’ve gone almost a full 360 and we’re seeing more courses go back to bermudagrass greens because they’ve improved the varieties. There’s ultradwarf varieties that have great putting qualities and so we’re seeing a change because of the—again even this transition zone where it’s difficult to grow cool season grasses in the summertime, it’s difficult sometimes to maintain warm season grasses in the wintertime, so it’s certainly a difficult place to grow grass. I guess you’d say that how the grasses have evolved, how the industry has found new products to help manage these different grasses, that’s the changes that I notice the most. Certainly another thing has been, when I think about disease management and diseases in particular. Again when I was first working on a golf course, bentgrass greens, you were concerned with brown patch and Pythium, that was the only two diseases you were concerned with. Well now there’s a whole host of diseases you have to be concerned with. I don’t know it they just evolved over time or what, but the superintendents today have to really be on the ball to manage these grasses both bentgrass and bermudagrass because things have changed. I don’t ever remember seeing spring dead spot in bermudagrass fairways, or large brown patch in bermudagrass fairways, that’s all new. So superintendents today have to figure out how to maintain those grasses and deal with those diseases. So that’s been the biggest change that I’ve seen.

TTZ: Absolutely, a lot of advances, but a lot of new challenges to overcome too. What would you say is the biggest challenge facing the industry right now?

FT: From what I’ve read, it appears to be that perhaps both universities as well as golf course and other people within the industry may be having difficulty with labor and manpower or getting students interested in that. Again, the whole industry is a very labor-demanding job, and I guess a lot of young people are not willing to put in that type of hard manual labor to do the work, so I would say that’s probably one of the biggest challenges facing the entire industry is labor in general.

TTZ: Let’s shift gears again – tell me, when you are not working, and participating in education and TTA events, what do you do outside of work?

FT: Now that I’m getting older, I like to just relax. I like to do nothing at all! When I want to really, I enjoy playing golf, I’m not a great golfer, I’m probably bogey golf, occasionally will have a good round or two. I’m fortunate, again, to work with Mr. Tom Cochran, who is an avid golfer and we’ve been on some great golf trips together, so that’s probably my biggest thing that I enjoy is playing golf when I get a chance to. I enjoy relaxing at home, my wife and I spending time together to go and visit – our sons are all three grown and out of the house – so we like to get an opportunity to go see them. Two of them live out of state and one of them lives in Nashville, so we like to go and visit them and spend time with family.

TTZ: I think that’s a great way to spend your free time, even if you’re not our golfing all the time. Receiving the Tom Samples Turfgrass Professional of the Year is a great honor and you’re certainly in good company among previous winners, can you tell me what that means to you?

FT: It really means a great deal for me. Just the fact that it’s coming from the Tennessee Turfgrass Association. I told you I’ve been involved in it for such a long period of time, and I’ve got so many great memories and I love attending the conference because I can get the opportunity to see friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. I definitely think that it was appropriate that it was renamed from the TTA Professional of the Year to the Tom Samples Professional of the Year. He’s done so much for this industry and I even look back of my notes, and I remember this as well. We, as a Board of Directors, decided somewhere around 1990 or 1991 to begin offering this award and I think Dr. Callahan was the first recipient and I’m not sure of the second, but I’m pretty sure Dr. Samples was the third recipient, and I know for a fact that I presented him with this award at the conference. He and I have been great friends ever since he was hired, he’s always been there to help you or assist you or answer a question. Just the fact that you try to call him right now, and he’s somewhere else. He’s always on the road, he’s always out helping somebody and he has been probably the greatest ambassador for the turfgrass industry in Tennessee that we’ve had.

TTZ: I love how that has come full circle from you presenting him that award on behalf of TTA years ago to you receiving the award now. Let’s close with – what advice would you give young people just entering the turfgrass industry now?

FT: Obviously, it’s not an easy job. I’m not sure it’s an old man’s job, it’s a young man’s job. But there are still people in our industry that are my age and older that continue to do the work. My advice to somebody coming in is to try to be sure that you make time to balance your life. It’s not all work. It can easily be 24/7 job if you let it. But I don’t think it has to be that way. I think you can balance your life where you’ve got time to spend with family as well as time to be at work. And you’ve got to be able to let that job go when you get home. You can’t carry it with you and I’ve always tried to do that. Some people might not agree with that philosophy. But I just think that you’ve got to work when you’re there, and when you’re finished, just let it go. There’s only so many hours a day, you can only do so much work and then you’ve just got to let it go. But that’s the advice I would give someone.

TTZ: So tell me what has been your favorite or most surprising thing about being in the turfgrass industry?

FT: The thing I value the most is the way members share ideas. If someone needs some help, at least from my end, I’ve always experienced this, I could call up another superintendent or another person in the industry and say, “Have you experienced this, have you dealt with it,” and everybody’s always willing to share information to help someone else. I remember when I first became a superintendent in Columbia, it might have been a year or two in, but the Jacobsen distributor in Nashville was having a customer appreciation day or something so I went up there from Columbia and I met a couple of superintendents from Clarksville, some people may recognize the names, others may not. One of them was Harold Franklin, he was the superintendent in Clarksville, I think he may still be a superintendent at a course, I believe he’s in Georgia, but I’m not 100% certain. The other individual that was a superintendent was Nick Nicholson, and most people will know Nick from his years that he spent as a representative at Smith Turf & Irrigation. When I met the two of them, I described the golf course at Graymere, which at that time, I think we had irrigation on maybe four fairways, it was a single-line, center-line irrigation with quick couplers and there just wasn’t a whole lot there and I was trying to grow bermudagrass, trying to get more bermudagrass establish the fairways and the two of them had similar situations at their courses in Clarksville, and they shared with me what they did in terms of aerification of fairways, how much bermudagrass seed they were putting down, when they put it down, what fertilizer they added, all this stuff and they told me all this and I was able to incorporate a lot of their ideas into programs I was doing at Graymere. That’s just one example of how people share ideas and are willing to help someone else down the road. So that’s the thing I value most in this industry.

TTZ: There are some fine folks in the turfgrass industry and in Tennessee for sure. Mr. Turner, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and congratulations on being recognized.

FT: Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you.

The post Tennessee Turfgrass Association – Member Spotlight Interview with Frank Turner appeared first on The Turf Zone.

Jan 11 2021

22mins

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Rank #2: Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council – Consider the Source: How & Why Tissue Testing Delivers

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Pennsylvania Turfgrass – Max Schlossberg, Ph.D., Assoc. Prof. Turfgrass Nutrition/Soil Fertility, PSU Center for Turfgrass Science

As turfgrass managers, understanding the nutritional requirements of our turf and staying abreast of its nutritional status comprise important responsibilities. The methods by which we do so are varied, and generally coined fertility or nutritional assessment techniques. One of these techniques, soil testing, was the topic of a cover article I penned in the Fall 2016 Pennsylvania Turfgrass issue.

Tissue testing is the nutritional assessment of a plant through sampling of its vegetative tissue, followed by elemental analysis in an agricultural laboratory. The next step is to interpret the analysis results, which involves characterization of nutrient levels by keyword or index. Last is the recommendation step, typically comprising zero or more fertilizer treatment(s) recommended to reverse current or pending deficiencies.

Why is tissue testing an effective nutritional assessment technique?

Reason 1. Because it is a direct analysis of the biomass we foster, revere, and defend. This morning’s clippings were yesterday’s canopy, so how wouldn’t they contain valuable information? Despite reading several popular twitter feeds, I’ve yet to discover a valid answer. If your health declined, and you sought medical help, which doctor would you prefer: the one who insists on examining you, or the one who insists on examining your living conditions? Relative to dicotyledonous angiosperms, grasses are simple plants that distribute acquired nutrients across vegetation per local concentration gradient. As a benefactor of robust research and reporting, our discipline maintains species-specific expectations for leaf concentration of fourteen mineral plant essential nutrients and arguably three additional elements. Ostensibly, the same cannot be said of current fertility assessments of turfgrass soil.

Reason 2. Because the full panel of turfgrass tissue nutrient concentrations readily implicate contamination, it intrinsically supports quality assurance and control efforts. Of course, discovering a clipping sample to be contaminated by fertilizer or soil is not a desired outcome. Yet even experienced scientists commit sampling errors and know well enough to jettison tainted observation(s) from the set. This is because agronomists recognize the irreplaceability of plant essential nutrients, and the likelihood of a faultily derived fertilizer recommendation consuming valuable time and resources, all while not remedying jack! And, yeah, irreplaceability is a word. I liken a full panel of turf clipping nutrient levels to a Figure-8 knot, the knot most used by climbers to secure their harnesses. Do you know why the Figure-8 knot is most used? Because its proper configuration is more readily confirmed than every alternative. Allegorically speaking, it is better to discover the error and restart than plow on oblivious and die. For those readers who took TURF 435 in residence, you may like that analogy as much as my photorespiration one. Perhaps not. Regardless, example tissue test results indicating sample contamination by source are shown (Figure 1). Full test results of single, stand-alone soil samples do not afford equivalent insight or indication of sample contamination.

Tissue Sampling

As with soil testing, the sampling step is an incredibly important component of the tissue testing process. Hence, the following guidelines to consider when sampling turfgrass tissue:

Collect a comprehensive sample set. If you have one or two fragile greens (out of 20) or one problematic field in a complex of four; by all means, tissue sample these suspect systems. However, be sure to ALSO sample tissue from one or two of your identically fertilized AND healthy systems. It is helpful to know the extent to which the healthy systems are responding to your fertilizer program. Securing a nutritional benchmark from healthy system(s) will help you determine whether the problematic system is suffering from a unique edaphic or cultural issue, or whether the healthier systems are steadily digressing to the problematic condition.

Obtain a time array instead of a point. Growth rate is highly influenced by temperature, ET, and soil water. When plants are rapidly transpiring, they assimilate primarily mass flow nutrients, excluding those nutrients which move to the root by diffusion and/or biological facilitation. Furthermore, tissue growth can surge with N uptake and dilute less-mobile nutrients. Therefore, sub-sample on multiple dates (say Monday, then Thursday, then Saturday), homogenize the composite sample from that turfgrass system and submit as representative of the whole week. This approach is already used by golf course superintendents who recognize the pitfalls of over-irrigation, employ PGRs, and cannot obtain enough clippings in a single greens-mowing event. I know who you are and hope you never change!

Avoid contamination.  For those continuing the long-honored tradition of assessing growth by clipping volume (Figure 2), kudos! The foremost benefit of #clipvol vigor assessment includes prompt receipt of clear results immune from soil/sand contamination. On the contrary, the accuracy of leaf clipping nutritional analysis is highly dependent on sample integrity. Why? Because dry leaf clippings have very low mass relative to sand/soil particles and/or fertilizer prills (Figure 1). While collecting clippings from recently dragged or brushed swards generally reduces the likelihood of particulate contamination, avoid collecting tissue samples within four mows of a topdressing event. DO NOT collect tissue samples immediately following a fertilizer application. Following a foliar fertilizer application, wait until either a significant rainfall/irrigation event has occurred or the turfgrass has been mowed twice. If a granular fertilizer has recently been applied, then wait at least a week to collect clippings for nutritional analysis (Figure 1). Fortunately, recent irrigation by low-quality effluent does not comprise a significant contamination risk.

Processing. Dried clippings are most stable and analysis ready. Taking the extra time to air-dry your tissue samples, ideally in a dependably clean room, helps ensure quality results. If impractical, consider oven-drying the tissue at very low temperature. Research grade tissue drying is done at temperatures <180 F. Some nitrogen (N) forms volatilize at temps above 300 F, inciting under-reporting of tissue N. If you are in a hurry and must submit moist clippings, consider overnight mail and alert the lab of their condition.

Submission. In the final stage of preparing the sample for shipment, shuffle the dry clippings on a 1-mm to 1.7-mm mesh screen (no. 18 to 14 sieve size) or on a clean, smooth, sloping surface. Avoid shoveling dry clippings into the mailer/bag; use multiple ‘pinched lifts’ to transfer the dry clippings instead. Most labs require 2 cups dry leaf clippings (yes, talking cooking measurements here) per full analysis report.

Tissue Analysis

Most labs will analyze tissue samples for most, or all, plant essential nutrients. The Penn State Ag. Analytical Serv. Lab (aasl.psu.edu) doesn’t offer tissue analysis of chlorine, molybdenum, or nickel; but includes sodium and aluminum (Al) at no extra charge. Reporting Al levels on a tissue test report comprises added value, despite it not being an essential nutrient. The reason? Aluminum is a common component of clay minerals, and elevated levels of leaf Al indicate sample contamination by soil (Figure 1).

