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Is Your HR Playing NOT TO LOSE or Playing to WIN? Lessons Learned from a Ridiculous Card Game.

A few weeks back, my family took a vacation to the beaches of North Carolina with two other families. We were blessed with great weather, our kids’ first trip to the ocean, and great friendships. My husband and I were also blessed with learning a few new card games, including a new favorite – Shanghai Rummy.

My family didn’t play cards growing up. I vaguely remember learning how to play War with my cousins while playing at my Grandpa’s house when we were little, but that’s about it. As a young adult, I’d attend the occasional euchre tournament and have to be re-taught how to play – Every. Single. TIme. It just didn’t stick. But Shanghai Rummy? This game might stick. 

Here’s the deal: By the end of this ridiculous game, you are holding AT LEAST NINETEEN (19!) cards in your human fingers, trying to come up with 2 runs and 2 books with a bunch of other rules that others will tell you about after you’ve committed violations. If you don’t develop a case of carpal tunnel syndrome after playing this, then you’ve already won. 🙂

The first night we learned, I played tentatively. As long as I didn’t come in dead-last, I thought, I would be happy. In the last round of that game, I laid down my cards (thinking I actually had something decent), and quickly heard “What are you doing?! You could do so many other things with that card!” as the response from the others. I finished up the game sheepishly, and while I didn’t finish in dead-last, I didn’t feel any better than if I had.

On my morning walk the next morning, I reflected on the previous night’s game and it struck me: I had been playing to NOT LOSE so much that I didn’t even put in the effort to try and WIN. Are you even kidding me?! The athlete in me (it’s been a few years, but that girl is still there), the competitor in me, couldn’t even believe it.

When I got back to the house, a few of the other parents were up and we started talking. And I unleashed the competitor. I shared with them that I realized that I had been trying so hard not to lose the night before, that they had better be ready for me to come out ready to WIN the next night. The difference in the tone, the confidence, and in my own perception of my ability completely changed. I may not have won the whole game (there are 10 rounds – I told you it was ridiculous!), but I did win one in a very fun way.

I reflected later upon this and some parallels to HR in small businesses came through for me. The most glaring? As we talk to more and more businesses, we hear about the “have-to-do” and compliance aspects of HR. And if we’re being honest, those are the things that we must do IN ORDER NOT TO LOSE. But how many of us really know what we can do in our people practices and HR so that our businesses can WIN? We often hear about the time commitment it requires, about not knowing what to do, or that there isn’t a person in the organization that can lead it. 

The truth is, the what to do and the how to do it isn’t terribly complicated at its heart, and when we start to think about our people practices as a priority, we prioritize and find the time. But if we are only playing NOT TO LOSE, then our businesses will never get their game face on to WIN. 

Ready to uncover what playing to WIN looks like in your business? 

Schedule a call with us today. 

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