June 4, 2021 Stacy Fenner

Kickball: A lesson in Employee Development?

For years I have heard organizations (and my own HR voice) say, “The employee owns their own development.”

Do you think this is true?

Pretty hard for us to say we don’t own our development, right?

But what responsibility does the organization have?

What about the leaders?

What about the team?

Let me tell you about a recent kickball incident with my daughter to help us uncover the truth!

A few months ago, my daughter, age 10, came home and said, “I don’t like kickball!  I cannot kick and it is not fun.”  I replied, “Did you try?” she said, “Yes, but I didn’t like it.”  In a bad mom moment, I said “That’s okay, I didn’t like kickball either.”  A week later, I find out they are playing weekly at recess and the whole class plays so I encouraged her to at least referee.  Fast forward to last week, she comes up to us with an old basketball and asks, “Can we use this as a kickball, and can you pitch it?”  Now she wants to practice!  I asked, “What changed your mind?” I received a typical 10-year-old response… “Nothing.”  I then said, “Something must have happened because months ago you were not interested.” She then told me her friend really wanted her to play and encouraged her that she could do it. Plus the teacher asked all the children to participate in an end-of-year game, and wait for it …She didn’t want to make a fool out of herself by not being able to kick the ball!

She has been practicing every night, we have been giving her tips on how to kick, and she is doing great!  Imagine if I only probed a bit months ago to realize she just missed the ball a few times when she first tried to play!  ARGH!!

Let us unpack what really happened:

  1. As soon as she said she does not like kickball, I agreed and basically approved of her not trying.
    • I should have explored the why, and made it safe for her to take a risk. Actually, then I would have found out she was most afraid of kicking.
    • Imagine the different kickball experiences she could have had!
  2. It took encouragement and support from a friend to get her confidence back up enough to even try.
  3. A teacher had to set an expectation that everyone will play.
  4. She then felt confident asking for help and coaching.
  5. Last night she was killing it!
    • She is super excited about recess today and her 4th grade game on the last day of school!

Back to employee development.  Who is responsible?

Sure, the employee owns finding the drive and passion to work on a skill and the follow-through, but there is so much more to it.

The manager, the organization, the mentor, and the coach, all are responsible for collectively creating a safe space to:

  1. explore
  2. take risks
  3. feel supported
  4. give the nudge, push, and encouragement.
  5. Most importantly, provide feedback!

But as a leader, you are not on an island!  To lead and develop others without support from peers or outside coaches is just foolish!  No one can have all the answers, you need to ask for help from those that may be a better coach, given the skillset.  Encourage other team members to support and teach!

We all need development at all stages of our careers.   We all need the person to ask us, “Why aren’t you interested or not trying?” We all need a coach, friend, or mentor to support and encourage us to find that passion to reach our goals.  If we don’t, we can end up sitting on the sidelines and missing out on uncovering our different opportunities!  As leaders and organizations, if we don’t provide the right support team for development, we can lose great talent!

That is why Auxin Group’s WELLNESS® program and learning community work hand-in-hand as engagement, motivation, support, and strategy are the keys to our development program. 

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