Interpretation & Recommendation

Given a contaminant-free sample was analyzed, tissue test results routinely deliver valuable information. Tissue N level is particularly useful in assessing current fertilizer N availability as well as potential disease susceptibility. Penn State field research indicates creeping bentgrass systems having <4.2% leaf N in dry clippings are otherwise more susceptible to dollar spot. Similarly, leaf N in the 3 to 4% mass range of dry clippings collected from annual bluegrass greens indirectly relate to anthracnose susceptibility. Many overt soil testing proponents discount tissue testing as ‘a mere snapshot in time.’ Unconvinced that’s a bad thing, I encourage Penn State students and alumni to embrace high resolution technology in support of effective decision making, particularly June through August.

Another reason N concentration sits atop the tissue test report is accumulation of several other plant-essential nutrients interact with N fertilization. For example, potassium (K) level in turfgrass clippings often relates directly to N concentration, even when target soil K levels are maintained or exceeded. On the contrary, phosphorus (P) level in clippings often inversely relates to leaf N level, even across plots showing equivalent soil P availability. These interactions should be considered when interpreting your tissue test results.

In all fairness, deficiencies in tissue test results interpretation do currently exist. Many studies have shown different cultivars of turfgrass accumulate varied levels of nutrients, even when growing on common soil and receiving an identical fertilizer regimen. Thus, the extent to which phenotype governs nutrient uptake/accumulation remains an important objective of future turfgrass field research!

Summary. For those using/considering tissue testing as a tool for turfgrass management decision making, I approve and hope you found the content useful. Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss the topic and/or methods further at mjs38@psu.edu.

The post Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council – Consider the Source: How & Why Tissue Testing Delivers appeared first on The Turf Zone.

Dec 21 2020

12mins

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Rank #3: Arkansas Turfgrass Association – Utilize All Your Tools to Protect Your Turf from Winter Injury

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Arkansas Turfgrass – Mike Richardson, Eric De Boer, and Thomas Walton – University of Arkansas

Last winter (2019-20) was a very mild one for the Natural State. In Fayetteville, our daily high and low temperatures were consistently above the 30-year average and, more importantly, we only had a handful of days when the temperature dropped into the teens and no days where we were in the single digits (Figure 1). However, don’t let one nice, mild winter lull you into thinking that you should not be doing everything you can to prepare for the winter ahead. This is especially true for golf course superintendents that are using warm-season grasses such as ultradwarf bermudagrasses on their greens.

Winterkill has been an ongoing challenge over my 20+ years of doing research in Arkansas and there are still no “magic bullets” or “super grasses” that will solve all of your problems. Although we usually think about those super low temperatures as being the main culprit, winterkill can also be the result of winter desiccation or low-temperature diseases such as spring dead spot. We have conducted countless field trials associated with winterkill at the UofA-Fayetteville over the past twenty years and have investigated everything from cultivars to fertility programs to various winter over-seeding approaches to the use of plant growth regulators (PGRs), wetting agents, fungicides, and protective covers. What have we learned? You should use the best available genetics, apply proper fertility, utilize PGRs, and possibly apply wetting agents, fungicides, and covers!! ALL of the tools in your toolbox should be in play when preparing for the dark days and cold nights of winter. Another factor that is always an issue when winterkill shows up is the overall health of the turf going into the winter. Remember, any area that has been weakened by shade, poor drainage, traffic, compaction, weed competition, herbicide injury, etc., is likely going to be an area that could be damaged by a hard winter.

Genetics are always a great place to start when thinking about avoiding winterkill. The development of cold-tolerant bermudagrass cultivars really ramped up back in the 80s and 90s and was led by the turfgrass breeders at Oklahoma State University, including Dr. Charles Taliaferro and now Dr. Yanqi Wu. Some of their landmark bermudagrass cultivars that have really “moved the needle” in terms of cold tolerance include early vegetative cultivars like Patriot and seeded cultivars like Riviera and Yukon. In recent years, a number of new hybrids such as Latitude 36, Northbridge, and Tahoma 31 have shown even more promise for protection against winterkill. The Arkansas Razorbacks installed ‘Tahoma 31’ bermudagrass in Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2019 and that selection was primarily based on its superior cold tolerance. The Razorbacks have also converted most of Baum Stadium to ‘Latitude 36’ over the past 5-6 years. Over that time period, issues with winterkill have been almost non-existent with these new grasses. Although more energy has been focused on developing cold-tolerant bermudagrasses than other species, there are also some exciting new developments on the horizon for traditional lawn grasses like St. Augustinegrass.

When looking at the ultradwarf bermudagrasses (UDB) for putting greens, there are fewer options with regards to genetics, but we have certainly seen differences in our trials. We conducted a 3-year trial at Fayetteville that included the major UDB cultivars Champion, MiniVerde, and Tifeagle. Although the degree of winterkill that was observed each year was strongly influenced by the severity of the weather, we consistently saw less winter injury on MiniVerde and Tifeagle than we did on Champion (Figure 2). We recently published that work and would be happy to share a full copy of the paper (De Boer et al., 2019). There are also some new cultivars and experimental lines out there that appear to be promising, but it is too early to make a strong recommendation regarding their winter survival.

When it comes to management, some of our earliest studies looked at the effects of fall fertility programs and plant growth regulators, specifically Primo, on winter injury of bermudagrass. Historically, it was believed that nitrogen should not be applied in the fall to grasses like bermudagrass and you should switch to a “winterizer” fertilizer that was high in potassium to avoid winter injury. Studies over the last 20 years from Arkansas, Kentucky, and Virginia have consistently shown that applying nitrogen in the fall is not a contributing factor to winter injury, as long as potassium is not deficient. Our current recommendations are to continue applying some nitrogen into September and October, but the rates should be reduced just because the grass is not growing as much and does not need as much nitrogen. We have also seen some positive benefits of applying Primo (trinexapac-ethyl) going into the fall, but all of that work was done on golf course fairway turf, so we’re not sure if it is applicable to other species or surfaces. Both fall nitrogen and Primo have also shown a positive benefit on early-spring greenup in bermudagrass.

Over the last five years, much of our work has focused on managing winter injury on ultradwarf putting greens and most of those studies have revolved around the use of protective covers and wetting agents. The use of protective covers during the winter season is a proven strategy to combat winterkill in warm-season grasses. Covers enhance survival of bermudagrass by retaining more moisture in the crowns and maintaining soil temperatures above a critical threshold. Historically, it was recommended that ultradwarf bermudagrass putting surfaces should be covered when the predicted low temperature was going to be below 25 °F.  Recent field trials at our location have demonstrated that the predicted temperature for covering greens can be lowered to 15 °F with no reduction in winter survival (DeBoer et al., 2019a).  This strategy can be financially beneficial to a golf course as the labor required to cover and uncover greens is significant and this reduction in the covering temperature can significantly reduce the number of covering events during the winter. In addition, reducing the number of coverings can also allow the course to be open for play more in the winter, which can impact revenue for the club.

Unfortunately, even when covers are used, winterkill can still be observed on putting greens in more northern locations (Figure 3). Another strategy that we are currently studying is the inclusion of an “air gap” under the cover to further reduce extreme low temperatures on the greens.  An air gap prevents the cover from coming directly in contact with the surface of the putting green and could provide additional insulation and warmer temperatures than covers alone.  Things like straw or pine needles have been used for decades, either alone on the surface of putting greens or underneath tarps, to retain heat and reduce fluctuations in temperature more efficiently than covers alone. In recent trials conducted at the University of Arkansas, (De Boer et al., 2019b; Thomas Walton, unpublished) we have experimented with the inclusion of alternative air gap treatments under covers such as synthetic “batting” material (Hendrix Batting, High Point, NC), drainage pipes, and straw erosion blankets (Figure 4). The results so far have been promising, as air gap treatments can raise soil temperatures a few degrees compared to covers alone. It is also clear that the use of air gap products will add cost and labor to the process and should only be considered in very difficult locations on a course that are more prone to winter injury, such as a shaded putting green.

Another approach that we have seen promising results with is the use of wetting agents in the winter to reduce the likelihood of desiccation injury. Hydrophobic sands and localized dry spot are common problems on putting greens and the use of wetting agents (surfactants) is now considered as essential to putting green management as mowing and fertilizers. In the winter months, when greens are dormant, the presence of dry conditions are not as easy to diagnose and may be overlooked by the superintendent. We have conducted a number of studies looking at a single application of a wetting agent in early winter (December) and have seen a positive effect of those treatments on winter survival (De Boer, 2019a; De Boer, 2020). Although the benefits have not been observed from year to year, when we have had an unusually dry and cold winter, the results have been very evident. Since the cost of these products is not a major hindrance, we consider their use to be a good insurance policy to help prevent winter injury caused by desiccation.

Finally, all turfgrass managers should be aware of the disease problems that can exist in turfgrass systems during the winter months. Spring dead spot is considered a low-temperature disease of bermudagrass and is often more problematic during very cold winters. On high-value turf areas such as putting greens, golf course fairways and tees, athletic fields and even some lawns, managers should consider the use of fall-applied fungicides to minimize the occurrence of this disease. We discussed a number of strategies for reducing and controlling spring dead spot in a previous edition of this magazine (Richardson, 2019).

Managing turfgrasses in Arkansas to minimize winter injury can be a complex process, but it is important for managers to look at their entire program and utilize all of their tools to best address this issue.

References

De Boer, E.J., M.D. Richardson, J.H. McCalla, and D.E. Karcher. 2019a. Reducing ultradwarf bermudagrass putting green winter injury with covers and wetting agents. Crop, Forage, and Turfgrass Management 5:190019. https://doi.org/10.2134/cftm2019.03.0019.

De Boer, E.J., M.D. Richardson, and J.H. McCalla. 2019b. Increasing winter soil temperatures with air gaps on ultradwarf bermudagrass putting greens. ASA-CSSA-SSSA International Annual Meeting, San Antonio, TX.

De Boer, E.J., M.D. Richardson, J.H. McCalla, and D.E. Karcher. 2020. Effect of late-fall wetting agent application on winter survival of ultradwarf bermudagrass putting greens. Crop Forage and Turfgrass Management https://doi.org/10.1002/cft2.20035.

Richardson, M.D. 2019. Spring dead spot and large patch – spring diseases that need fall attention. Arkansas Turfgrass, Fall 2019, pp. 12-14.

The post Arkansas Turfgrass Association – Utilize All Your Tools to Protect Your Turf from Winter Injury appeared first on The Turf Zone.

Dec 21 2020

11mins

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Rank #4: Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council – Disease Season 2020 – It wasn’t just COVID-19 causing problems

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Pennsylvania Turfgrass – Travis R. Russell and John E. Kaminski, Ph.D.

This year is likely one that we all are going to want to forget. While our undergrads were on spring break and the two-year students were at TPC Sawgrass volunteering for The Players Championship, Penn State decided to shut down campus for the remainder of the semester. Faculty and students scrambled to shift to online learning while others were stuck at home waiting for their internships to begin.

On March 19th, Governor Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining business to close across the state. Turfgrass managers scrambled to get exemptions to at least be able to maintain their turfgrass during the shutdown. On May 1st, golf courses throughout the state of Pennsylvania were reopened for play. We are all now familiar with “pool noodles” in the cups, no rakes in the bunkers, no touching of the pins, and four golf carts per foursome. Things looked very different from a golf perspective.

From a “turf” perspective, things also started out a little slow. Bentgrass was slow to wake up and Poa seedheads peaked right around the time golf courses were opening. These were all par for the course and not atypical in any given year. Throughout May and June, golf course fairways were in some of the best shape we’ve seen, but turf health was about to go south.

Many areas had limited rainfall. State College had less than 1” of rain total during the months of May, June and July. That also coincided with periods of extreme temperatures in June and July. The need for supplemental irrigation to keep turf alive combined with high temperatures and relative humidity resulted in a series of disease outbreaks in the middle of the summer.

Bacterial Wilt

Bacterial wilt is an uncommon disease of annual bluegrass. Bacterial wilt was diagnosed several times in our lab this year from multiple golf courses throughout the northeast region. In fact, a severe bacterial wilt outbreak occurred on a young annual bluegrass green at our research facility in early June (Figure 1). The disease was initially observed as small, speckled necrotic spots on the green in early to mid-June that quickly coalesced into larger diffuse areas of turf loss by early July.

Control of bacterial wilt is difficult since chemical options are not efficient or practical with products having to be applied after every mowing. Instead, turfgrass managers must designate a mower specific only to the infected turfgrass surfaces and mow in the afternoon when turf is dry to limit spread to healthy areas of turf and to avoid abrasive cultural practices while disease is active.

