Magazine article Workforce

It's Passion That Makes the Difference

Magazine article Workforce

It's Passion That Makes the Difference

Article excerpt

Kenneth Frederickson loves Chateau de Maimbray, a wine he describes as the archetypal Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley in France. It smells, he says, like the flesh of a grapefruit. Not just any grapefruit, mind you. But a ruby-red grapefruit left overnight on the kitchen counter. He sticks his nose into his wineglass, inhales, and looks skyward. "I'm also picking up a bit of pear skin, some minerally chalkiness, and-you're not going to like this-it also smells a bit like a cat's litter box."

Frederickson is talking to a group of 60 adults who have gathered on a hot summer evening to learn the ins and outs of wine tasting. His comment about the litter box prompts us, in unison, to thrust our noses inside our own glasses of Chateau de Maimbray. For several seconds the room is quiet save for the sound of audible sniffing. "I'm not getting the litter-box thing," shouts a man from a table in the back of the room. "Is it used or unused?" We laugh.

"That's okaaaay that you don't get it!" Frederickson bellows. "When it comes to wine, there are no wrong impressions. What counts is what you perceive."

"I smell lemon," announces a woman sitting near Frederickson.

He compliments her. "You're very lucky," he says. "Only one person in a hundred can smell acidity in wine."

Kenneth Frederickson is a master sommelier, which means he knows just about all there is to know about wine and has passed several grueling examinations to prove it. In his last exam, he managed to correctly identify six wines in a blind taste test. Naming the wine's predominant grape was not enough. He also had to determine the wine's age, its country of origin, and the specific region within that country where the grapes were grown. "Passing it took luck more than anything," he admits. Worldwide, there are just 102 master sommeliers. There are 47 in the United States. Frederickson is number 41.

Kenneth Frederickson can teach human resources professionals a lot, and not just about the importance of having a corkscrew handy at all times. What Frederickson has that more human resources people need is infectious enthusiasm. He has the ability to convince the average gum-chewing American with a mortgage that wine matters.

Clearly, the practice of human resources is infinitely more important than wine. Most of the time, anyway. Human resources professionals work to instill harmony, fairness, and understanding in the workplace. They settle disputes. They hire and nurture talent. They safeguard workers. They help companies achieve profitability by making sure employees can do their best work every single day-which is no small task.

Why is it, then, that many human resources people are so defensive about the profession? …

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