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  • Mary Mattson

Not so 'par for the course'

I love the remarkably diverse backgrounds that brought Emergence Collective together; community organizers, evaluators, political activists, and public health experts, to name a few. When we first began dreaming about what Emergence Collective could be, there were obvious connections between these fields and our vision for the future, but I wrestled with how my past experiences would contribute to our vision.

For nearly a decade before returning to grad school to pursue my MSW, I lived my dream as a professional golfer and collegiate coach (as I often say, I made a living chasing a white ball around green fields). During my time in athletics, I had the privilege of learning from some of the best coaches in the country. These individuals, although different in their backgrounds and experiences, shared several foundational beliefs that I sought to incorporate as a coach and now as a consultant. Two, in particular, stand out.

Success is when we’re no longer needed.

The best coaches teach, prepare, and equip players to be their own best coach. Dependency is never the goal. I once asked Dan Brooks, the winningest women's golf coach in NCAA history, about his on-course coaching philosophy. He quickly responded, “If I’ve done my job well, I’m rarely needed.”

This lesson rings true in work with our partners. We often see consultants working with organizations in ways that create dependency on ‘experts’ after the project is complete (ie. use of tools the organization doesn’t have ongoing access to, undocumented processes that can’t be replicated, and action plans they don’t have the capacity to implement). Our primary goal is to build capacity with our partners in a way that truly leaves them better prepared and more independent than when we began.

No one size fits all.

Many coaches embrace one specific teaching philosophy, rigidly applying it with every student. I often watched players rely solely on a specific method to solve their golf woes, and in the process, they quelched their natural athleticism.

We often encounter similar thinking among organizations: chasing a best practice model or new business practice as a silver-bullet fix that rarely delivers on expectations. Like the coach who pulls from a broad knowledge base, applying the methods best suited for each player, our Collective team knows that our methods must be tailored to the uniqueness of our partner and their specific context.

I’m so grateful for the many lessons I’ve learned from these coaches and the example they set for me. I’m also grateful to be on a team that leans into discomfort, encourages curiosity, expects the unexpected, treasures diversity, and is always seeking growth. The unique makeup and experiences of our Collective team are definitely not ‘par for the course,’ and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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