Anthracnose

Anthracnose (Figure 2) is chronic disease on annual bluegrass green during the summer. Symptoms include yellow to orange spots of infected Poa but expand into a general thinning of highly infected areas. Golf course superintendents can easily identify this disease by looking for blackening at the crown and black fungal structures (i.e. setae) on individual leaves. Although we diagnosed samples from other region in June, anthracnose severity began to increase in the first few weeks of July on our research putting green. By the end of July into early August, anthracnose was uniformly distributed throughout the green.

Preventive fungicide programs are essential to effectively control anthracnose. In addition, minimizing physiological stress is recommended to slow disease intensity. Maintaining adequate fertilization and irrigation will significantly limit physiological stress that can increase disease severity. Increasing mowing height is a critical mitigation strategy but long-term cultural control strategies of reducing organic matter thatch development with regular aerification and routine topdressing when disease is not active will significantly help in combatting the disease.

Brown Patch

Brown patch (Figure 3), caused by the pathogen Rhizoctonia solani, can be problematic on most turfgrasses including those grown on golf course putting greens, tees and fairways, but also in the rough where tall fescue has become a more utilized species. Brown patch generally has a narrow window of activity in central PA but can be a more common problem in other areas where prolonged warm temperatures and high relative humidity are present. In 2020, however, the extended hot and humid conditions in State College resulted in prolonged brown patch activity from late June that continued into August.

Maintaining adequate, but not excessive nitrogen fertility and proper irrigation strategies can limit the occurrence of brown patch. Avoiding long periods of leaf wetness through early morning dew removal significantly reduces the duration of leaf wetness which is favorable for disease development. Several fungicides are available for preventive and curative control of brown patch.

Pythium Blight

Pythium blight is always a fear for turfgrass managers when intense heat waves roll through in the peak of summer across the state. The progression of Pythium blight is often manifested by cottony mycelial growth causing rapid blighting that leaves large areas of turf bare in a matter of days. This year, the unusually hot and humid conditions consistent throughout July allowed for Pythium blight to strike at a moment’s notice over this long stretch in the warmest part of the growing season. Outbreaks observed in our lab were generally from situations where turf was irrigated frequently due to the lack of rainfall. The excessive moisture combined with high temperatures resulted in rapid death.

Limiting excessive moisture through proper irrigation and drainage practices is important in reducing conditions favorable for the Pythium pathogen. Preventative fungicide applications are a must when environmental conditions are favorable for growth of the pathogen to limit Pythium blight outbreaks and subsequent turfgrass loss.

Pythium Patch

Pythium patch (Figure 5) is currently an undescribed and unique disease of annual bluegrass putting greens. Our lab is currently investigating the pathogen to fully understand its biology as well as the epidemiology of the disease. This disease emerges in patches less than a foot in diameter and progresses slowly over time. The pathogen can completely kill turfgrass within the patch and often has a thin, yellow ring of turf at the patch borders. Symptoms mimic summer patch where unaffected creeping bentgrass fills in patches where annual bluegrass has been killed. The disease has been found in a dozen or more states and emerged this year on a young annual bluegrass putting green at the Valentine Turfgrass Research Facility in early July and continued into August, allowing us to collect valuable data on the disease.

Control strategies are currently being investigated, but ensuring proper nutrition, irrigation, and drainage is important to minimizing suitable conditions for favorable infection and disease development. Fungicides typically used to control Pythium diseases are currently recommended during the summer months. Reliance on fosetyl-Al as your sole Pythium fungicide should be avoided as anecdotal reports suggest it to be less effective. The benefits of fosetyl-Al as a Pythium blight control and its enhanced summer stress relief warrant its use, but other more traditional Pythium fungicides should be incorporated into the overall program.

Summer Patch

Summer patch (Figure 6) has not appeared at Valentine in at least 10 years, but that changed in 2020. Summer patch is a severe root pathogen that causes disease of annual bluegrass and Kentucky bluegrass. Initial symptoms include small circular patches that ultimately can increase up to 1’ or more in diameter. Grasses and weeds that are not susceptible to the pathogen often fill in infected areas creating a “frog eye” appearance to the patches.

Symptoms appeared in our anthracnose fungicide trials in late July and became severe in August. Fungicide control programs need to be initiated in the spring with the general rule of thumb being to make the first application when soil temperatures at a 2” depth at 2:00-3:00pm reach 65F for several consecutive days. A tank mix of a DMI and QoI are generally considered to be most effective but must be reapplied every 21 to 28 days through the summer months.

Dollar Spot

Despite this being a banner year for turfgrass diseases in PA, the main disease threat that we annually contend with, dollar spot (Figure 7), had a slow start in central PA due to dry conditions and high temperatures. Warm days and cool nights in early August, however, resulted in a dramatic increase in dollar spot and are setting up for a severe fall season for managing this disease.

Dollar spot can be minimized culturally through adequate nitrogen fertility, maintaining sufficient soil moisture and limiting lead wetness periods during periods of favorable environmental conditions. Preventative fungicide applications are often necessary to completely control the disease in lower cut turfgrass. With the potential for a severe fall dollar spot season, turfgrass managers should be cautious not to let their guard down in September and maybe even into October.

Gray Leaf Spot

Although at the time of writing this article gray leaf spot has not been identified in the state, turfgrass managers should always be wary of its appearance in late summer and early fall. Initial reports from the southeastern US suggest that this could be a severe year for the disease. Recent reports of gray leaf spot causing severe outbreaks on tall fescue in our region means that it’s not only stands of perennial ryegrass that should be scouted for the disease.

Although 2020 will be most remembered by many for the impact COVID-19 had on our lives, turf pathologists will likely remember this as one of the most severe disease seasons on record. The presence of such a diverse set of pathogens and significant disease outbreaks will make for a year that we will soon not forget.

The post Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council – Disease Season 2020 – It wasn’t just COVID-19 causing problems appeared first on The Turf Zone.

Dec 21 2020

12mins

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Rank #5: Virginia Turfgrass Council – Member Spotlight on Chad Peevy

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Virginia Turfgrass Journal – Julie Holt, Content Director, TheTurfZone.com

VTC Member and Assistant Director of Grounds & Landscapes (A Division of Facilities Management) at Old Dominion University

How many years have you been in this position?

I am headed towards my 15th year with ODU. The position has changed over the years, but the position’s objectives remain mostly the same.

How did you decide to pursue a career in turfgrass management?

The truth is, by proxy. My first green industry job was right out of high school. It was at a retail nursery in Northern Virginia where I grew up. I delivered trees, sod, mulch, and other bulky items. When at people’s houses they would often ask me about lawn care, so I had to be familiar enough with turf to help them.

After college, I did park maintenance which included mowing/trimming, but I spent most of my career in arboriculture. In 2006 when I accepted my position at ODU, turf care was a huge portion of the job and certainly the portion many considered to be most important. My understanding and education on turf care has been evolving ever since.

I would not wish to mislead people, there are so many turfgrass managers who are so much more knowledgeable than I am. While turf management is a senior responsibility of my position, I tend to view it collectively, i.e. a component of the entire Grounds Management occupation.

What path led you to your current position?

I worked my way through college by working at retail and wholesale nurseries. My intention was to become a forest ranger. After college, I moved to West Virginia to work for their park system — I was in park maintenance while waiting for an opening as a ranger. One day I was on selective timbering crew for a fire control project and realized how much I missed maintaining plants. I also realized I didn’t like the cold weather.

I moved to South Carolina and took a job with a tree planting company that helped build golf courses. My exposure to the turf managers along the SC coast at some of the most esteemed golf courses in the nation intrigued me, particularly the IPM side of their job. Personal reasons brought me back to Virginia and I was fortunate enough to gain a position with Bartlett Tree Experts who sent me to their school of Integrated Pest Management. I was a professional arborist and IPM technician for a few years before moving on to ODU.

I had a strong background in many aspects of the green industry and wanted to enter public service to apply my skills in one place where I could see impact. One place where I could watch the land change over time, if you will. I also wanted to work with a team that was dedicated towards integrating urban landscapes – trees, shrubs, and turf all working towards the same objective. The objective to beautify and enhance our urban environment while optimizing all the benefits plants can provide for a community and the people within it. I am certainly fortunate to work for an agency which supports such objectives and to be surrounded by the talent and creativity of my co-workers.

What is the best part of your job?

Universities are interesting places. So many people of different cultures, ages, and backgrounds… all in pursuit of bettering themselves and improving the world around them. It is inspiring and makes me want to work equally as hard to help frame a background for the time they spend here. The landscape of ODU should not just be space between classrooms, rather, these grounds should provide an opportunity. So, for me, the best part is to see people learning and interacting with our outdoor campus. To know that a complete ecosystem exists in the middle of an urban setting where people can find some reprieve from the stress and pressure of their day. This is important work.

What are some unique challenges of your job?

That list is long, but I would be remiss not to claim the top challenge is the volume of people and the schedule of events. I learned early that when managing turf and landscapes at a university campus, you can take any traditional agronomic or horticulture maintenance calendar and throw it right out the window. ODU has over one million visitors each year and often the people are congregating in only a few locations of the entire campus.

The Kaufman Mall is the flagship lawn of our turf program, but it is also the most centralized and visited location for campus life. When we would normally seek to aerate, overseed, fertilize, etc., the business cycle of the University hosts recognitions, tours, recreation, and celebration right there on the lawn.

So many people wanting to enjoy that green space is a humbling acknowledgement of our efforts, but it also means the staff here must adapt and adjust management practices for maintaining that turf. Whether it is a turf technician finding a way to edge the lawn safely when surrounded by thousands of passing students or a plant health care tech considering the public impact from the scent of a fertilizer product…the challenge is omnipresent. Again though, ODU Grounds staff are true professionals who rise to the occasion.

How have you and your team adapted to new operations implemented in recent months due to COVID-19?

Altered schedules, adjusted team sizes, additional training, and a whole lot of new personal protective equipment. Seeking to be positive of the situation, we have become more focused and intent with our time. One day there may be half staffing levels and the next there may be more or even less. One truck headed to a single location in the past may now take three trucks. This is how it goes, but the logistics of this situation have forced questions about what truly matters, why is it done this way, where do we have the biggest impact? These were questions which demanded answers for us to proceed. The result is that we are getting those answers and, in the process, revealing improved professionalism and improved teamwork.

What inspired you to serve the VTC?

That’s easy, Tom Tracy did. Tom had asked me to help with VTC’s ‘Come to the Bay’ conference committee. The committee needed a professional arborist and I don’t recall how Tom found me, but he did. I was hesitant due the amount of boards I already participated with, but Tom had a vision for what Come to the Bay could achieve and the leadership role VTC could take. Facilitating conversation and education across green industry boundaries, bringing in environmental sector professionals, stormwater experts, elementary school-age students…the vision was big, but the vision was important. How could I not agree to help? Tom was about to redefine the essentiality and unity of all green occupations for the future of our trade. I loved it.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the turfgrass industry right now?

I think turfgrass is facing a truly existential threat from a long and slow perception which miscategorized managed turf as a point source polluter. Not just in Virginia either, but nationwide. The idea that managed turf is damaging the Bay, our rivers, our estuaries…this idea is very much in the public realm of discussion and is absolutely making its way into politics. I will refrain from waxing poetic about my thoughts regarding the politics or any assumptions of people’s individual thoughts on the matter, but I would suggest that now, perhaps more than ever, it is essential for turfgrass professionals to educate themselves and advocate for the value of what they provide. Your voice will make a difference, it could be the difference.

What is one lesson you’ve learned the hard way in your career?

Listening to others. I mean, truly listening – with an intent to understand another’s position, their objectives, their hearts. It’s one lesson, but it took many teachings for that lesson to resonate with me. I do believe that listening to others is a central component of leadership. Whether you lead a small crew of turf techs, a regional office, or even just yourself – creating an openness to hear others which is honest and genuine will improve your personal abilities and your career. It seems a shame it took me so long to arrive at something I was capable of the entire time, but I suppose that is why I suggested it was a hard lesson for me.

Do you have a mentor in the industry? Who?

I have been gifted to have many mentors, but the first person who often comes to mind is Rob Springer with Bartlett Tree Experts. I was a young tree climber with Bartlett, Rob was the company’s regional Safety Director. When I first met him, Rob seemed like a hard leader, but he was always fair; he was also then and is now the most competent climbing arborist I have ever known. Yes, I learned a whole lot about climbing and the physical mechanics of trees from him, but he was the type of guy who went beyond the ‘how’ and the ‘why’. He framed a process so that it mattered to you as a person.

