help_outline Skip to main content
HomeBlogsRead Post

ICF Metro DC Blog

If You Build It, Will They Come?
By ICF Metro DC
Posted: 2023-09-26T12:25:15Z

If you build it, will they come?

Reflections on Human Resource Professional Day

By Robin Dolobach, PCC

When my son was five years old, I had great intention to leverage all my innate and hard-earned coaching skills to help him develop, become self-aware, and reach his potential in the areas that were most energizing, fun, and natural for him. I cherished opportunities to celebrate and acknowledge his independence, resilience, creativity, and wit. I would delight in asking him to, “tell me more!”, as he spoke about every one of his toy’s design flaws or best features. We often roamed in nature and slept under the stars, where our shared adventurous spirits could feel free and expand. While roasting marshmallows near our riverfront one evening, he asked with curiosity, “Wouldn’t it be fun to have a big sand box to play in?”

About three months later, I was inspired to take action to create a large, well-designed, sandbox where he could entertain himself for hours with the cars and trucks he loved so much. I imagined him spending the summer days happily covered in, and creating with, huge piles of sand. After all, this loving multi-tasking momma gets things done, and I would build the best darn sandbox my kid had ever seen!

My enthusiasm was soon met with my logical, intellectual thoughts of a messy wet sandbox that would leave tracks through the home and require constant clean-up. So, after sharing my concerns with a trusted (and particularly tidy) mom friend, she shared a fantastic idea. I could build a ‘rock box’ instead of a ‘sand box!’ I thanked her for the advice, patted myself on the proverbial back, allocated funds, and started the project. I drafted up a plan and hired a few contractors. My son popped by a few times to ask, “What are you building?” They explained it to him (note, no questions were asked).

A few weeks and a significant investment later, it was ready! I couldn’t wait to see his excitement and imagined huge hugs and squeals of joy, as I heard myself shout out to him… “Voilà! It is ready! Go forth and enjoy!” Perhaps it’s worth noting that he barely looked up from his monster truck mud pit and subsequent worm collection efforts, long enough to glance over. Hmmm. Cue my disappointment. (Lukewarm reception to your new and exciting program launch?)

Five years later at almost ten years old, I can count on one hand how many times my son has played in that rock box. Nearly every day I found myself staring out at an unused rock box and thinking, “He said he wanted it, and there it sits. What a waste of time and money.” (Sound familiar?) I had heard his request, consulted an expert, and designed for what I perceived would be great. Finally, the ridiculously obvious donned on me. I had never asked my son, the end user of the “box,” if he would still value, want, use, or choose a sand OR rock box. Surely what he wanted hadn’t changed? I assumed because he mentioned it earlier that it was still valid. (Annual employee viewpoint survey?)

Even as a coach who has asked questions for a living for more than three decades, who has built and leveraged simple and profoundly powerful tools that help HR leaders easily know what everyone on their team values, and who has given leaders a lens into both ideal succession plans and what every team member wants to do, develop, delegate, or decrease for maximum success and utilization, this was something I was too close to. I had made assumptions, given directives, and acted without asking the right questions about his “why?” I was too close to this to be objective.

So, what about you? Where might YOU be too close to something? What HR program or practice may be well-intentioned and not achieving quantifiable returns? Where may you be building beautiful things that simply aren’t being used? Where could you get a more consistent and quantifiable ROI?

I’ve teed up some possible questions future-oriented HR Leaders and Coaches can ask yourself and those you serve:

· “Where may you be too close to something?

· “In what areas are you playing it safe?”

· “How are you using coaching questions to build your strategy?”

· “Ten years from now, what will matter about this?”

· “What success story do you want to tell your shareholders/stakeholders?”

· “What data do you need consistently and in real-time to make informed decisions?”

What a joy to be a mom, a coach, and a community builder.


Robin Dolobach, PCC has been embedded with diverse clients spanning both public and private sectors for more than 30 years, as a Recruiter, Human Capital Consultant, Executive, and Executive Coach. She has a proven track record of success in helping great leaders and organizations become more aware, intentional, impactful, beloved, and profitable. She is currently the Co-Founder and CEO of Strategy for LEADZ (