Everyday is the Championship day

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Job Interview Tips
Thinking like a champion in the office and on the water

Retraining myself to think like a champion in the office and on the water. Photo credit: Brett Seng

Everyday is the Championship day!

As I mentioned in my last couple of posts, I took a little over a month to go fly-fishing for Steelhead in February / March. I rented a house in Forks, Washington with a great friend and photographer Brett Seng, and we fished together just about everyday. For a few of the days, I stayed with a group of friends at Jeff Brazda’s Bogey House on the Bogachiel river. Jeff runs an amazing steelhead lodge with the best guides and chef on the Olympic Peninsula. If you every get the opportunity, I highly recommend it. Every year, a good buddy puts together a group of anglers and rents out the lodge and guides in for a few days. This is also in Forks, Washington and I blogged about a prior experience here. Our host invited a guest he played football with who is an avid angler and current NFL coach. I am the only angler in the group that doesn’t have their own company but it was from the Coach that I learned the most about company culture and taking personal responsibility for your career. Coach was not only the most unassuming guy at the dinner table, he was the quietest and most humble. Coach probably had the most to brag about and yet; he was the most reserved. I really admired his style. The only bling he brought to the table was a newly minted Super Bowl ring. If it were me, you would have seen jazz hands all night long and a guy waving the manicured digits like a newly minted, I mean engaged, Beverly Hills trophy wife showing off her 2+ carat VVS1 Tiffany bauble. Beverly Hill blowhard this guy was not. Coach was your everyday Joe. You would have never known this guy was a celebrity let alone a recent  winner Super Bowl. Badass.

Coach retrained my day-to-day mentality

One of the guys in the fishing group is a world-class fly-fishing caster. He literally goes to international competitions where competitors cast for distance.  Competitors cast with both their left and right hands and the caster with the longest total combined distance wins. He is extremely good, and he takes casting to a level that combines the balance / elegance of yoga and the power of an Olympic gymnast. In angling circles, casters at his level are referred to as Jedi’s and watching him cast will make you wonder if “the force” really does exist. He can defy gravity with rod and line. That all being said, our Jedi has the occasional tendency of psyching himself out on the day of the competition. The coach said he could “fix” our brother angler and what I learned while listening to the coach was personally life changing. I won’t be able to do the lesson justice in 1700 words but I will provide the cliff notes.

Coach asked our guy a couple of questions:

Coach: When is your next competition?

Caster: April, San Francisco Casting Ponds

Coach: How far does the number 1 guy cast?

Caster: About 180 Feet

Coach: How far are you casting now?

Caster: About 180 feet

(Note: This is with a fly rod. Most anglers, myself included are not able to cast this far with conventional spinning rods and lead weight.)

Coach: So you can beat this guy?

Caster: Yes, in the prelim’s and the warm ups, I usually beat everyone.

There was some more back and forth, but the Coach’s message below is the loosely quoted meat of the conversation.

We do not train FOR the Super Bowl. We have a saying. “EVERYDAY is the Championship day.” We train everyday as if it is the day of the Championship. This way, when the Super Bowl day arrives, nothing is different. With this mentality, the day of the Super Bowl day is just another practice day. The day of the Super Bowl is just another “every day.” If you train FOR the day Super Bowl, you can psych yourself out on the big day because that day is the “special day”. It is not just another “every other day”. If you train as if EVERYDAY is the Super Bowl, nothing will be different or “special” on the day of the Super Bowl. Every time you make a cast in your practice sessions, take one breath and have one thought. “One breath, One thought.” That thought may be that this next cast is going to be a championship cast taking place at the San Francisco Casting ponds.

“One breath, One thought.” was the mantra of the evening.“One breath, One thought.” I must have heard this 15 times over the course of the evening. He also suggested our angler fly down to the casting ponds and practice a couple of times in the actual environment so that he would know exactly what to imagine and think about as he trained with the mentality that “This next cast is going to be the championship cast”. 

Yes, this is essentially the practice of visualization but when the coach explained it, it wasn’t an unbelievable mind trick. His explanation was sound logic.

Later in the evening, the coach said something to the effect of, “These guys are championship players. They need to be championship fathers and husbands. Everyday is a Championship day. Not just on the field but off.”  This guy was definitely a big picture thinker.  

Needless to say, the softest-spoken guy at the dinner table had everyone’s attention and I went into my fishing bag and pulled out my little Moleskin to take notes. Some at the table were staring at me, but I didn’t care. This is the stuff I live for. These are the lessons that you won’t get anywhere else. This is the guy that created Super Bowl mentalities and moved players to believe in not just themselves but in each other as a team. What HR guy wouldn’t want to remember this stuff?