He taught me to see and take ownership of my own value and the value of what I did for a living. Equally, he instilled a value for the other professionals around me. I still quote some of his lessons on a regular basis. And he taught me most of this by doing, rather than by saying it. He was highly influential to my skills development as a leader and an inspiration to my career. You should love what you do and when you do, other people will know it, not by your words, but by your actions.

What do you do in your free time?

These days I just appreciate being around my family and enjoying my time with them. I like the stereotypical things green industry people tend to like – hiking, nature, being on the water and all that. My wife is Kadi, we have a son, Memphis, and one dog named Biscuit and one dog named los Cuchillos (her name means ‘the knives’, really sharp teeth on that little dog). My family and I enjoy traveling to do those things, which has been limited of late for obvious reasons. Truthfully, I have just come to respect the collective struggle we have all shared together these past few months. It made helped see them again, see people again, if that makes sense.

What would your advice be for people entering the turfgrass industry now?

It will never get easier, but if you love it, it will always get more interesting. Find someone worth knowing who does this very well and learn from them. Ask them to teach/coach/mentor you if that’s what it takes but find that person(s) nonetheless. If you want to be a true professional one day, get involved and get active with an organization like VTC or ISA and get certified. I promise you will find personal leaders to help you out. My success was not built by myself, but by the great people around me and such people do not appear by accident. This industry is deliberate and the great people in it are passionate educators and life-long learners. Seek this as well, you will take their place one day.

The post Virginia Turfgrass Council – Member Spotlight on Chad Peevy appeared first on The Turf Zone.

Dec 03 2020

12mins

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Rank #6: Turfgrass Council of North Carolina – Creating High Performing Teams with Neal Glatt

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North Carolina Turfgrass – Julie Holt, Content Director, TheTurfZone.com

TheTurfZone: Welcome to TheTurfZone. Today we’re speaking with Neal Glatt, Managing Partner at Grow The Bench and business coach certified by the Gallup Organization. Welcome Neal.

Neal Glatt: Thanks for having me, Julie.

TTZ: I’m going to start out with a little explanation about what we said in your intro. You are a business coach, certified by the Gallup Organization. Can you tell me a little about what that means?

NG: I get to help businesses improve, usually around sales and management, which is really my passion is helping teams perform really well. And the Gallup organization is the world’s largest independent polling organization. So especially with election season right now, people are probably used to hearing “According to a Gallup poll…” That’s where most people know Gallup from is they call people up, they ask them what they think and they do it all around the world, more than anybody else and they don’t take any money from anybody, and just spend millions and millions of dollars on payroll to survey people. What they’ve developed are these world-class surveys is a lot of great information about what people really want and how it related to business. So when it comes to high performing teams, Gallup has essentially invented the category of what we call “employee engagement.” For the past 35 years, has been publishing information about what makes a highly engaged team, what even is a highly engaged team, and most importantly for us today, how can we take something really simple, at very little cost and put it into action to get more from our teams and make everybody feel better.

TTZ: You mentioned High performing teams, and that’s really what we’re going to focus on today, and fine tune that for the green industry. Can you tell me how you got into sharing this type of information and this type of business coaching, specifically in our industry?

NG: It actually happened the other way around for me. I graduated college with a degree in marketing, wanted to go into sales and started working for a landscaper and so I was working in this industry before I knew any of this great business stuff. And I had all the same challenges that other green industry companies have – too hard to attract people, too hard to keep people, nobody really as invested as I wanted them to be. Just trying to make it, and through that process of being frustrated and failing at management, I started to learn the hard way about some things that needed work. I was fortunate to work with or have employed some other really great managers and I’d see glimpses of greatness from people. And I see, you know, this person’s really great at developing relationships and people seemed to really like that. Or this person’s really great at developing people, and meanwhile their team is doing better with all the hard metrics. So systematically, I studied that and discovered some of the science and a few years ago decided to go out on my own as a business coach and earn some certifications along the way that support that. So I have the opportunity, being self-employed to work with any industry, but I just have a heart for the green industry because it served me really well. I think what we do is so important and so overlooked, and I get pretty excited about bringing this cutting-edge science to the green industry in a meaningful and practical way because I think that the green industry needs some love and gets overlooked by a lot of people.

TTZ: I absolutely agree. In these podcasts and in speaking with turfgrass professionals and nursery and landscape professionals across the region, very very few do not point to labor and building great teams as one of the biggest challenges they face. From education all the way to hands-on lawn and landscape smaller companies, everybody is trying to creating workplaces that foster good teams and that are productive and effective. I’m really excited to talk to you about this. Let’s start with – tell me how you identify a high-performing team, what characteristics are you looking for?

NG: So Gallup, and by extension I, define a high performing team as a team that has high employee engagement. And employee engagement is a term that gets thrown around a lot. But let’s define it first with the official definition, which is a highly engaged team is a team which employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and their workplace. We can actually measure this on a scale which Gallup has put out there an actual survey method, and we can see team to team within an organization and/or company to company how these companies compare to the extent which their employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to what they do and the company they do it for. And that’s really critical, before we move on and break it down about what that means, it’s really critical because that is the difference-maker. They call it work because it’s work, and it’s not about who’s happy or who’s satisfied in their job, although we do measure that. And, by the way, when are teams are engaged, satisfaction and happiness increase dramatically, which is awesome. But that’s not the place to start because there are times when work isn’t fun. When we have bad days where we have to do things that we may not like to do. That’s okay, that’s part of what work is. We need to understand that first and focus less on trying to placate to our teams or trying to make everybody say, “Yeah, I love what I do because of the people I work with or the perks they give me.” And really focus on, let’s do something meaningful first, I feel personally engaged in this mission, in this purpose, and it drives me to get up, even through the tough stuff, because we have to do tough stuff sometimes. And that will cover over everything else. So we look at how involved are people, how enthusiastic are people, and how committed are people and we try and drive those. And Gallup has identified 12 factors (and I don’t know if I’ll have time to go through all 12 today) that determine how enthusiastic and how committed and how involved people are.

TTZ: I like that distinction between “I love my job and I’m committed and involved” and what you said that, “I’m doing something meaningful.” Let’s start with some of those 12 factors and share how those apply in the turfgrass industry, or in the green industry in general.

NG: So at the most basic level, our needs are just understanding. So, do I know what’s expected of me at work? And I think a lot of people glaze over this and assume that everyone knows what’s expected. But realistically, that’s not true. In fact, only about 50% of employees clearly know what’s expected of them at work. And when I share this with people, normally they say, “Well, how do people not know what they’re supposed to do every day?” Well, maybe we have an idea of what we’re supposed to do, but we get confused on the order of how to do it, or the importance of what we’re doing. And there’s not just what we’re doing in terms of our roles or responsibilities, but there’s also a lot of expectations around relationships or company norms, so there’s this responsibility expectation but there’s also an emotional and relational expectation and it can be confusing, it could be showing up as “I don’t know what my manager really thinks about me,” “I’m not sure if I’m supposed to turn this in or be proactive or go home early or stay late.” All of those little uncertainties that we all face in our roles can creep in and the more we’re uncertain about, the less subconscious and psychological energy we have for what we need to be doing, which is investing in our roles and seeing that production.

So that’s the basic level, and then we start talking about does everybody feel like their individual role contributes to the mission and purpose of the organization, so we look at the big picture with that too. Almost every team has a mission and purpose, or every organization does. So depending on what sector of the turfgrass industry you’re in, maybe our mission is to provide great places for families to come and enjoy the outdoors, or have family moments together, or maybe if you’re more on the supplier side of turfgrass, your mission is to keep landscape contractors or people who maintain turfgrass fields running and fulfilling their missions, and it’s a supportive mission. Whatever your mission and purpose is, is fine so long as every person in the company says, “What I do every day actively contributes to that.” And it should be somewhat personally important.

TTZ: How can we measure engagement, this feeling of contribution from our team members with employee engagement?

NG: The easiest way is with the Q12. It’s a 12-question survey, and it’s really affordable. You can go to Gallup and purchase it for like $15 per person, and run this anonymous survey then crunch all the numbers and they compare you overall. But even if that’s not feasible, you can just ask people. One of the things I always advocate for is completely free, which is, if you’re a manager, go have a conversation with everybody who reports to you for about an hour every single week. And that can be a lot of time, but that conversation is going to be about how they’re doing in their role, how you can support them more as a manager, where they want to develop and grow. But really talking with them, and you can just sort of ask them, “Do you know the mission and purpose of our organization, and how you contribute to it?” Or maybe as simple as reminding them, “Hey, you know our mission is to make other businesses flow really well through their operations, and you do that consistently by doing this and I appreciate that.” So, other Q12 items are appreciation, growth and development and you see very quickly how these all sort of intermingle in a conversation.

TTZ: Let’s do go back to that growth and development element because I can see that that’s where our team leaders and for instance, golf course superintendents who have larger teams – they didn’t become leaders without going through that process, and I know that so many of them have shared that that’s what they want to see in their assistants and in their team members. So how do we support and encourage that?

NG: It’s got to be intentional and it’s got to be continuous. Gallup has done a lot of research around millennials and I am a millennial myself so those of us born between 1980 and 1996 have a bad rap in the workplace, but we’re like 50% of the workforce, so if you’re a superintendent and you’ve got a workforce, at least half of them, or they were, except they quit. Because we’re a problematic portion of the workforce, especially in this sector. One of the challenges I think that the turfgrass industry faces is growth and development, you know educationally, there’s a lot of opportunities, but positionally and pay raise, you’re relatively fixed. If that’s the case for you, you’re going to have a tough time attracting and retaining labor. Because, especially for millennials, the number one factor when choosing a job is the growth and development opportunity. When a millennial, or when anybody comes to you, really, and says, “I want a promotion and I want a pay raise,” instead of assuming that it’s because they’re entitled, I think a lot of the time it’s because they’re looking to grow and develop, and that’s kind of the only traditional way we know, is that we got a new title or we got a pay raise. What I encourage leaders to do is, let’s add a lot more steps to what growth and development looks like. So instead of going from whatever the title is, general turfgrass technician to assistant superintendent to superintendent, how many more positions, even if they’re unofficial, can we put in there? Can we stratify the levels a little bit and show people, listen, it might take you 5 years to go from assistant to superintendent, but in those 5 years, here are 10 concrete steps that we’ll look for you to take. It might be pesticide or fertilization license, it might be getting some sort of certification around water conservation, it might even be a degree from one of the big turfgrass management programs out there. And all of those things can contribute towards that growth and progression. And it’d be really great if there was some financial reward along the way for earning some of those things. But at the very least you can support and recognize them in those steps, and that alone will boost retention dramatically. So one of the things we know for employees who are very engaged, compared to those who are not as engaged, is that it leads to 43% lower turnover compared. So if we want to keep people longer, we can give them growth and development opportunities and it’s going to seriously move the needle for how often we have to hire and train people.

TTZ: I love this two-way street of communication between leaders and team members where the leaders really do have to take ownership of communicating the expectation on a very basic and detailed level, but also through this proven development process, and in a broader scale.

NG: You may be listening to this podcast right now and saying, “well, the leaders should be having those conversations with me, but they’re not.” If that’s your situation, I don’t think that you’re in a hopeless situation. I would suggest that you go to your manager, whoever that is, and say, “I want to grow, I want to progress. Here’s some ways I think that I can do that, and here’s what I’d like to get to – my idea is I would love to be superintendent in three years and be making this much money. Is that feasible, is it reasonable, help me vet out my career plan a little bit.” Have an open discussion like that, and then say, “Now help me identify the steps.” If I’m – I’ve hired and managed a lot of people – very, very rarely has somebody come to me and said, “Neal, here’s where I want to go, and here’s what I want to do.” But when they have, we were able to make that work. In fact, I’ll share a quick story. I once hired a young gentleman who was basically fresh out of prison, dropped out of high school, was in a not great situation in life, but he’d come out more or less what we would call reformed. This guy was looking to make a positive change in his life. He never wanted to go back to where he was. He didn’t have a lot of skills though, didn’t have a lot of communication skills but was hungry. He wanted to grow. He goes, “listen, I made bad decisions in my life, I got hooked up with the wrong people, I don’t ever want to go back there again. Let’s talk about how I can avoid that. How do I get health insurance because of the way they took care of my health in prison was way better than I can afford to take care of my health now?” We started to come up with a plan. I hired this guy, he was shoveling snow for me part time in the winter, because that’s what we did. It was an on-call, seasonal position, but we developed skills. We paid for some of his development, but he also put in a lot of his own resources into development. Getting better with technology, getting better at grammar, and eventually, over the course of about 4-5 years, he worked himself up to being our fleet supervisor. This guy runs around now in nicer shirt and shoes than I wear and runs a whole team of mechanics and does awesome. And he really bootstrapped his way there. I feel really fortunate to be a very small player in helping him get to a better life and really he did it on his own, I was just able to buy an online course for him. I was able to spend a few hours here and there telling him about financial management lessons that I’ve learned along the way. It wasn’t a lot, but it was intentional and that’s the best feeling in the world when you can make something like that happen.

