It’s that glorious time of year, the beginning of May, when I have the opportunity to shop for a hat ….my favorite event of the year, Kentucky Derby Day.  Although I’ve never made it to the actual Kentucky Derby to date, we have a big party at our local horse track Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Arizona and have the opportunity to watch and bet on the local races as well as the Kentucky Derby. I’m sure I speak for all women when I say, “it’s all about the hat”. As my friend Kellie reminded me recently, you need to pick the hat first. That is the most important part of the ensemble…and you build everything else around it. I said okay, but I really have a great burgundy dress I’d like to wear, so instead I”m going to search for a hat that is a great accent for my burgundy print dress. I proceeded to purchase the beautiful hat shown above, however instead of a burgundy embellishment it was Ruby RED (not visible in the photo), and threw me off of my game!  I then proceeded to purchase a new dress to match my hat since I dropped 2 bills on my hat, and for goodness sake, I’m wearing that hat come hell or high water! So alas, I purchase my dress, which kinda sorta looked “Minnie Pearlesque” but it will have to do.

From my husband’s perspective, on the other hand, it is all about the Boots. He’s not really all that particular about his clothing, but when he really wants to go all in, it’s all about the boots.  So at the last minute, he decided to go all out and purchase a new set of boots. He wears a size 14 boot, which is not easy to find off the shelf. He ended up buying a size 13 boot (ouch! I have toe cramps just thinking about that) and proceeded to “stretch his boots”. His boot stretching operation went something like this:

Step one: Fill the boots with hot water, as hot as you can get it (very easy to do in smoking hot Phoenix, AZ)

Step two : Let the hot water seep out of the boots slowly

Step three: Put as much leather conditioner as possible on the boots so that they are slippery, moldable & maleable

Step four: Put on two pairs of socks and walk around for a few hours in said boots to “stretch them”

Step five: Stuff said boots with copious amounts of newspapers to the bursting point to further stretch them

Step Six: Take the newspapers out.

Step Seven: Rinse and Repeat  (sigh)— not really rinsing as Step ONE is filling, but you get the picture…..

I am exhausted just thinking about this process. And in the end, he did not wear said boots. When he tried them on I had flashbacks of my son at age 2 walking around on his tippy toes as he looked very visibly uncomfortable, and we were in for a full day of walking. So he scratched those new boots, they certainly didn’t fit, were very uncomfortable and would be excruciatingly painful by day’s end.

What was he to do? He previously had a custom pair of boots made specifically for him, very slick , hardly ever worn, but purchased them years ago and was really very excited about them at the time, but stored them away in a closet, or somewhere and he couldn’t find them. They were custom made, perfect fit, perfect style, perfect design, he was really excited about them when he ordered them but he “ignored them” and stored them away, somewhere….We tore the closets apart looking for them but there were nowhere to be found,  FORGOTTEN GOLD locked away, hidden in the closet……So he ended up wearing his tried and true regular everyday boots, which were comfortable, reliable, fit perfectly, he didn’t need to stretch them or mess with them at all. THEY JUST SIMPLY FIT!! And of course, I thought they looked just fine, because to me, “it’s all about the hat”.

This literally mirrors my EVERYDAY experience with CLIENTS, POTENTIAL CLIENTS, CANDIDATES, et al. When hiring, ” It’s all about JOB FIT”.  Instead of a lengthy 7 Step “BOOT STRETCHING OPERATION”, here is some food for thought:

You have the SHINY NEW BOOTS:

  1. Purchased on the fly:  Hired a little too quickly, perhaps urgently for an immediate need, rushed through the process, fast tracked through the hiring process to start by a certain “deadline”
  2. Needs conditioning:After said hire, needs modifications, doesn’t fit the company culture and is not a natural fit, hired without enough data driven insights, candidate looked good at first glance during the shortened interview process, but showed up differently on day one.
  3. Highly Uncomfortable: Employees start to get disengaged because Management seems to be clueless that this SHINY NEW BOOT is creating chaos instead of cohesion, wreaking havoc instead of creating alignment.
  4. Put on the shelf/discarded: Ultimately doesn’t work out, never was a great fit, never should have been hired, leaves voluntarily or is fired.

You have the Custom made BOOTS:

  1. PERFECT fit- You have hired custom “job fit” employees in the past, who are the backbone of your organization, they are somewhat hidden on the shelf, forgotten.
  2. Designed to your Specs- They were originally SHINY NEW BOOTS that actually were a great job fit, and were CUSTOM ORDERED TO FIT perfectly within your organizations’ Mission, Vision and Culture, but they got lost in the shuffle of growth, acquisitions, new management, new leadership, etc.
  3. NEEDS occasional Leather Conditioner: You may not have cultivated their talent to “level them up” to where they need to be through mentorship programs, a 2 way feedback system, career development programs.
  4. NEEDS to be taken off the Shelf and WORN: They MAY LEAVE, MAY ALREADY HAVE LEFT, will ultimately be the UNTAPPED DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH or GOLD left on the shelf. Find them and revisit the possibilities.


  1. Reliable Go to Boots: This is your hardworking EVERYDAY loyal, effective, efficient worker bee that is the backbone of your organization.
  2. Worn Regularly:  These are the employees that value you, the organization, the mission/vision and they are engaged, positive and produce results. Are you rewarding them or neglecting them? You utilize them extensively, do you know where they want to be as their next step?
  3. Signs of Wear & Tear: Are you promoting these individuals into higher levels of responsibility or are you keeping them in the same role because they’re so good at their jobs, you don’t want to lose their expertise in said department, and you are being SELFISH with short term vision?
  4. May be sold on EBAY: You will lose these employees IF they are wanting career advancement and you have not listened to them or have a feedback system for understanding their career development goals, wishes & desires. Act now or forever hold your peace.

In the end when it comes to your business, organization or institution , “IT”S ALL ABOUT THE EMPLOYEES”. The right employees that are well suited to your organization’s MISSION, VISION, and CULTURE will elevate your organization if you allow them to. You must nurture them, pour into them (preferably not with hot water or “hot air” but great training, great feedback) and if you’re hiring right with JOB FIT in mind, they will be the custom boots & the everyday boots on the ground that you need to create the TRANSFORMATION that you desire within your organization.

Until next time, Inviting you to “Think Inceinc” on your journey to elevating employees, and cultivating positive transformation!

Debbie Ince

  • Debbie Ince is the Founder and President of Executive Talent Finders— Recruiting , Engaging and Retaining TOP TALENT for innovative, high growth organizations & institutions, seeker & champion of authenticity.