Volume 79 | Issue 2
March 2011

Executive Director's Column: Groundhog Day

Marsha Herman-Betzen

Given my lifelong propensity for realism if not skepticism, it was totally out of character for me to make a point during the most recent Midwestern ice storm to check out if the famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil had seen his shadow.

Legend has it, if this hibernating little rodent sees his silhouette on Feb. 2, winter will last another six weeks. However, if Phil fails to see his shadow, spring will come early. Since Furry Phil did not see his outline, we can all rejoice in the fact that spring will be here before you know it. That is, unless we believe naysayers like the National Climatic Data Center who upon analyzing the groundhog’s predictions, concluded he possessed no predictive skill. Pennsylvania’s visionary groundhog really doesn’t see much of anything; the result is decided in advance by 14 mere mortals in tuxedos and top hats. I wonder if they ever regret the outcome they attribute to Phil.

Groundhog Day has taken on a much different meaning to me ever since I watched the hilarious Bill Murray in the movie named for this February holiday. The plot centers on a cantankerous guy named Phil Connors played brilliantly by Murray. Poor Connors is forced to repeat the same day over and over again until he gets it right. First we see the self-centered Connors, then womanizer Connors, followed by the goody-two-shoes Connors, until finally we see the bona-fide Connors who naturally triumphs in the end. In truth, the film “Groundhog Day” is the ultimate “do over” movie, proving that when things go wrong, with some reflection and truthful soul searching, we can all make amends and correct our path on this long journey we call life.

I have to admit, I am the Queen of Do-Overs. Personally, there are too many mistakes to mention. Probably the one with the most universality to those who work in college unions and student activities relates to priorities. As a young staff member with lofty ambitions, I often made the wrong decision when given the choice between my family’s needs versus what I perceived to be the executive director’s job requirements. I missed countless momentous occasions and joyful celebrations because I was traveling for the Association. And all of the apologies to my husband and daughter did not amount to a hill of manure because my actions were rarely congruous with my words.

When two competing choices are in front of me today, I don’t hesitate to make sure my family priorities take precedence in my decision making. I do that not only for me and my family, but also to model that action to my staff, ensuring them the same permission to exercise an equivalent choice.

Actions always speak louder than words.

Professionally, my do-overs have also been plentiful. For those who don’t know me, “to please” is in my DNA. In my rush to please, I rarely give myself the luxury of time before responding. If only I could pause and think before making a commitment that might adversely affect others. For exactly this reason, my staff recently shuddered at the thought of me taking on an advisory role with the 100th anniversary committee. In less than a month, I have already made one commitment that will be hard to keep. Now posted on all four walls of my office is a gentle reminder on how to buy myself some time before blurting out promises. It reads: “Wow that’s a really great idea! Before we move forward, let me check in with the staff to see how that might fit collaboratively within our other plans.” Here’s to hoping that reminder will save me the need for a few do-overs between now and 2014.

So, what are your do-overs? What issues do you need to tackle head-on and declare a do-over? What procedure or policy can you fix? To whom do you need to apologize?

Counselor, trainer, and relationship blogger Melanie Gorman said it best in her January Huffington Post article: “The bottom line here is that we all deserve a chance to make up for our indiscretions. No one was born without a few golden opportunities to stick their foot in their mouth.” We are imperfect human beings and need to give everyone, including ourselves, the opportunity to make mistakes and to correct them.

Maybe spring will be here by the time you’re reading this and maybe we’ll still be buried under snow, but at least if they got it wrong, next year Punxsutawney Phil and friends will have an opportunity for a do-over.