TTZ: Let me, in typical 2020 fashion, throw a wrench in all of this and let’s talk about how do we continue these good habits and this team development when we are working so differently – we’re short staffed, we are social distancing on the job, we have new requirements for health and safety, we’re all overburdened with shifting and changing, and while we’ve been really resilient as an industry, I think it has taken some of the focus off of developing and nurturing our teams the way we typically would. How can we handle this and COVID times?

NG: I think that we have a great opportunity to do this because we’re already having some of these conversations. Nobody has survived the last six months without saying, “Ok, here’s what the expectations are going to look like for whatever period in the future.” We’ve had to have some of those conversations. So here’s my three-step process for really using COVID as a way to leverage this development:

  • Have more frequent expectation conversations. A lot of places of business said, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do with COVID and that’s going to be it. But we know that the CDC and states are changing their guidelines weekly if not faster. So I would say let’s have a conversation at least every two weeks about what the expectations are. And part of that expectation is going to be the commitment to the employee. Here’s where we see ourselves as a business, here’s where we’re at with funding, here’s what we believe will be normal for the next two to four weeks. Even though the information is going to change, you have our commitment to hold this little update meeting every couple weeks with you so that there’s no confusion. So, a great opportunity to continually reinforce the expectations of people from working conditions to hours and on and on.
  • This is a phenomenal time to start conversations about wellbeing and really build these personal relationships. One of the Q12 items reads: I have a best friend at work. Having a best friend at work is weird language, right? Certainly any of the senior superintendents listening to this podcast are like, “In my day we didn’t talk about best friends at work.” And I get it. But we spend so much time at work and so much time with the people we work with, and the number one factor in our overall wellbeing as a person is not what we’re doing, but who we’re doing it with. And so it could feel  awkward in the normal course of business to say, “Hey, let’s talk about the relationships you have and how you feel about them.” But in times of COVID, it’s expected and sympathetic and a relief. Is your family doing okay? Any issues making ends meet that I should be aware of? Any health issues where you could use time off that I can help support you with? How are your kids doing, are they in school? Childcare still available? Is your spouse working? Those questions are very easy to ask now, they’ve become the norm to ask and it won’t be perceived nearly as weird to have some of those conversations. So it’s a great opportunity to leverage the situation to really start caring about the whole person, when maybe before we didn’t worry about it. Because now we’re all in it together, right?
  • I would say this is a great opportunity to start to retool and rethink about the future or what the new normal might be. We’ve all been through the ringer – no work, some work, social distance work, find a new way to do it, get by with less. This is a great opportunity for a lot of innovation. Some of the firms I’ve worked with and talked with are saying stuff like, “we used to have everybody come out of the field for a 2:00 meeting, and everybody would spend all this time driving back, meet as a group and that was the end of the day or they’d go back to the work. Now we’re just calling in or doing it over Zoom and it actually works okay. In fact we’re saving 8 hours of drive time every time we met, because not everybody has to drive here and they’re more productive. So that’s a great thing that we may want to keep for the future even when we’re allowed to meet in person. We may have found that some people had to do more than they were used to, but actually they have a hidden talent in an area we never made them do anything before. Well, let’s see if that’s part of their long-term career path and build that growth and development. Even if we’re not learning or going to conferences as much as we used to, or maybe we’re doing online stuff and it’s a different format, we can still have growth and developmental opportunities and conversations about the job, just around kind of what we’re doing with our roles and responsibilities.

TTZ: That’s great advice. So as we close out, if our leaders and team members who are listening had to just take away one most important part of employee engagement, what would that be?

NG: The most important thing to understand is that employee engagement really starts to click when we view work as an integral part of our life. Meaning, let’s try and move away from “work/life balance” and really move towards “work/life integration.” How can we make work integrate into our life, how can we make the mission and purpose an important part of our day, how can we see ourselves here for a long period of time where we’re growing and developing and cared for as a person and shown appreciation, and just make work a place where we want to be, just like we want to be with our friends and our families when we’re not at work?

TTZ: Neal, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. For more information and links, check out our show notes. Don’t miss an episode. Subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also visit us at TheTurfZone.com.

You can reach Neal at:

Neal Glatt, Managing Partner | Grow The Bench

Phone: 805-340-9311 | Email: Neal@GrowTheBench.com | GrowTheBench.com

The post Turfgrass Council of North Carolina – Creating High Performing Teams with Neal Glatt appeared first on The Turf Zone.

Dec 03 2020

27mins

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Rank #7: Tennessee Turfgrass Association – Member Spotlight: Paul Webb

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Tennessee Turfgrass – Julie Holt, Content Director, TheTurfZone.com

The Turf Zone: Welcome to The Turf Zone. In this episode of Tennessee Turfgrass, we’re interviewing Paul Webb, General Manager and Golf Course Superintendent at Humboldt Country Club and TTA Board Member. Good morning Paul, how are you?

Paul Webb: I’m doing well, how are you?

TTZ: Doing good. Thanks so much for taking some time to talk to us this morning. I’m just going to jump right in and ask a little bit about your current position there in Humboldt. How long have you been in that job?

PW: I’ve been the general manager and golf course superintendent since August of 2011, so just a little over nine years. I came to Humboldt Golf and Country Club in February of 2010 as the superintendent alone and after a year and a half of being here, there was some turnover in different management positions and I was asked by the Board to become general manager and superintendent on an interim basis and nine years later we’re still here.

TTZ: In having both of those titles, what additional responsibilities do you have and what does a day look like when you hold both of those titles?

PW: It’s more focused on the turf side because I still feel like that’s the most important asset of the club and it is my background, so I feel more comfortable in it as well. As far as the general manager, I used to have to do a lot more day-to-day tournament operations and food and beverage, and over the years, our club has expanded in a way of hiring some more management underneath me and it’s given me an opportunity to do more oversight and not as much hands-on with those different operations. I’m still responsible of reporting to our Board of Directors on a weekly and monthly basis, I work hand-in-hand with our club officer and committee members and I’m responsible for the yearly budget of the entire property, so every day is a different challenge. Whether it’s something on the golf course, in the clubhouse, dealing with a swimming pool – just all aspects of a country club.

TTZ: That is a wide scope of work and responsibility. I frequently hear that there are unique challenges to addressing what the Board wants to see and also what members want to see. Do you feel like that’s sometime an uphill battle or have you leveled off on that part of the job?

PW: It’s somewhat leveled off. I’ve been here so long that I know for the most part what they expect and I know what are the areas where we need to improve. Our Board is constantly looking at ways to make things better, which is exciting for someone like me, that they don’t want to just have status quo, whether it’s on a monthly/yearly basis, the entire club is looking at any facet or any angle to make this place better and that’s a good thing for me because we don’t just get stuck in a rut doing the same thing over and over.

TTZ: Let’s rewind a little bit. How did you get into turfgrass and what jobs and what path led you to your current position?

PW: I’m a little bit different than your typical turf manager. I did not start out in college to go through the Agronomy path. I went to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville looking, started out as a business major and then after a couple of years decided that I wanted to do something within sports, but I didn’t know what. So I got a degree in Sport Management and I minored in business. In sport management I did a couple internships at various golf courses like Fair Oaks in Oakland, Tennessee and Gettysvue in Knoxville and Covington Country Club in Covington, TN. After graduation, those opportunities opened my eyes to the fact that I wanted to be on the Agronomy side of it. So once I graduated from Knoxville, I began dating my wife and she was a nursing major at UT Martin, so I decided why not go get another degree, so I went to Martin and continued to work in golf at a couple different courses and ended up getting a degree in agriculture with golf course and landscape management. Once I graduated from there is when I got my first assistant job at Colonial in Memphis.

TTZ: So that’s an interesting balance that you’ve got the Sports Management, Business and the Turf Management side of it. I think that probably gives you a unique perspective from both the management side and the golfers and turf. Has that been helpful in guiding your career path?

PW: It has. Right out of college, I had worked at a golf course and while I was at UT Martin and became superintendent. After five months or so, I realized that I wasn’t ready to be a superintendent and that’s when I decided to go back into the assistant area and then was in Memphis for a couple years. I wasn’t even there two years and I was at that point ready to back out and run my own show. I think one of the things that gave me a leg up getting the job as superintendent at Humboldt was the education background that I had with sport management and business along with the turf degree. And it’s also helped me as a general manager being able to have the perspective of the entire operation, not just what goes on at the maintenance shop.

TTZ: You are now a Tennessee Turfgrass Association Board member. How long have you been serving in that role?

PW: January will be four years.

TTZ: What changes have you seen over that timeframe that you think have been important to turfgrass managers in the state?

PW: The biggest change I’ve seen as far as the association, is I believe that there was a perception for many years that TTA was just basically a golf course superintendent’s association and conference was strictly geared towards superintendents and I think the TTA, since I’ve been a board member, I’ve seen the change of making it more open and welcoming to the sports turf and the landscape and really making it a turfgrass association, not just  golf course superintendents association. I think that’s important because there’s only roughly 300, 325 golf courses in the state in 95 counties, so it’s very important for the association to be geared towards turfgrass managers of all kinds because it’s a lot bigger than just golf.

TTZ: In the last six months in 2020, as we’ve been dealing with some unique challenges, the TTA has really gone to bat for turfgrass managers across the state in all areas with COVID restrictions and lockdowns. Can you give us a little perspective on how the board worked together to create that response that we’ve all seen and appreciated so much?

PW: I think the board did a great job of not just working together as a TTA board, but also reaching out to the other associations that are relevant to turfgrass, and made a collaborative effort of reaching out to our elected officials and different people to make sure that they understood how essential golf was. I think that the ability for golf to be viewed as an essential business has really kicked off an unbelievable year for a lot of golf courses. I know for us, we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of growth in our membership and the amount of play over the last six months. We sat there in a March board meeting talking about how many people we were going to lose. The board basically told me to go back to the drawing board and present another budget, of just a massive loss, you know, how are we going to cope with this. A month later, our membership had grown by probably ten percent, or two months later. It’s been a really good year for us. I know there’s examples of golf courses that have not had as good a year as us, but I think the association and the board making sure that the elected officials in the state knew that we were going to be an important part of getting through this COVID situation just by getting individuals in the state an avenue to get out of the house and go do something normal. And I think that’s very important.

TTZ: When you prepare yourself and your team for a slowdown and with the board sending you back to the drawing board with that budget, and then the surprising boom and a lot more business… does that change how you had to manage the course this season?

PW: Yes, somewhat. Besides pulling all the rakes off and the tee markers, removing all the things that people could touch and possibly spread the virus. I feel like our fertility program was probably upped a little bit because of the amount of traffic, we’ve got areas that they’ve just been beaten down. We didn’t change a whole lot of our cultural practices, we kept aerifications and stuff like that the same as we normally would, except for having to move them. We did have to move some tournaments around and back some things up because we were in such a period of unknown, so those are really the only examples of us doing anything different outside of a normal year. We just saw a whole lot more people at the course, and it’s a great thing for us. I love—well I don’t want to have a virus every year, I don’t want to have to wear masks and do all that stuff, but the interest in golf the last six months has been exciting.

TTZ: Let’s shift gears and talk about outside of what I know is a very busy schedule at work and with serving on the Board… what do you do in your free time? Do you have a family and how do your guys find some time to blow off steam outside of work?

PW: Yes, I do have a family, my wife and I have been married a little over 13 years. We have four boys—they’re 11, 8, 3, and 1. So they are the main focus outside of work, because it’s always something going on. I’m a pretty avid outdoorsman, I love hunting and playing golf. I don’t play as much golf as I would like to and I really don’t like playing here because I feel like I see more stuff that I think needs to be worked than enjoying my round of golf, but just going and spending time with friends and family and getting a chance to be outdoors doing something away from work.

TTZ: Frankly, I’m surprised you get to play golf at all with four boys at those ages, so congrats on that, it’s pretty amazing. It’s good to start early. Do your older boys get to hunt with you at all?

PW:  They do. My oldest is more into it than the second one. The second one likes playing golf a little bit more. They both are really excited to do really anything outside or with me, so it’s a good time, anytime I can go anywhere with them. They do enjoy hunting, fishing and going to the lake, doing all that kind of stuff.

TTZ: What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the turfgrass industry right now?

