Feeling small

In the past few years, I have been a wrestling referee for high school and junior varsity matches. This past week I made the decision to go back and officiate this season, so I went to the introductory meeting. While I was sitting there, I felt like I was from two different worlds, and I learned some valuable lessons from the experience. These are random, stream of consciousness type ideas, but they are useful!

  • Give good directions. I wasn’t given directions and had a few minutes of panicked phone calls before I found the location. Imagine a job candidate feeling that way.
  • Make people feel comfortable. I stood there next to a handful of guys I am barely acquainted with, but half the crowd was made up of strangers. I’d have liked to have the chance to introduce myself and meet the others officially.
  • Have a very basic description of what to expect in the job. If I hadn’t already done the job for a few years, I’d have felt very unsure about what to expect for the coming weeks and months.
  • Going from the HR/manager view at my day job down to the hands-on, line staff level as a referee is an interesting leap. We have random, pointless rules to abide by, and there’s absolutely no visibility of senior leadership as a guiding force. Sound like your company, perhaps?
  • If you’re going to referee, then you have to go through the screwy annual performance review process like I describe in this video. That in itself is just nuts.
  • We went over new rules. One of them? You have to buy a special jacket if you plan to wear one. Um, guys, the season runs December to January. We are going to wear jackets. And we shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket to get a specific jacket you are forcing us to wear.
  • (Minor rant:) One year I got some black shoes, because you are supposed to wear them as part of your uniform. The problem was the only size and brand I could find in black was a size too small. Needless to say it didn’t work. After seven hours of running and jumping in tiny shoes, I put on my old ones which were not the regulation color. I received several comments about them, but nobody seemed to care when I explained why I couldn’t wear the black shoes. Sigh. Be aware that when people break the rules at work, they might sometimes have a really, really good reason for it. Don’t assume the worst!

Anyway, it took a lot of words but in the end I just felt small. I felt like I didn’t matter.

After being in a leadership position within my organization on a daily basis, I sometimes forget what it is like to not have the insider info, to depend on others to communicate changes and direction, and to be treated like just one more widget on an assembly line. Take a minute today to refocus your view on your people, and try to look at things from their perspective as often as possible. Remind them that you have their best interests at heart.

And please, please, PLEASE make them feel like a valuable asset to the organization (building an effective recognition program will help). They will appreciate it.