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    Monday
    Jul142014

    Germany, Spurs: Welcome to the Machine

    The German men's national team won the World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Argentina yesterday, completing a march to the title that at times seemed almost incredible and surreal, (their 7-1 demolition of host nation Brazil in the semifinal), and absolutely workmanlike (the title match, their group stage tussles with Ghana and the USA).

    But no matter how any individual game for the Germans developed, in the end they were always able to find the right combination of talent, strategy and tactics, and individual moments of inspiration and excellence needed to raise the most prized trophy in all of world sports. For US fans, continuing to warm up to the highest levels of a sport that almost (it seems) every American child has played at least some in the last 20 years, watching the German team in this World Cup had to be at least somewhat reminiscent of the recent San Antonio Spurs NBA Championship.

    While there were certainly some differences between the two team's achievements, the similarities, at least to me were pretty clear, and might (apologies in advance to anyone already sickened by 'What can we learn about career management/leadership/workplaces from LeBron James returning to Cleveland' posts), I as a member of the 8 Man Rotation feel obliged to call out a few keys to both of these victories, and to take a stab at what broader application might be found therein.

    Talent and system are not the same as culture, (and are more important) - Tim Sackett had a great take at Fistful of Talent last week about 'system' hiring and it is well worth a read. Both the Spurs and Germany 'play the right way', i.e., organize their players and approach the game in a particular way in that each player understands their role, and how it contributes to the overall goals of the team. While each team has recognizable and extremely successful individual players, (Duncan and Parker on the Spurs, Muller and Klose for Germany), none of the games and the strategy ever seemed to be about these individuals. From beginning to end each team approached and played the games as a team. Not once in the NBA Finals or in the World Cup late stages did I recall hearing any commentator say something like 'The Spurs (or Germany), will only go as far as player XYZ takes them.' It was always a team effort, not one that relied on one or two talents. In fact, many of the players on the Spurs for sure, probably only succeed because they are in the Spurs system, and they have found the right fit for their talent.

    In the long run, discipline and belief trumps emotion - In the pre-game of the World Cup semifinal the home team Brazil had cranked up the emotional meter to 11 - they had 70,000 fans behind them, they 'felt' like it was their destiny to win on their home soil, and even held up the jersey of their injured and unable to play star Neymar in the pre-game line-up. It would have been easy for Germany to succumb to that emotional and psychological pressure, and give up and early goal or two. Instead, the German side stuck to their plan, withstood the first 10 minutes or so of Brazil's efforts, and then set on a goal scoring flurry not seem ever before in a World Cup semifinal. Similarly, in the final game of the NBA Finals, the two-time defending champion Miami Heat jumped out to an early lead against the Spurs, only to find the Spurs back to just about even by halftime, as the Spurs system and discipline proved more that Miami could match. When you have a system, and the right talent that has bough in to the system, then the lesson is to stick with it, don't panic when your opponent seems to have the upper hand, and double down on what you know will be successful in the long game.

    Most of us are really bad at evaluating talent - The Spurs had the NBA's best regular season record. The German side are full of top-level players from the world's most famous clubs. Yet neither was favored to win their respective championships prior to the final series or game. The Heat, with best player in the world LeBron James, and Brazil with their history of success (and home nation status), were expected to lift the trophies that ended up being held by the Spurs and Germany. We kept looking for excuses why the Spurs or Germany could not win (the Spurs were too old, Germany had not won the World Cup in 20+ years, and never outside of Europe), that we let ourselves be fooled. Even the leaders of these great teams might not understand talent completely. The World Cup winning goal was set up and scored by two players that were not even in the starting team of 11. I think this is is often the same thing that occurs in day-to-day talent assessment and evalution. We are trained to look for the reasons why someone won't or can't succeed, instead of focusing on the things that they are talented and strong at, and thinking about ways to leverage the skills they have. 

    Bottom line - Spurs = Germany = a great way to think about how systems and strategy lead you to find the right talent you need to succeed.

    Look for more sports takes later in the week, (I know you can't wait), from the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    Jul112014

    Off Topic: Store bought cookies, ranked

    Your definitive ranking of store-bought cookies. And yes, I know that 'Home baked cookies are better!', that is not what this ranking is about.

    Here goes:

    99. Animal Crackers

    98 - 16. Every other cookie that you have ever heard of

    15. Lorna Doone

    14. Famous Amos Chocolate Chip

    13. Archway Oatmeal Raisin

    12. Pecan Sandies

    11. Teddy Grahams Honey

    10. Fig Newtons

    9. Nilla Wafers

    8. Nutter Butter

    7. Vienna Fingers

    6. Chips Deluxe

    5. Milano

    4. Fudge Stripes

    3. Oreo (original)

    2. Oreo (Double Stuf)

    1. Chips Ahoy (original)

    Tell me where I'm wrong and have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Jul102014

    LIVE Tonight - #HRHappyHour Show 187 - Summer Special

    HR Happy Hour 187 - 'LIVE Summer Special'

    Broadcast LIVE Thursday July 10, 2014 - 8:00PM EDT

    Hosts: Trish McFarlane, Steve Boese

    Back in the first few years of  the HR Happy Hour Show, Thursday nights at 8:00PM was the normal weekly day and time when the HR Happy Hour Show would broadcast live, and take calls, check out the #HRHappyHour backchannel on Twitter, and just enjoy hanging out (virtually) with the great HR community.

