Tag Archives: Bonnie Milne

Learning Strategy through Tennis

Bonnie Milne, PhD

Bonnie Milne, PhD

I am not a strategic thinker.  I would be the last person to be called politically astute, but it is never too late to learn.   I teach a strategy course, but it is strategy at the organizational, not the personal level.  I’ve unwittingly been taking a course in strategy for the last month.  The strategy of playing doubles on the tennis court.

Before I began my lessons, I played doubles a few times, but I really didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t know where I should be on the court and, in truth, I didn’t think I should be there at all!

Manual, my couch, has been teaching me that tennis is a sport that requires incredible mental focus.  One has to pay attention all the time and not just to the ball, but to the other people on the court and to one’s own position in relation to them.  For example, he says that you need to react every time your partner moves; you move in sync and you always cover her.  If she moves to your side of the court, you move to hers.  If she moves left, you move left.  It is almost as if you are joined by a rope.

He says that developing a routine is helpful.  When I serve, I should follow the same routine each time.  Bounce the ball a few times.  Look at the other side of the net and think about where I want the ball to go.  If I throw the ball up and it isn’t in the right place, I’m to catch it and begin again.  There is no rush.

Manual says that he doesn’t play against the other player.  He focuses on his own play and tries not to make mistakes.   He has realized that a mistake means the other person scores, so avoiding mistakes is one of his strategies.  This way he not distracted by the person he is playing, he is always focused on his game.

He tells me to look for the empty space on the other side so I can decide where to place the ball. It was hid comment about looking for space and having a panoramic view, that made me begin to appreciate that perhaps the strategy I am learning on the court is transferable to the workplace.  I asked, and he said, ‘Yes, of course – it is all the same!   Manual, who is the husband of my good friend, Debra, is from Mexico, and he speaks with his whole body.  So when he launches into a topic, I listen.  He says that if someone consistently calls the ball ‘out’ when it is ‘in’, you shouldn’t trust them off the court.  The way people behave on the court is the way they behave in life.  If they are overly competitive on the court, they will be in life too.  If they are gentle on the court – that behaviour carries through.

While I’m not strategic in the workplace, I’ve often been able to see opportunities or spaces outside.  Business opportunities spring to mind on a weekly if not daily basis, and I mull them over and share them with others, but until now I haven’t pursued them.  Since I’ve been playing doubles and applying that strategy to the workplace, I’ve begun looking for space both inside and outside the college.  I am wondering if it is possible to combine a business idea with my work at the college.  I am wondering if I can involve a partner, remembering the importance of a partner on the tennis court and the way we cover for each other.

You may wonder what this has to do with Human Resource Management; believe me there is a strong connection.  I have always thought that as long as employees are learning, they will contribute more at work.  It doesn’t matter if they are learning to knit or to play golf or like me, to play doubles.  From the time we are very young, we look for patterns, so when we learn in one area of our lives, we seem to be bound to apply it in other areas and many times we apply what we have learned outside of work, in the workplace.  It is important to encourage your employees to expand their horizons, in sports, in arts and crafts, academia – whatever they are interested in.  They will be more energized and alert and they will apply what they have learned in their work.  It may be a tangential application, but it will change and improve, the way they work.

Related Pages:

1. Morale – Small Steps to Success by Bonnie Milne, PhD

2. Making a Difference Through Our Work by Bonnie Milne, PhD

3. Motivational Team Building by Bonnie Milne, PhD

What three pieces of advice should post-secondary grads take to heart?

Bonnie Milne, PhD

Bonnie Milne, PhD

My youngest son is graduating from university this year so I have some, albeit limited, experience with this topic.  I say limited, because my son lives in Vancouver and his Dad and I live half a world away, in the United Arab Emirates.

When we spoke to our son earlier this week, he said that he has been going for interviews and contacting people to set up meetings, coffee, really, and he feels that he is on the verge of getting a job.  This job will be his entry to the world of urban planning and he is approaching his search from a number of different directions.  He’s cashing in his social capital, meeting with friends of friends.  He is searching in unlikely places for opportunities and he is applying to jobs he finds online.

When I was an instructor at BCIT, the arrival of spring signaled the big job search for the upcoming graduates.  I taught the Radio students and it seemed that they would all be applying for the same jobs – a scary thought, but it always worked out.  They seemed to know who would get which job because they knew one another’s strengths and didn’t see it as a competition.  I always admired the way they handled this.

The Human Resource Management students, on the other hand, would be trying to decide when to write their credential exam so they could get a jump start on their journey to the CHRP (Certified Human Resource Professional).  This exam usually came toward the end of a jam-packed program and their stamina astounded me, they must have been running on empty!  All the same, they would be looking for work, too.  A few would put it off so they could take a break, but most of them suited up and set off for interviews, maybe informational interviews, but interviews none the less.

Now on to the advice – it’s so wonderful to be asked for advice, but it’s also a huge responsibility.

Believe in Yourself

I think this is one of the few times in life when you can be really directed, hopeful, focused and enthusiastic.  Really, you’re at your best.  You’ve just achieved a life goal, that of getting an educational credential.  With your diploma or degree in hand, you are a new person and you have every right to look for the kind of work that you have been trained and educated for and that you want.  Your skill set is unique, because even though you have been learning with a group of colleagues, you are not the same as them, your experiences are different, what you are taking away from your learning is different and surprisingly enough, the work you want might also be different.  So believe in yourself and let people know what you know.

Use Every Possible Connection

Use your social capital.  Social capital helps us get things done, by making the resources of others available to us. While monetary capital is based on money, social capital is based on relationships and social networks.  There are three types of social capital: bonding – tightly knit groups that share similar beliefs and values – these enable us to get by on a day to day basis.  Bridging capital consists of loosely knit groups of more diverse individuals – these are the connections that are more likely expose us to new ideas or new experiences.  And linking capital, which is the connections we have to those who are in power – this would be known as ‘wasta’ in the UAE, and is the most tenuous.  These are the relationships we call on when our other resources are depleted.

Studies have shown that higher education leads to an increase in social capital, especially bridging capital, so use these connections.  Research also shows that these are the relationships that are most likely to get you work in a field that is outside the normal work your family and friends do so use your connections and everyone else’s.

Put Scaffolds in Place

Put some scaffolds in place, and then, be choosey.  Make sure that you have an income if you need one.  Work at a part time job so you can support yourself until the job you really want comes along.  Once your security net is in place, only apply for jobs you are qualified for and you really want.  There is no sense submitting your resume to everything that comes along and you know how difficult those cover letters are to write.  This doesn’t mean to only apply for the job of your dreams, but make sure that the job you are applying for is something you want to do for a while and can be used as a springboard to keep your career moving.

Bon Voyage!

Related Pages:

1. What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart? by Carolyn Courage, CHRP

2. It’s a Big World Out There! by Christine Ramage, CHRP

3. Coffee Shop HR World Café: What Three Pieces of Advice Should Post-Secondary Grads Take to Heart?