NFL Replacement Refs: Who’s Out of Their League?

The NFL replacement refs are on the hot seat. The normal refs are out on strike, so NFL games are now refereed by replacements who were teachers or working at Foot Locker just two months ago. They have had a rough start.

After multiple controversies in the first three weeks of the season, Twitter was ablaze again this morning after last night’s Monday night football game. The Seattle Seahawks won the game after a hail mary turned into a nightmare for the Packers and coach Mike McCarthy. His comment after the game, “I have never seen anything like that in my time in football.” Patriots coach, Bill Belichick surely faces a fine for grabbing a ref after a close field goal on Sunday.

The Wrong Kind of Attention

The refs are in a job that when at their best, no one notices. They aren’t there to change a game, but to make sure the rules are followed and it is played fairly.  Today, they are becoming the symbol for workers who are ‘out of their league’.

This phenomena is not limited to the NFL. The same happens when we lower the salary range below market and can’t hire the right people, when we promote internally even if the skill gap is too big or we don’t offer the right training for the new system. In the NFL, problems and errors are witnessed by millions of people so there is no chance of it going unnoticed. We aren’t so lucky.

How Big is the Gap?

The lack of skills and experience in key roles affects the service we offer, new customers, sales and growing the business. Yet, these skill gaps may not create a controversy that requires immediate action.

There is the age old discussion about how to elevate HR in the business. How is it done? I was reminded last week that it comes down to individual talent. A business leader told me that in the past HR handled requests and operational matters, but things have changed. Their new HR business partner is invaluable. “She understands the business and we respect her advice. We seek out her opinion on lots of non-HR issues too. She certainly has influence with us.” Her capability and knowledge have totally changed their view of HR and his team and the organization are better for it.

I also recently learned of a Sales Manager with lots of experience in leading teams that sell products. Yet, he struggled to transition to the company’s new strategy of offering services. New opportunities were missed, the sales experience was too transactional vs. consultative and his team lacked the knowledge to make this shift. The CEO realized later than he had hoped that the gap was too big and their business suffered for it.

Even If Not in the Headlines

Luckily, you probably won’t have millions of people watching your every move or players tweeting your phone number so everyone can call and complain. But, there still may be talent gaps that are costing you big time. Who’s out of their league in your business?

Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults and can be followed on twitter @PattiBJohnson or her company @people_results.

Photo courtesy of Elvisa at