For the rest of the trip, we were constantly asking our brother caster the following:

Q:“What day is it?”

A: “Its championship day”

Q:“What are you?”

A:“A champion!”

When you have everyone in the group, reminding you about how to think about your game and everyone in the group encouraging you, you can’t help but feel better and elevate your game. And that is exactly what I saw. The group dynamic changed. The mood was lighter and more celebratory. I can only imagine what happens at the professional level.  

I fished with our competition caster over the next couple of days and saw his casting go to another level. He casted with “style” and “grace” and he casted with a “street attitude”. His casts were landing right where they should. Even if you didn’t know anything about casting, if you watched this guy, you would know that he was something very different from the rest of us hacks. You could tell he was applying what the coach had talked about the night before. He was a Champion caster.

So, how does any of this casting and fishing stuff relate to the corporate world?

  • If you are preparing for an interview, practice the interview questions and think about yourself in front of the hiring manager and in the interview room. See yourself confidently answering the questions and the creating a rapport with the hiring manager. Go through the entire interview in your mind’s eye. Coach explained that before the game, his quarterback goes through the entire game with all the plays on the field. He doesn’t just visualize the game, he physically plays a winning game.
  • If you have a big presentation coming up practice that presentation in full dress rehearsal mode. Practice in the conference room you will be presenting in and practice out loud. When you practice at home, imagine yourself in the conference room with the faces of the attendees looking directly at you and see them on your side vs. against you.
  • If you are manager, treat your team as if they are all champions. Talk to them as if they are winners. Talk to your team as if they are children, you will see childlike behavior. Talk to them as adults, and you will experience adult like behavior. It was great to hear the coach talk about this and it echoed my thoughts which I blogged about here

At the beginning of the trip, I explained to my roommate for the month, catching fish would be great, but the goal for me is to learn. I didn’t catch many fish on this month-long trip, but I learned a lot about fishing, casting, tying flies, and rowing a boat. Just as important, I learned a ton about people, teams, and group dynamics thanks to the folks that I was able to spend time with including the Coach. Next time you are doubting yourself, think about being a Champion.

See you at the after party

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

A quick update. I was able to land a new position and started the new role this week. I wanted to get back to my roots and work in HR vs. a COO role where I am responsible for more than one department. The HR team here is as committed to their craft and passionate about company culture as any team I have worked with and I couldn’t be more excited. The HR department reports directly to the CEO and has a voice at the table, which readers know is important to me. I appreciate all the well wishes and support I had this past month from all the readers. Thank you.                                

Why lay offs are not personal

Posted: by HRNasty in Company Culture, Strategic HR, What HR Really Thinks
Day off:  Sanding down the cork on my Spey rod for a custom fit and thinking about HR. Yeah, I am a HR Nerd

Day off: Maintaining equipment and gear while contemplating HR and thinking about next steps with my personal career. 

Lay off

Have you been laid off and as an employee and had a poor experience? Most employees, including myself have been laid off, and if you had a bad experience you are not alone. I just received an email from a reader that had a bad experience while being laid off and is the trigger for this post. I have been both laid off and the one responsible for laying employees off, so I feel I have a unique perspective and a few personal theories. I thought this perspective might be helpful to some readers.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was “laid off” about a month ago after our company was acquired. Right now I have the fortune of taking a month off to go fishing. Standing in a river for 8 hours a day can have a very introspective effect on a guy and a retrospective was in order.

If you have been laid off, it sucked. Being let go after 5, 10, or 20 years of working for the man or a company you love has the potential to make it all feel like it was all a waste of time. Being hired and let go after 3 months can be just as painful. You are excited for the new career and emotionally invested. Both instances are events we never forget. A few potential situations below:

  • Did you feel like you were treated with little or no respect?
  • Were the reasons for the lay off understandable?
  • Were benefits, COBRA, unemployment, messaging explained to you? Or did you feel lost and helpless?
  • Were you given any help in finding your next gig?
  • Was unemployment, severance, or the lack of severance explained to you?

I think that most employees understand why layoffs happen and in a lot of instances, if we are paying attention, we can recognize the signs of change ahead of time. As time passes, most employees understand that the company is a business and that a lay off isn’t personal.

It hurts when the messaging during a reduction in force is off-key and the lay off feels personal. 

This is the part of the lay off that I want to address. I want to talk to the fact that lay offs are not personal. Being laid off is strictly a business decision and not personal. Making a layoff personal is the last thing any company wants. The intent and the impact are two different things. The following is NOT an excuse for HR. I just want to provide business perspective to help employees understand the root causes.

