The Ball Is In Our Court

Kathy Rapp Change, Change Management, Coaching, Communication, Corporate America, Culture, Current Affairs, Diversity, Employee Coaching, Employee Communications, Employment Branding and Culture, Good HR, HR, HR & Sports, Influence, Kathy Rapp, Leadership, Learning, Learning and Development, Managing People, Pop Culture, Sports, Talent Strategy, The HR Profession, Training and Development, Women

This isn’t a post about women vs. men. Nor is it about the color of someone’s skin or ethnic background. It’s not even really about tennis.

This is a post about teaching moments, and how frequently they seem to occur (and blur) in our professional and personal lives.

The U.S. Open Women’s Championship match was one of those moments. As I watched alongside my soon-to-be 8-year-old daughter, we were having our own tennis match as she volleyed multiple questions towards me.

“Why is Serena so upset?” “Tennis is fun.  Why is she crying?” “Why are people booing?”

And then the ace: “Why did Naomi say she was sorry for winning?”

I know this topic has been all the buzz for the last week and I believe it has great relevance for our collective corporate cultures.

How are you, as HR pros, addressing it? Will you incorporate it into L&D programs? Coaching? Diversity or gender equality conversations? Recruiting? Employer branding?

The opportunity to turn a hot topic into a productive lesson shouldn’t be missed. The U.S. Open just lobbed a ball over the net.  Don’t duck. Don’t whiff. Freak’n line it up and slam it into John McEnroe’s seat.

Some of the lessons I would apply:

  • Be proud of your accomplishments – but more importantly, be proud of how you achieved them. Naomi kicked ass and did so with grace. We should celebrate those in our organizations who bring people along in their wins, even if they are not the top producers.
  • Don’t hold back emotion – but acknowledge rules keep people safe and on an equal playing field. We love the vigor and passion Serena brings to every match. We also recognize rules must apply to everyone, even when they appear unfair. It’s our job as HR folks to realize not everything will be black or white – judgment, discretion, and seeing the grey in a situation is vital.
  • Never apologize for other’s ignorance. The last thing Naomi should have done was apologize to the audience for what she assumed was her fault in beating Serena. Every corporate environment has competition; winners and those who come in second. Every corporation has competitors. You don’t see Apple apologizing to Samsung or Nike to Reebok – or even Facebook to Myspace.

Just as there is a call for tennis to change some of its ways, it’s our role as HR leaders to continue to evolve and pivot our organizations. Whether that takes the form of bigger initiatives like talent strategy, predictive analytics, or org design – OR simply turning real-world happenings into teachable moments.

The ball is in our court.