PW: I think most people would agree that the biggest challenge to our industry is labor. As far as, especially on the golf course side, a lot of it boils down to two things – finding younger individuals these days that really want to work and want to work outside, for the money that we’re able to pay. I think most clubs struggle with the idea of paying a decent wage for the individuals that they have. We rely so heavily on seasonal help and I feel like it hurts a lot of clubs, especially ours, because it would be so much better for clubs to find some more money in the budget and pay their fulltime staff more and be able to retain more fulltime staff year-round and have that training and retention that a lot of companies have, where we just, it’s like a revolving door for us as far as labor goes.

TTZ: Paul, let’s close with one final question – What would your advice be for people entering the turfgrass industry now?

PW: The best thing that I would tell them to do is be openminded about, well maybe not openminded. Be willing to go and gain any experience you can get from any course – I think a lot of these guys get to a position where they don’t want to, they only want to work high-end golf. I don’t blame them, there’s a lot of great experience. But for somebody like myself that came as an assistant from a Colonial Country Club and came to a small town country club and thought, I’m going to be a superintendent here for a few years, then I’m looking for the next step. Almost 11 years later, I’ve got three more kids and a great job for a great club. I just think these younger guys should get as much experience as they can and be willing to go to any kind of club that makes them happy. It’s not always about the title and the money, it’s also about being at a club where you feel like you can make a difference and be happy.

TTZ: That’s great advice, Paul. Thank you again for joining us. Don’t miss an episode of Tennessee Turfgrass. Subscribe at Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also visit us at TheTurfZone.com.

The post Tennessee Turfgrass Association – Member Spotlight: Paul Webb appeared first on The Turf Zone.

Dec 03 2020

20mins

Play

Rank #8: NESTMA – Creating High Performing Teams with Neal Glatt

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New England Blade – Julie Holt, Content Director, TheTurfZone.com

TheTurfZone: Welcome to TheTurfZone. Today we’re speaking with Neal Glatt, Managing Partner at Grow The Bench and business coach certified by the Gallup Organization. Welcome Neal.

Neal Glatt: Thanks for having me, Julie.

TTZ: I’m going to start out with a little explanation about what we said in your intro. You are a business coach, certified by the Gallup Organization. Can you tell me a little about what that means?

NG: I get to help businesses improve, usually around sales and management, which is really my passion is helping teams perform really well. And the Gallup organization is the world’s largest independent polling organization. So especially with election season right now, people are probably used to hearing “According to a Gallup poll…” That’s where most people know Gallup from is they call people up, they ask them what they think and they do it all around the world, more than anybody else and they don’t take any money from anybody, and just spend millions and millions of dollars on payroll to survey people. What they’ve developed are these world-class surveys is a lot of great information about what people really want and how it related to business. So when it comes to high performing teams, Gallup has essentially invented the category of what we call “employee engagement.” For the past 35 years, has been publishing information about what makes a highly engaged team, what even is a highly engaged team, and most importantly for us today, how can we take something really simple, at very little cost and put it into action to get more from our teams and make everybody feel better.

TTZ: You mentioned High performing teams, and that’s really what we’re going to focus on today, and fine tune that for the green industry. Can you tell me how you got into sharing this type of information and this type of business coaching, specifically in our industry?

NG: It actually happened the other way around for me. I graduated college with a degree in marketing, wanted to go into sales and started working for a landscaper and so I was working in this industry before I knew any of this great business stuff. And I had all the same challenges that other green industry companies have – too hard to attract people, too hard to keep people, nobody really as invested as I wanted them to be. Just trying to make it, and through that process of being frustrated and failing at management, I started to learn the hard way about some things that needed work. I was fortunate to work with or have employed some other really great managers and I’d see glimpses of greatness from people. And I see, you know, this person’s really great at developing relationships and people seemed to really like that. Or this person’s really great at developing people, and meanwhile their team is doing better with all the hard metrics. So systematically, I studied that and discovered some of the science and a few years ago decided to go out on my own as a business coach and earn some certifications along the way that support that. So I have the opportunity, being self-employed to work with any industry, but I just have a heart for the green industry because it served me really well. I think what we do is so important and so overlooked, and I get pretty excited about bringing this cutting-edge science to the green industry in a meaningful and practical way because I think that the green industry needs some love and gets overlooked by a lot of people.

TTZ: I absolutely agree. In these podcasts and in speaking with turfgrass professionals and nursery and landscape professionals across the region, very very few do not point to labor and building great teams as one of the biggest challenges they face. From education all the way to hands-on lawn and landscape smaller companies, everybody is trying to creating workplaces that foster good teams and that are productive and effective. I’m really excited to talk to you about this. Let’s start with – tell me how you identify a high-performing team, what characteristics are you looking for?

NG: So Gallup, and by extension I, define a high performing team as a team that has high employee engagement. And employee engagement is a term that gets thrown around a lot. But let’s define it first with the official definition, which is a highly engaged team is a team which employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and their workplace. We can actually measure this on a scale which Gallup has put out there an actual survey method, and we can see team to team within an organization and/or company to company how these companies compare to the extent which their employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to what they do and the company they do it for. And that’s really critical, before we move on and break it down about what that means, it’s really critical because that is the difference-maker. They call it work because it’s work, and it’s not about who’s happy or who’s satisfied in their job, although we do measure that. And, by the way, when are teams are engaged, satisfaction and happiness increase dramatically, which is awesome. But that’s not the place to start because there are times when work isn’t fun. When we have bad days where we have to do things that we may not like to do. That’s okay, that’s part of what work is. We need to understand that first and focus less on trying to placate to our teams or trying to make everybody say, “Yeah, I love what I do because of the people I work with or the perks they give me.” And really focus on, let’s do something meaningful first, I feel personally engaged in this mission, in this purpose, and it drives me to get up, even through the tough stuff, because we have to do tough stuff sometimes. And that will cover over everything else. So we look at how involved are people, how enthusiastic are people, and how committed are people and we try and drive those. And Gallup has identified 12 factors (and I don’t know if I’ll have time to go through all 12 today) that determine how enthusiastic and how committed and how involved people are.

TTZ: I like that distinction between “I love my job and I’m committed and involved” and what you said that, “I’m doing something meaningful.” Let’s start with some of those 12 factors and share how those apply in the turfgrass industry, or in the green industry in general.

NG: So at the most basic level, our needs are just understanding. So, do I know what’s expected of me at work? And I think a lot of people glaze over this and assume that everyone knows what’s expected. But realistically, that’s not true. In fact, only about 50% of employees clearly know what’s expected of them at work. And when I share this with people, normally they say, “Well, how do people not know what they’re supposed to do every day?” Well, maybe we have an idea of what we’re supposed to do, but we get confused on the order of how to do it, or the importance of what we’re doing. And there’s not just what we’re doing in terms of our roles or responsibilities, but there’s also a lot of expectations around relationships or company norms, so there’s this responsibility expectation but there’s also an emotional and relational expectation and it can be confusing, it could be showing up as “I don’t know what my manager really thinks about me,” “I’m not sure if I’m supposed to turn this in or be proactive or go home early or stay late.” All of those little uncertainties that we all face in our roles can creep in and the more we’re uncertain about, the less subconscious and psychological energy we have for what we need to be doing, which is investing in our roles and seeing that production.

So that’s the basic level, and then we start talking about does everybody feel like their individual role contributes to the mission and purpose of the organization, so we look at the big picture with that too. Almost every team has a mission and purpose, or every organization does. So depending on what sector of the turfgrass industry you’re in, maybe our mission is to provide great places for families to come and enjoy the outdoors, or have family moments together, or maybe if you’re more on the supplier side of turfgrass, your mission is to keep landscape contractors or people who maintain turfgrass fields running and fulfilling their missions, and it’s a supportive mission. Whatever your mission and purpose is, is fine so long as every person in the company says, “What I do every day actively contributes to that.” And it should be somewhat personally important.

TTZ: How can we measure engagement, this feeling of contribution from our team members with employee engagement?

NG: The easiest way is with the Q12. It’s a 12-question survey, and it’s really affordable. You can go to Gallup and purchase it for like $15 per person, and run this anonymous survey then crunch all the numbers and they compare you overall. But even if that’s not feasible, you can just ask people. One of the things I always advocate for is completely free, which is, if you’re a manager, go have a conversation with everybody who reports to you for about an hour every single week. And that can be a lot of time, but that conversation is going to be about how they’re doing in their role, how you can support them more as a manager, where they want to develop and grow. But really talking with them, and you can just sort of ask them, “Do you know the mission and purpose of our organization, and how you contribute to it?” Or maybe as simple as reminding them, “Hey, you know our mission is to make other businesses flow really well through their operations, and you do that consistently by doing this and I appreciate that.” So, other Q12 items are appreciation, growth and development and you see very quickly how these all sort of intermingle in a conversation.

TTZ: Let’s do go back to that growth and development element because I can see that that’s where our team leaders and for instance, golf course superintendents who have larger teams – they didn’t become leaders without going through that process, and I know that so many of them have shared that that’s what they want to see in their assistants and in their team members. So how do we support and encourage that?

NG: It’s got to be intentional and it’s got to be continuous. Gallup has done a lot of research around millennials and I am a millennial myself so those of us born between 1980 and 1996 have a bad rap in the workplace, but we’re like 50% of the workforce, so if you’re a superintendent and you’ve got a workforce, at least half of them, or they were, except they quit. Because we’re a problematic portion of the workforce, especially in this sector. One of the challenges I think that the turfgrass industry faces is growth and development, you know educationally, there’s a lot of opportunities, but positionally and pay raise, you’re relatively fixed. If that’s the case for you, you’re going to have a tough time attracting and retaining labor. Because, especially for millennials, the number one factor when choosing a job is the growth and development opportunity. When a millennial, or when anybody comes to you, really, and says, “I want a promotion and I want a pay raise,” instead of assuming that it’s because they’re entitled, I think a lot of the time it’s because they’re looking to grow and develop, and that’s kind of the only traditional way we know, is that we got a new title or we got a pay raise. What I encourage leaders to do is, let’s add a lot more steps to what growth and development looks like. So instead of going from whatever the title is, general turfgrass technician to assistant superintendent to superintendent, how many more positions, even if they’re unofficial, can we put in there? Can we stratify the levels a little bit and show people, listen, it might take you 5 years to go from assistant to superintendent, but in those 5 years, here are 10 concrete steps that we’ll look for you to take. It might be pesticide or fertilization license, it might be getting some sort of certification around water conservation, it might even be a degree from one of the big turfgrass management programs out there. And all of those things can contribute towards that growth and progression. And it’d be really great if there was some financial reward along the way for earning some of those things. But at the very least you can support and recognize them in those steps, and that alone will boost retention dramatically. So one of the things we know for employees who are very engaged, compared to those who are not as engaged, is that it leads to 43% lower turnover compared. So if we want to keep people longer, we can give them growth and development opportunities and it’s going to seriously move the needle for how often we have to hire and train people.

TTZ: I love this two-way street of communication between leaders and team members where the leaders really do have to take ownership of communicating the expectation on a very basic and detailed level, but also through this proven development process, and in a broader scale.

NG: You may be listening to this podcast right now and saying, “well, the leaders should be having those conversations with me, but they’re not.” If that’s your situation, I don’t think that you’re in a hopeless situation. I would suggest that you go to your manager, whoever that is, and say, “I want to grow, I want to progress. Here’s some ways I think that I can do that, and here’s what I’d like to get to – my idea is I would love to be superintendent in three years and be making this much money. Is that feasible, is it reasonable, help me vet out my career plan a little bit.” Have an open discussion like that, and then say, “Now help me identify the steps.” If I’m – I’ve hired and managed a lot of people – very, very rarely has somebody come to me and said, “Neal, here’s where I want to go, and here’s what I want to do.” But when they have, we were able to make that work. In fact, I’ll share a quick story. I once hired a young gentleman who was basically fresh out of prison, dropped out of high school, was in a not great situation in life, but he’d come out more or less what we would call reformed. This guy was looking to make a positive change in his life. He never wanted to go back to where he was. He didn’t have a lot of skills though, didn’t have a lot of communication skills but was hungry. He wanted to grow. He goes, “listen, I made bad decisions in my life, I got hooked up with the wrong people, I don’t ever want to go back there again. Let’s talk about how I can avoid that. How do I get health insurance because of the way they took care of my health in prison was way better than I can afford to take care of my health now?” We started to come up with a plan. I hired this guy, he was shoveling snow for me part time in the winter, because that’s what we did. It was an on-call, seasonal position, but we developed skills. We paid for some of his development, but he also put in a lot of his own resources into development. Getting better with technology, getting better at grammar, and eventually, over the course of about 4-5 years, he worked himself up to being our fleet supervisor. This guy runs around now in nicer shirt and shoes than I wear and runs a whole team of mechanics and does awesome. And he really bootstrapped his way there. I feel really fortunate to be a very small player in helping him get to a better life and really he did it on his own, I was just able to buy an online course for him. I was able to spend a few hours here and there telling him about financial management lessons that I’ve learned along the way. It wasn’t a lot, but it was intentional and that’s the best feeling in the world when you can make something like that happen.

