This is Part 2 in a 2-part series on HR lessons learned from the 2016 Michigan presidential recount effort. Read Part 1 here.
Here’s how the 2016 Michigan presidential recount worked:
Two county workers sat at a table while a few public observers (generally one from each party) stood behind to watch. A county official would bring several large boxes to the table. These boxes contained the ballots cast in a particular county precinct. The county workers made sure the precinct boxes were still properly sealed from Election Day.
Then they matched the boxes’ serial numbers to the numbers written down in the poll book. A poll book is the official Election Day record for a precinct, maintained by pollworkers as voters came to the precinct and cast ballots. It includes a list of voters and the number of ballots read by the scanning machines. If the serial numbers matched between the boxes and the poll book, then the boxes could be opened.
The workers then counted the number of ballots contained in the precinct boxes and matched that count against the poll book’s record. If those figures matched, then the workers could sort the ballots by vote choice and conduct the actual hand recount.
You might be wondering why I’ve shared so many details about the recount process on a blog about HR and training. Well, the details matter. If at any point in the above process the numbers and figures did not match, then the entire precinct was deemed “unrecountable.” This means that the ballots in the boxes for that precinct could not have been hand recounted (the original machine count stood). Election Day workers had to follow the exact details on how to sort, pack, record, and seal the precinct boxes and their contents, or there was no legal way to recount it.
It’s January, which means its almost Inauguration Day.
It was a tumultuous election season that didn’t end until mid-December for some of us (particularly MI, PA, and WI residents).
Michigan held a statewide hand ballot recount for three days before the courts prevented its completion. I had the privilege to volunteer at a county recount site as an attorney for Jill Stein’s campaign. Half of my job was to ensure that county workers followed state election law; the second half was arguing with other attorneys over whether a pen mark was a vote or just a stray pen mark (that was seriously a huge issue).
But I also found the experience to be incredibly informative on how we, as HR professionals, can improve our workplace effectiveness in 2017. While the recount could be viewed as a formality that may never happen again, it gave us three ways to help our organizations achieve real business goals.
We’ve all heard the adage about the importance of practicing. Many of us have read Malcolm Gladwell’s theory in The Tipping Point about it taking 10,000 hours of experience to master a skill. It’s a tenet of learning theory that repetition of an activity leads to improving the ability to do that activity. We get it; practice is important.
But often we don’t think about the kind of practice we do and how it affects our results. I once had a coach who ranted on a weekly basis that we had to be cognizant of how we practice, not just focused on the amount of time we spend doing it. His version of the adage was “practice makes consistency” – in many cases, bad practice habits would lead to bad results.
Golf, like most sports, cannot be done well without a substantial amount of practice. Each shot on the course is different. Two shots may share the same yardage, but wind speed, tree branch length, and grass height can drastically change the way you approach the ball.
As an amateur golfer, I frequently find myself facing challenging shots that I have never experienced. For example, a tree in front of me might offer only a small clearing to shoot through, or large sand traps could be guarding the green ahead. Golf rarely gives you an easy shot, especially when you aren’t good enough to consistently keep the ball in the center of the course.
We live in a wondrous time where computer technology is available for little to no financial cost. We have high-tech presentation assistants with a hundred functions, cloud-based training systems, and an offering of delivery software that makes PowerPoint look like an old slide projector. Every professional development conference hosts multiple sessions on the latest and greatest training tool.
Golf is no different. Equipment technology is evolving every year to help make average golfers play better without the extra practice time. Clubs are engineered to compensate for bad form or low physical power, allowing everyone to hit the ball straighter and farther without extensive practice. Golf is a difficult sport to master, so extra help from gear is generally well-received. For an example of this, just look at how drivers (the big club you hit off the tee) have changed over the decades.
I’m currently in my second year of having a “serious” relationship with golf. I am more attentive to my play and strive to perform better with every swing. This involves studying books about the game, watching training videos on swing mechanics, and putting balls into a coffee cup in my office.
Golf is the ultimate game of personal development. There are an infinite number of skill points to master, and always room for improvement. Each round on the course and every bucket at the driving range present a new learning experience, increasing both physical and mental acumen. For example, a brief practice session may focus on improving 50-yard pitch shots, but it also includes a subconscious lesson on concentration and restraint.
Besides the direct personal benefits that come from learning a sport, golf can teach us how to be better trainers and presenters. Here is the first in a series of three lessons from the fairway to help us iron out our efforts in the classroom. You can also read Lesson #2 and Lesson #3.
(If you’re completely unfamiliar with golf, check out this intro video from YouTube)
Golf Lesson #1: Results Matter
Everyone’s heard the common phrase, “it ain’t rocket science!” But for golf, it actually is! Dave Pelz, a former NASA space researcher, is regarded as one of the best golf teachers in the world, particularly when it comes to the short game (150 yards or less, and putting – the more “finesse” shots). He analyzed hundreds of professional golfers and thousands of golf shots, and engineered science-based methods for improving the average golfer’s game. In his most popular book, Dave Pelz’s Short Game Bible, he begins with an important mantra: the score is what matters.