Most HR professionals don’t train for a lay off. I don’t. Fireman train to put out fires. Policeman practice at the firing range. Olympic athletes lift weights and practice their routine 8 hours a day for what can amount to a 2 minute performance. When fire fighters are not putting out fires, they are training others or being trained. In all three examples there is a lot of training and rehearsal before the actual event.

The point I am trying to make is that I do not know of any HR professionals that have attended a day of formal lay off training. I don’t see to many seminars at the SHRM conferences on how to conduct lay offs. I know the information is out there, but lets face it, if HR doesn’t have a reduction in force coming up, this is not the feel good seminar that I am rushing to sign up for at the HR conference / convention. HR folks learn how to go through a lay off through trial and error, and every single one is different. I have been through more layoffs than I want to admit to and it is definitely not something I say as a bragging right, but to provide perspective. There is no formula that says “X” amount of employees equals this chain of events. In every lay off that I have been involved in, we laid out a timeline of events for a few days leading up to the event and a timeline with 30-minute increments for the day off the actual event. In every instance, there was a change of play at the line of scrimmage.

I know a lot of HR peeps. I only a handful of HR folks that have gone through lay offs and they are all well intentioned. Most of these were smaller events that could be kept within the company and not the larger events you see in the local news. The point is, that in cases where small to medium companies are involved, we may have an HR team that is young in their career and through no fault of their own lack “lay off” experience. There are no training wheels when it comes to a lay off, and just like riding a bike, most of us are not 100% successful on the first time.  

Again, this is not an excuse, I just want to provide some perspective on what it takes to put a lay off together and how little experience most of us have doing this. I hire people every week. I give raises to employees every month. I have experience being involved in these “happy moments”. In 20 years of HR, I have only been involved in about 7 layoffs and they have all been different. Some lay offs have happened because we acquired a company, others have been because the company changed direction and a few have been because the company was in financial distress. Every event was a different situation with different messaging and different mechanics.

Believe it or not, the HR folks handling the lay off’s feel horrible for having to conduct them. There is no one more aware that employees are losing their jobs and their paychecks. We know that there are mouths to feed at home, mortgages to pay and college tuitions on the line. We know that personal pride is at stake. HR teams feel guilty because in many cases the HR employees will still be employed after they have told their friends and co-workers that their jobs are going away and escorting them out of the door.

Imagine how you would feel if you had to walk into a room of 50 or 100 employees and let them know they are no longer employed? If you have a larger number, this may need a company wide email. There is no way that email can convey the feelings you want to express in this situation.

This is a shitty part of the HR job, and in many cases, the HR folks lose their jobs as soon as all the lay off administrative paperwork is complete. They are literally working themselves out of a job and there is nothing to look forward to and no time to conduct personal job searches.

If you had to conduct a layoff, would you go into the situation happy and smiling or full of dread? Any normal person would be scared, nervous, and anxious. If you are an HR person that is keeping their job, you are embarrassed. These are not the emotions that make for a smooth transition.

If you are early in your HR or management career, I make the following suggestion for a smoother transition. To this day, I still practice every bullet point below:

  • Put together an outline of talking points for anyone that has ANYTHING to say. Work with marketing if you can. Where we may have not have too much experience with lay offs, there is often a sr. marketing person in the company that understands internal messaging and can help with consistency.
  • Talk to your peers that have conducted lay offs and pick their brain for any advice they may have.
  • Talk to your CEO or a senior leader in the company and ask them for introductions to colleagues that have conducted layoffs. This process has been done many times with other companies so this is not the time to reinvent the wheel.
  • Do what ever you can to help employees find their next gig. Whether that is contacting external recruiters, conducting a resume workshop after hours or on the weekend, or helping folks with their LinkedIn profiles. When we have had large lay offs, we brought in a number of recruiters and held our own mini career fair. 
  • Send a message to ALL employees with instructions on how to respond to any press inquiries. Only pre-designated personnel should handle these inquires with a pre-determined message.
  • Anyone who will have a face-to-face meeting with an employee that is being asked to leave should have the opportunity to practice with someone who has experience. I insist that first time managers have a dress rehearsal. This allows for full comprehension and understanding about the intent and the impact of the messaging and gives time to clear up any confusion.
  • Remember offices in different time zones and double check the timing of messages.

How this layoff is conducted will be the one thing that employees both staying and leaving the company will remember. I believe it is how a company is judged. This is the one event the employees being asked to leave will talk about, and will be asked about. I don’t expect anyone to like being laid off. I am hopeful that with the right communication, messaging and intent, we have a shot at all employees respecting the business decision.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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