TTZ: Let me, in typical 2020 fashion, throw a wrench in all of this and let’s talk about how do we continue these good habits and this team development when we are working so differently – we’re short staffed, we are social distancing on the job, we have new requirements for health and safety, we’re all overburdened with shifting and changing, and while we’ve been really resilient as an industry, I think it has taken some of the focus off of developing and nurturing our teams the way we typically would. How can we handle this and COVID times?

NG: I think that we have a great opportunity to do this because we’re already having some of these conversations. Nobody has survived the last six months without saying, “Ok, here’s what the expectations are going to look like for whatever period in the future.” We’ve had to have some of those conversations. So here’s my three-step process for really using COVID as a way to leverage this development:

  • Have more frequent expectation conversations. A lot of places of business said, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do with COVID and that’s going to be it. But we know that the CDC and states are changing their guidelines weekly if not faster. So I would say let’s have a conversation at least every two weeks about what the expectations are. And part of that expectation is going to be the commitment to the employee. Here’s where we see ourselves as a business, here’s where we’re at with funding, here’s what we believe will be normal for the next two to four weeks. Even though the information is going to change, you have our commitment to hold this little update meeting every couple weeks with you so that there’s no confusion. So, a great opportunity to continually reinforce the expectations of people from working conditions to hours and on and on.
  • This is a phenomenal time to start conversations about wellbeing and really build these personal relationships. One of the Q12 items reads: I have a best friend at work. Having a best friend at work is weird language, right? Certainly any of the senior superintendents listening to this podcast are like, “In my day we didn’t talk about best friends at work.” And I get it. But we spend so much time at work and so much time with the people we work with, and the number one factor in our overall wellbeing as a person is not what we’re doing, but who we’re doing it with. And so it could feel  awkward in the normal course of business to say, “Hey, let’s talk about the relationships you have and how you feel about them.” But in times of COVID, it’s expected and sympathetic and a relief. Is your family doing okay? Any issues making ends meet that I should be aware of? Any health issues where you could use time off that I can help support you with? How are your kids doing, are they in school? Childcare still available? Is your spouse working? Those questions are very easy to ask now, they’ve become the norm to ask and it won’t be perceived nearly as weird to have some of those conversations. So it’s a great opportunity to leverage the situation to really start caring about the whole person, when maybe before we didn’t worry about it. Because now we’re all in it together, right?
  • I would say this is a great opportunity to start to retool and rethink about the future or what the new normal might be. We’ve all been through the ringer – no work, some work, social distance work, find a new way to do it, get by with less. This is a great opportunity for a lot of innovation. Some of the firms I’ve worked with and talked with are saying stuff like, “we used to have everybody come out of the field for a 2:00 meeting, and everybody would spend all this time driving back, meet as a group and that was the end of the day or they’d go back to the work. Now we’re just calling in or doing it over Zoom and it actually works okay. In fact we’re saving 8 hours of drive time every time we met, because not everybody has to drive here and they’re more productive. So that’s a great thing that we may want to keep for the future even when we’re allowed to meet in person. We may have found that some people had to do more than they were used to, but actually they have a hidden talent in an area we never made them do anything before. Well, let’s see if that’s part of their long-term career path and build that growth and development. Even if we’re not learning or going to conferences as much as we used to, or maybe we’re doing online stuff and it’s a different format, we can still have growth and developmental opportunities and conversations about the job, just around kind of what we’re doing with our roles and responsibilities.

TTZ: That’s great advice. So as we close out, if our leaders and team members who are listening had to just take away one most important part of employee engagement, what would that be?

NG: The most important thing to understand is that employee engagement really starts to click when we view work as an integral part of our life. Meaning, let’s try and move away from “work/life balance” and really move towards “work/life integration.” How can we make work integrate into our life, how can we make the mission and purpose an important part of our day, how can we see ourselves here for a long period of time where we’re growing and developing and cared for as a person and shown appreciation, and just make work a place where we want to be, just like we want to be with our friends and our families when we’re not at work?

TTZ: Neal, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. For more information and links, check out our show notes. Don’t miss an episode. Subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also visit us at TheTurfZone.com.

You can reach Neal at:

Neal Glatt, Managing Partner | Grow The Bench

Phone: 805-340-9311 | Email: Neal@GrowTheBench.com | GrowTheBench.com

The post NESTMA – Creating High Performing Teams with Neal Glatt appeared first on The Turf Zone.

Dec 03 2020

26mins

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Rank #9: Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council – Linde’s DelVal Turf Management Program Builds on Passion and Experience

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Pennsylvania Turfgrass – Julie Holt, Content Director, TheTurfZone.com

The professional Turf Management movement that started at Penn State in the mid-nineties has become like an extended family. One of its founding members is Dr. Douglas Linde. We spoke with him recently between classes at Delaware Valley University, where Linde wears multiple hats: professor, golf coach, researcher, and student mentor. He has been a professor of turf management at Delaware Valley University since 1996, when he was recruited to develop and direct the new turf management program there.

Designing a Program

Looking back, it seems obvious that Doug Linde was the right person in the right place at the right time to develop a turf management program. He recalls that it was a hot new field of study with a lot of demand in the nineties. Penn State had just launched a Turf Management major and Delaware Valley wanted to offer the same discipline in a different setting. Linde had earned his bachelor’s degree in agronomy and environmental science from DelVal in 1991 and his M.S. (1993) and Ph.D. in agronomy from Penn State in 1996. He was also a three-time Most Valuable Golfer and team captain while playing at DelVal as an undergraduate and already had name recognition and many industry connections.

The turf management program which Dr. Linde designed and developed at DelVal prepares students specifically for careers as golf course superintendents, sports field managers, and lawn care specialists. The curriculum provides a strong academic base in plant and soil science with many technical classes in turf management. However, a lot of class time is also spent visiting nearby turf facilities and doing hands-on work on the College’s putting green, lawns, and sports fields, all of which had to be built from the ground up when the program started.  Experience360, a graduation requirement for all full-time undergraduate students at Delaware Valley College, asks students to choose four credits from multiple experiential learning activities, depending on their major’s program requirements. Dr. Linde is a firm believer in getting your hands dirty and feels that the required work experience component is a real highlight of the Turf Management Program.

Linde credits his Penn State mentor Tom Watschke with encouraging him to pursue the advanced degrees that made his leadership role possible and with introducing him to the professional world of turf management. He is also grateful to KAFMO for helping him and the DelVal turf program by supporting students with scholarships and providing opportunities to network with KAFMO professionals at conferences and at the golf tournament. “It helps that they are a fun group of people,” he adds.

What Came First, Grass or Golf?

When asked what first drew him to a career in turf management, Linde’s answer was quick: “Golf!” Like most of his students, it was passion for a sport that marked his career path. Doug Linde grew up as the son of a golf course superintendent on Wedgewood Golf Course in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. He developed a love for the game of golf and golf courses at an early age and, as one of the top golfers in Delaware Valley University history, he took over the program as head coach in 1996.

Coach Linde led the Aggies to the program’s first-ever conference championship, the Freedom crown, in the conference’s inaugural year for golf in 2005, when he was also honored by his peers as the Freedom Conference (now MAC Freedom) Coach of the Year. His coaching career has honed the talents of many gifted students, including Freedom Conference Golfer of the Year and individual champion junior Dom Foti in 2014-2015.

Many Hats

Linde currently teaches several turf management courses, including Golf Course Design and Construction, Land Surveying, Irrigation Technology, and Soils. Outside of class, he coaches the Golf Team, advises the Turf Club, and supervises the turf-research facility and putting green on campus. He is also a golf course and sports field consultant and conducts his own turfgrass research. Most importantly in his own eyes, though, he specializes in preparing students for successful careers in the turf industry and advises all turf management students both academically and as they pursue their career goals.

Dr. Linde received DelVal’s Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year Award in 2003 and was awarded the 2005 Golf Coach of the Year award for the NCAA Division III Freedom Conference. However, in spite of a string of awards and coaching highlights over the years, Linde says he takes most pride in the ongoing lifelong relationships he has with his students, many of whom have gone on to succeed in the profession. He nostalgically recalls how his own advisor Tom Waschke was a kind of Pied Piper followed by all his former students at professional events. He now feels that he has stepped into that mentor role himself. He says that he has reached a very rewarding part of his career: “Every time I go on vacation, there is a former student turned golf superintendent to visit — and a new golf course to play!” he laughs.

Advice from a Pro

When asked what advice he would give to young people just thinking about starting out in the field, Linde immediately puts on his student advisor hat. “Academics are an important basis for a future as well-rounded professionals, but it is even more important to get some field experience, get a feel for it,” he says. He recommends a summer job or part-time work maintaining a sports field, for example. In his experience, it is always a personal connection to the work that leads to success. “A combination of passion and experience is more important in a career than anything,” he says. As someone who combines both, Doug Linde should know!

The post Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council – Linde’s DelVal Turf Management Program Builds on Passion and Experience appeared first on The Turf Zone.

Dec 03 2020

7mins

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Rank #10: Maryland Turfgrass Council – Creating High Performing Teams with Neal Glatt

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MTC Turf News – Julie Holt, Content Director, TheTurfZone.com

TheTurfZone: Welcome to TheTurfZone. Today we’re speaking with Neal Glatt, Managing Partner at Grow The Bench and business coach certified by the Gallup Organization. Welcome Neal.

Neal Glatt: Thanks for having me, Julie.

TTZ: I’m going to start out with a little explanation about what we said in your intro. You are a business coach, certified by the Gallup Organization. Can you tell me a little about what that means?

NG: I get to help businesses improve, usually around sales and management, which is really my passion is helping teams perform really well. And the Gallup organization is the world’s largest independent polling organization. So especially with election season right now, people are probably used to hearing “According to a Gallup poll…” That’s where most people know Gallup from is they call people up, they ask them what they think and they do it all around the world, more than anybody else and they don’t take any money from anybody, and just spend millions and millions of dollars on payroll to survey people. What they’ve developed are these world-class surveys is a lot of great information about what people really want and how it related to business. So when it comes to high performing teams, Gallup has essentially invented the category of what we call “employee engagement.” For the past 35 years, has been publishing information about what makes a highly engaged team, what even is a highly engaged team, and most importantly for us today, how can we take something really simple, at very little cost and put it into action to get more from our teams and make everybody feel better.

TTZ: You mentioned High performing teams, and that’s really what we’re going to focus on today, and fine tune that for the green industry. Can you tell me how you got into sharing this type of information and this type of business coaching, specifically in our industry?

NG: It actually happened the other way around for me. I graduated college with a degree in marketing, wanted to go into sales and started working for a landscaper and so I was working in this industry before I knew any of this great business stuff. And I had all the same challenges that other green industry companies have – too hard to attract people, too hard to keep people, nobody really as invested as I wanted them to be. Just trying to make it, and through that process of being frustrated and failing at management, I started to learn the hard way about some things that needed work. I was fortunate to work with or have employed some other really great managers and I’d see glimpses of greatness from people. And I see, you know, this person’s really great at developing relationships and people seemed to really like that. Or this person’s really great at developing people, and meanwhile their team is doing better with all the hard metrics. So systematically, I studied that and discovered some of the science and a few years ago decided to go out on my own as a business coach and earn some certifications along the way that support that. So I have the opportunity, being self-employed to work with any industry, but I just have a heart for the green industry because it served me really well. I think what we do is so important and so overlooked, and I get pretty excited about bringing this cutting-edge science to the green industry in a meaningful and practical way because I think that the green industry needs some love and gets overlooked by a lot of people.

TTZ: I absolutely agree. In these podcasts and in speaking with turfgrass professionals and nursery and landscape professionals across the region, very very few do not point to labor and building great teams as one of the biggest challenges they face. From education all the way to hands-on lawn and landscape smaller companies, everybody is trying to creating workplaces that foster good teams and that are productive and effective. I’m really excited to talk to you about this. Let’s start with – tell me how you identify a high-performing team, what characteristics are you looking for?

