Jo Cameron has seen both sides of the business world – from appearing on The Apprentice and holding down high-pressure jobs, to suffering serious burnout from stress.
Today she’s a mental health speaker and a wellbeing consultant who found golf helped her recovery. She shares that with business people through the 1st Tee Directors Club, which she set up with her partner. Jo, who is based at Ardencote Hotel and Spa Warwickshire, tells her story
I love the whole golf experience: the fresh air, being out in the open, away from distractions. I love the sporting nature of it and the great experiences it has bought with my friends, my partner and my dad. I’m also a big fan of shiny new clubs and nice equipment lol! Whilst am I out on the golf course I think of nothing else. It’s a great stress reliever.
You describe yourself as a burnout specialist who got it wrong, very wrong. What happened?
I worked far too hard at everything. I had too high an expectation of myself as a businessperson, as a mum and generally as a human being. Everything I did was at 100 miles an hour. I was overly competitive too. There were no real regular rests in my life and after a prolonged period of doing everything ‘flat out’ my brain and body just gave in. I had lost all reality of ‘balance’.
There had been several stressful events in my life that I didn’t take time to recover from. The facts were that I was looking at five years in bed but after I put myself on a strict repair regime I started to pick up once again. Even with that strict approach (ditching caffeine, anything with sugary in, alcohol for a while, eating more protein at specific times each day and doing weird things like drinking pints of salt water and lying flat on the floor a lot) it took me over three years to recover.
It’s because of this that I am so passionate about helping others prevent burnout in the first place or to recover once they have it. It was horrendous and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
How did golf help your wellbeing?
Golf has helped me in so many ways. My partner and I have developed Leadership, Business and Wellbeing Modules out on the golf course. Whilst designing those and walking the course I have learned more about myself than I ever have from management texts and self-improvement books. They are all theory. Golf is much more practical. Golf taught me that the more force I put into something the more my results deteriorate. I learned the benefits of letting ‘things go’ when they don’t go according to plan, and I learned the score of a golf round is not the be all and end all of life!! It’s taught me to calm and relax.
How did this lead to the 1st Tee Directors Club?
My partner, Julian, is a golf coach and we met 12 years ago when I went to learn to play golf. We always knew we wanted to work together. Business and golf work seamlessly together as we all know and when Julian was introduced to the coaching method, Easiest Swing in Golf, it became a reality.
We both believe that our professions of leadership and management and golf are overcomplicated and have always been looking at ways to simplify them. One Saturday I said to Julian: “Come on. If we are going to do this thing let’s do it now.” He responded by asking: “What is leadership all about then”. I listed the topics and he came up with the golfing activities to illustrate that leadership skill, things like ‘change management’, ‘what type of leader am I?’ and wellbeing strategies. We designed them around the putting greens, on the fairways and using the natural hazards of the golf course as a landscape for business. Hey presto. 1st Tee Directors Club was born.
Additionally, using the Easiest Swing in Golf methodology, we knew that we could teach people to hit golf balls quickly and that we could demonstrate that if you remain calm, you will hit a better golf ball. This led to us spotting a lovely little niche with wellbeing programmes for companies. We take teams out on the golf courses and show them how to stay calm under pressure with golf and life. Our programmes work because there is evidence to suggest that when the body is in motion the learning is more memorable and our guests back that up by remembering topics years later.
What do businesspeople get out of it?
They tell us it’s an opportunity to step away from their desks and get more objective about their business and sometimes their life too.
They get a sense of wellbeing. Out in the fresh air away from their desk they can think clearer. They meet some great connections of a similar mind and they can use each other to solve business problems. They always take something back to the office that they can use in their business.
For example, we were looking at putting the other day and how to putt by clearing your mind. People realised that at work they were continually getting distracted by their staff so in that moment they were going to take back a plan to limit it.
Is there a wider message about golf and wellbeing for all? Your personal experience seems to support our #SwitchOffWithGolf campaign.
Absolutely. We need to challenge the idea that ‘golf is hard’ and focus on the benefits that you can get from playing. Golf is a game that can be played on your own, and into a ripe old age. It’s a great way to burn fat (as it works in the fat burner range not the aerobic range) and there is so much else to wonder at on a golf course that you can’t get everywhere else. I do think golf clubs need to become more creative about how the game is played to make it more attractive and quicker. The number of people who have time for a full 18 holes is diminishing so some changes to the game would help. The GolfSixes is a good example of that.