I’m not a huge basketball fan, but I will watch intermittently during the regular season and finals. I recently watched the press conference with Lebron James after a Game 1 loss to the San Antonio Spurs and his words struck me…alas there is an HR lesson or two here.

Essentially, the press asked him questions about the public opinion of his effort in the game when his team falls short. In essence, the reporter was alluding to this premise that he could do more despite the tremendous effort he puts forth most games. To this question, James responds, ” I do what’s best for the team. What’s best for the team doesn’t always result in a win.” The reporter goes on to ask if public opinion of his effort makes him feel like he should be more aggressive; to which he responded: “No, I can’t get involved in that honestly, because I’ve done more and lost before.” “I can’t really get involved or care. I don’t really read too much. I know what I say to you guys and I know the questions you guys ask me, but I don’t really read too much of what people say. I do what’s best for the team. What’s best for the team, it doesn’t always result in a win.”

The ever-opinionated, Greg Popovich chimes in with further commentary after this press conference in support of James which provides even more depth to this discussion. See here for those comments.

How does this translate to HR?

As I and thousands of other HR practitioners prepare to gather next week for theSHRM National Conference in Chicago, I think it is important to ask yourself: are you doing what is best for your teams? Your teams in this context would be the internal customers you serve (C-Suite, hiring managers, employees etc.). Are you doing the best you can by your external customers (candidates, new hires, passive seekers etc.)? If the answer is “no”, try to seek out the solutions at SHRM National for becoming the best partner your team could have. This means attending relevant sessions, engaging vendors and having conversations with your peers about what they are doing to be the “best” partner in their organizations.

Are you winning?

According to Lebron, “yes” and “no”. As an HR practitioner, you have to make decisions that affect the business everyday. Some decisions like business decisions will garner wins and some will not. The goal is always to win, but how do you pivot and recover from a loss or poor decision? Isn’t the pivot and recovery far more important than always winning? If every battle ends in a win for HR or in business, there would be no lessons to be learned. I’m not urging you to make less conscientious decisions, but I am saying that we can stop beating ourselves up for being fallible as a profession.

Stop talking about the “proverbial” table!

I won’t bore you with the definition of the “table” in HR. You know what it is. We speak of it as though it is the “table” that Jesus Christ sat down to last supper at- you know the one where the cool C-Suite types sit with their loathing of HR and all it comes with- yeah that table. The way we stop asking for permission is to “occupy the table”. You don’t occupy and disrupt the fear and loathing of HR haphazardly; you disrupt and occupy with purpose. As the story with Lebron James suggests, it’s not about what people say about us or what is written- it is about what we do as practitioners in our organizations every day. Yes, we will benchmark. Of course, we will read some snark about how we are becoming obsolete or what we do poorly; but by and large, if we stop talking, trust that we know what we are doing and focus on the needs of our teams- how could we go wrong?

The truth is we will do wrong, we will make mistakes. The point is to stop repeating the same mistakes for decades. The aim is to progress with the tide, if that is what translates to you serving your teams the best. The action item is to kill all the noise about how we don’t add value. Fervently reject the notion that other practitioners can do what we know we do best and that is to- manage human capital to deliver successful outcomes and deliverables for the business.

With that said, I urge all of my fellow SHRM National attendees to go into next week with a renewed sense of self. Come learn and engage and discuss ways that you can occupy your table. For those of you not attending SHRM National, your call to action is even more immediate- occupy your table today and join the rest of us in changing the perception of one of the greatest professions around.

See you in Chicago!

Acknowledgement: The concept of “Occupy the Table” is the love child of a talented group of professionals. My thanks go to colleagues in this brain trust Tom Bolt, Steve Levy and Joey Price, bloggers all. Don’t be surprised if you hear more from us on OTT or #occupythetable in the near future.


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