NG: So Gallup, and by extension I, define a high performing team as a team that has high employee engagement. And employee engagement is a term that gets thrown around a lot. But let’s define it first with the official definition, which is a highly engaged team is a team which employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and their workplace. We can actually measure this on a scale which Gallup has put out there an actual survey method, and we can see team to team within an organization and/or company to company how these companies compare to the extent which their employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to what they do and the company they do it for. And that’s really critical, before we move on and break it down about what that means, it’s really critical because that is the difference-maker. They call it work because it’s work, and it’s not about who’s happy or who’s satisfied in their job, although we do measure that. And, by the way, when are teams are engaged, satisfaction and happiness increase dramatically, which is awesome. But that’s not the place to start because there are times when work isn’t fun. When we have bad days where we have to do things that we may not like to do. That’s okay, that’s part of what work is. We need to understand that first and focus less on trying to placate to our teams or trying to make everybody say, “Yeah, I love what I do because of the people I work with or the perks they give me.” And really focus on, let’s do something meaningful first, I feel personally engaged in this mission, in this purpose, and it drives me to get up, even through the tough stuff, because we have to do tough stuff sometimes. And that will cover over everything else. So we look at how involved are people, how enthusiastic are people, and how committed are people and we try and drive those. And Gallup has identified 12 factors (and I don’t know if I’ll have time to go through all 12 today) that determine how enthusiastic and how committed and how involved people are.

TTZ: I like that distinction between “I love my job and I’m committed and involved” and what you said that, “I’m doing something meaningful.” Let’s start with some of those 12 factors and share how those apply in the turfgrass industry, or in the green industry in general.

NG: So at the most basic level, our needs are just understanding. So, do I know what’s expected of me at work? And I think a lot of people glaze over this and assume that everyone knows what’s expected. But realistically, that’s not true. In fact, only about 50% of employees clearly know what’s expected of them at work. And when I share this with people, normally they say, “Well, how do people not know what they’re supposed to do every day?” Well, maybe we have an idea of what we’re supposed to do, but we get confused on the order of how to do it, or the importance of what we’re doing. And there’s not just what we’re doing in terms of our roles or responsibilities, but there’s also a lot of expectations around relationships or company norms, so there’s this responsibility expectation but there’s also an emotional and relational expectation and it can be confusing, it could be showing up as “I don’t know what my manager really thinks about me,” “I’m not sure if I’m supposed to turn this in or be proactive or go home early or stay late.” All of those little uncertainties that we all face in our roles can creep in and the more we’re uncertain about, the less subconscious and psychological energy we have for what we need to be doing, which is investing in our roles and seeing that production.

So that’s the basic level, and then we start talking about does everybody feel like their individual role contributes to the mission and purpose of the organization, so we look at the big picture with that too. Almost every team has a mission and purpose, or every organization does. So depending on what sector of the turfgrass industry you’re in, maybe our mission is to provide great places for families to come and enjoy the outdoors, or have family moments together, or maybe if you’re more on the supplier side of turfgrass, your mission is to keep landscape contractors or people who maintain turfgrass fields running and fulfilling their missions, and it’s a supportive mission. Whatever your mission and purpose is, is fine so long as every person in the company says, “What I do every day actively contributes to that.” And it should be somewhat personally important.

TTZ: How can we measure engagement, this feeling of contribution from our team members with employee engagement?

NG: The easiest way is with the Q12. It’s a 12-question survey, and it’s really affordable. You can go to Gallup and purchase it for like $15 per person, and run this anonymous survey then crunch all the numbers and they compare you overall. But even if that’s not feasible, you can just ask people. One of the things I always advocate for is completely free, which is, if you’re a manager, go have a conversation with everybody who reports to you for about an hour every single week. And that can be a lot of time, but that conversation is going to be about how they’re doing in their role, how you can support them more as a manager, where they want to develop and grow. But really talking with them, and you can just sort of ask them, “Do you know the mission and purpose of our organization, and how you contribute to it?” Or maybe as simple as reminding them, “Hey, you know our mission is to make other businesses flow really well through their operations, and you do that consistently by doing this and I appreciate that.” So, other Q12 items are appreciation, growth and development and you see very quickly how these all sort of intermingle in a conversation.

TTZ: Let’s do go back to that growth and development element because I can see that that’s where our team leaders and for instance, golf course superintendents who have larger teams – they didn’t become leaders without going through that process, and I know that so many of them have shared that that’s what they want to see in their assistants and in their team members. So how do we support and encourage that?

NG: It’s got to be intentional and it’s got to be continuous. Gallup has done a lot of research around millennials and I am a millennial myself so those of us born between 1980 and 1996 have a bad rap in the workplace, but we’re like 50% of the workforce, so if you’re a superintendent and you’ve got a workforce, at least half of them, or they were, except they quit. Because we’re a problematic portion of the workforce, especially in this sector. One of the challenges I think that the turfgrass industry faces is growth and development, you know educationally, there’s a lot of opportunities, but positionally and pay raise, you’re relatively fixed. If that’s the case for you, you’re going to have a tough time attracting and retaining labor. Because, especially for millennials, the number one factor when choosing a job is the growth and development opportunity. When a millennial, or when anybody comes to you, really, and says, “I want a promotion and I want a pay raise,” instead of assuming that it’s because they’re entitled, I think a lot of the time it’s because they’re looking to grow and develop, and that’s kind of the only traditional way we know, is that we got a new title or we got a pay raise. What I encourage leaders to do is, let’s add a lot more steps to what growth and development looks like. So instead of going from whatever the title is, general turfgrass technician to assistant superintendent to superintendent, how many more positions, even if they’re unofficial, can we put in there? Can we stratify the levels a little bit and show people, listen, it might take you 5 years to go from assistant to superintendent, but in those 5 years, here are 10 concrete steps that we’ll look for you to take. It might be pesticide or fertilization license, it might be getting some sort of certification around water conservation, it might even be a degree from one of the big turfgrass management programs out there. And all of those things can contribute towards that growth and progression. And it’d be really great if there was some financial reward along the way for earning some of those things. But at the very least you can support and recognize them in those steps, and that alone will boost retention dramatically. So one of the things we know for employees who are very engaged, compared to those who are not as engaged, is that it leads to 43% lower turnover compared. So if we want to keep people longer, we can give them growth and development opportunities and it’s going to seriously move the needle for how often we have to hire and train people.

TTZ: I love this two-way street of communication between leaders and team members where the leaders really do have to take ownership of communicating the expectation on a very basic and detailed level, but also through this proven development process, and in a broader scale.

NG: You may be listening to this podcast right now and saying, “well, the leaders should be having those conversations with me, but they’re not.” If that’s your situation, I don’t think that you’re in a hopeless situation. I would suggest that you go to your manager, whoever that is, and say, “I want to grow, I want to progress. Here’s some ways I think that I can do that, and here’s what I’d like to get to – my idea is I would love to be superintendent in three years and be making this much money. Is that feasible, is it reasonable, help me vet out my career plan a little bit.” Have an open discussion like that, and then say, “Now help me identify the steps.” If I’m – I’ve hired and managed a lot of people – very, very rarely has somebody come to me and said, “Neal, here’s where I want to go, and here’s what I want to do.” But when they have, we were able to make that work. In fact, I’ll share a quick story. I once hired a young gentleman who was basically fresh out of prison, dropped out of high school, was in a not great situation in life, but he’d come out more or less what we would call reformed. This guy was looking to make a positive change in his life. He never wanted to go back to where he was. He didn’t have a lot of skills though, didn’t have a lot of communication skills but was hungry. He wanted to grow. He goes, “listen, I made bad decisions in my life, I got hooked up with the wrong people, I don’t ever want to go back there again. Let’s talk about how I can avoid that. How do I get health insurance because of the way they took care of my health in prison was way better than I can afford to take care of my health now?” We started to come up with a plan. I hired this guy, he was shoveling snow for me part time in the winter, because that’s what we did. It was an on-call, seasonal position, but we developed skills. We paid for some of his development, but he also put in a lot of his own resources into development. Getting better with technology, getting better at grammar, and eventually, over the course of about 4-5 years, he worked himself up to being our fleet supervisor. This guy runs around now in nicer shirt and shoes than I wear and runs a whole team of mechanics and does awesome. And he really bootstrapped his way there. I feel really fortunate to be a very small player in helping him get to a better life and really he did it on his own, I was just able to buy an online course for him. I was able to spend a few hours here and there telling him about financial management lessons that I’ve learned along the way. It wasn’t a lot, but it was intentional and that’s the best feeling in the world when you can make something like that happen.

TTZ: Let me, in typical 2020 fashion, throw a wrench in all of this and let’s talk about how do we continue these good habits and this team development when we are working so differently – we’re short staffed, we are social distancing on the job, we have new requirements for health and safety, we’re all overburdened with shifting and changing, and while we’ve been really resilient as an industry, I think it has taken some of the focus off of developing and nurturing our teams the way we typically would. How can we handle this and COVID times?

NG: I think that we have a great opportunity to do this because we’re already having some of these conversations. Nobody has survived the last six months without saying, “Ok, here’s what the expectations are going to look like for whatever period in the future.” We’ve had to have some of those conversations. So here’s my three-step process for really using COVID as a way to leverage this development:

  • Have more frequent expectation conversations. A lot of places of business said, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do with COVID and that’s going to be it. But we know that the CDC and states are changing their guidelines weekly if not faster. So I would say let’s have a conversation at least every two weeks about what the expectations are. And part of that expectation is going to be the commitment to the employee. Here’s where we see ourselves as a business, here’s where we’re at with funding, here’s what we believe will be normal for the next two to four weeks. Even though the information is going to change, you have our commitment to hold this little update meeting every couple weeks with you so that there’s no confusion. So, a great opportunity to continually reinforce the expectations of people from working conditions to hours and on and on.
  • This is a phenomenal time to start conversations about wellbeing and really build these personal relationships. One of the Q12 items reads: I have a best friend at work. Having a best friend at work is weird language, right? Certainly any of the senior superintendents listening to this podcast are like, “In my day we didn’t talk about best friends at work.” And I get it. But we spend so much time at work and so much time with the people we work with, and the number one factor in our overall wellbeing as a person is not what we’re doing, but who we’re doing it with. And so it could feel  awkward in the normal course of business to say, “Hey, let’s talk about the relationships you have and how you feel about them.” But in times of COVID, it’s expected and sympathetic and a relief. Is your family doing okay? Any issues making ends meet that I should be aware of? Any health issues where you could use time off that I can help support you with? How are your kids doing, are they in school? Childcare still available? Is your spouse working? Those questions are very easy to ask now, they’ve become the norm to ask and it won’t be perceived nearly as weird to have some of those conversations. So it’s a great opportunity to leverage the situation to really start caring about the whole person, when maybe before we didn’t worry about it. Because now we’re all in it together, right?
  • I would say this is a great opportunity to start to retool and rethink about the future or what the new normal might be. We’ve all been through the ringer – no work, some work, social distance work, find a new way to do it, get by with less. This is a great opportunity for a lot of innovation. Some of the firms I’ve worked with and talked with are saying stuff like, “we used to have everybody come out of the field for a 2:00 meeting, and everybody would spend all this time driving back, meet as a group and that was the end of the day or they’d go back to the work. Now we’re just calling in or doing it over Zoom and it actually works okay. In fact we’re saving 8 hours of drive time every time we met, because not everybody has to drive here and they’re more productive. So that’s a great thing that we may want to keep for the future even when we’re allowed to meet in person. We may have found that some people had to do more than they were used to, but actually they have a hidden talent in an area we never made them do anything before. Well, let’s see if that’s part of their long-term career path and build that growth and development. Even if we’re not learning or going to conferences as much as we used to, or maybe we’re doing online stuff and it’s a different format, we can still have growth and developmental opportunities and conversations about the job, just around kind of what we’re doing with our roles and responsibilities.

TTZ: That’s great advice. So as we close out, if our leaders and team members who are listening had to just take away one most important part of employee engagement, what would that be?

NG: The most important thing to understand is that employee engagement really starts to click when we view work as an integral part of our life. Meaning, let’s try and move away from “work/life balance” and really move towards “work/life integration.” How can we make work integrate into our life, how can we make the mission and purpose an important part of our day, how can we see ourselves here for a long period of time where we’re growing and developing and cared for as a person and shown appreciation, and just make work a place where we want to be, just like we want to be with our friends and our families when we’re not at work?

TTZ: Neal, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. For more information and links, check out our show notes. Don’t miss an episode. Subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also visit us at TheTurfZone.com.

You can reach Neal at:

Neal Glatt, Managing Partner | Grow The Bench

Phone: 805-340-9311 | Email: Neal@GrowTheBench.com | GrowTheBench.com

The post Maryland Turfgrass Council – Creating High Performing Teams with Neal Glatt appeared first on The Turf Zone.

Dec 03 2020

27mins

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