    So even though it has been a while since the HR Happy Hour Show has actually broadcast live, we thought it might be fun to occasionally bring back the live format and connect with the listeners, take a few calls, and have some fun on the back channel

    So this week the show will be going LIVE at 8:00PM EDT on Thursday July 10, 2014 to talk about some of the most current, interesting and challenging topics in HR, work, and the workplace and to take your calls as well. We will plan to hit a wide range of topics but most of all want to hear from you.

    You can listen to the show Live tonight at 8:00PM ET using the show page here, on the Call-in number 646-378-1086, or the embedded player below: 

    Listen To Business Internet Radio Stations with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio

     

    It will be fun to be back on live tonight, so we hope you can join us on the show, back live for the first time in 2014.

    Tuesday
    Jul082014

    The Obligatory World Cup Post - #8ManRotation

    My annual contract with the 8 Man Rotation Group, LLC (not a real thing, but we do have an annual FREE Ebook on Sports and HR - you can get the latest version here), obliges me to post at least once about the World Cup and what similarities, parallels, or HR and workplace takeaways you might be able to glean from the tournament (which I really do enjoy), so here goes...

    Talent almost always trumps all - Despite some interesting and surprising 'upsets' in the early round matches, (the USA getting out of the 'Group of Death', the legendary Spanish side failing to play to expectations), by the later stages of the event, the best/most talented teams had risen to the occasion. In the first knockout round the 8 teams that had been on top of their opening round groups, all defeated the second place in their group teams that they were matched against. And then in the quarter-final round, the four teams that advanced (Brazil, Germany, Argentina, and the Netherlands), were among the pre-tournament top four favored sides. Winning at the World Cup, and in most every business as well, remains mostly about having a group of talented people working together towards the same goal. And since every team wants to win the World Cup, the tie-breaker is talent. Not fighting spirit, not fan support, not a 'unique' culture - it's talent.

    The more people needed to create the finished product, the less individual stars matter - Soccer is played by 11 people per side, thus making any single individual's ability to impact and influence the outcome of the match relatively less than say basketball, where a single star player is often the difference between winning teams and losing ones. Sure, each of the top 4 teams have their share of 'star' players, but in a 90 minute match these players can often go for very long stretches of play without even touching the ball, much less making game-altering plays. Soccer is often about discipline, strategy, organization as much as about singular talent. So while talent (usually) trumps all, it is really kind of a collective talent level that I'm talking about. Many of the top sides have seen their star players go down to injury, yet their overall talent level and team organization has allowed them to continue to thrive. The HR lesson here? Once about 10-15 people are involved in any project or initiative, you might be better off passing on the 'star' talent in favor of raising the overall talent level of the group. 

    Performance is relative (and a function of expectations) - Just like how for most publicly traded companies their quarterly performance in terms of absolute revenue or earnings means much less than how those figures compared to Wall Street's 'expectations' of what those results would be, a team's performance in the World Cup usually is assessed against some kind of nebulous collective expectation of what that performance would be. Case in point -the USA team played four matches in the World Cup. They won one, drew one, and lost two. The win was against probably the worst opponent of the four. The draw happened when the USA allowed a shocking goal in the 95th minute of play (essentially the last kick of the game). But yet after the USA was eliminated from the tournament, the general consensus was that the USA had a successful tournament and is on the right track for the future. But objectively, a record of 1-2-1 in four games is pretty terrible. But against expectations, it was a success. We see this effect at work all the time - someone's just sort of average performance is viewed as wonderful if they have a track record of being incompetent. Someone else's good performance is not appreciated if they had somehow done a little better in the past. We'd probably be better off trying to forget the recent past, let go of 'expectations' and try to evaluate people and performance for what they are.

    Anyway, there it is, my 8 Man Rotation 2014 World Cup post is in the books!

    Happy Tuesday.

    Monday
    Jul072014

    HRE Column: What HR Pros Want to Know About HR Tech

    Welcome back from the long, holiday weekend! (At least for the US readers out there).

    I'm just easing back into the groove after a BBQ-heavy weekend, so I will take the opportunity this morning, (this is also code for 'I really, really was offline all weekend and did not write anything new'), to share a bit from my latest Inside HR Tech column that runs each month at Human Resource Executive Online, (and remind blog readers that you can subscribe over at HRE to get the monthly Inside HR Tech column delivered fresh to your email inbox).

    Here is an excerpt from the piece, "What HR Tech Pros Want to Know":

    Recently, I had the opportunity to co-present, along with Trish McFarlane,  VP of HR practice and Principal Analyst at Brandon Hall Group, a session titled "What Did That HR Tech Salesperson Say? Demystifying HR Technology Selection and Implementation" at the 2014 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition in Orlando. Despite the session being scheduled on the last day (and last possible time slot) of the event, we had a sizable and highly engaged audience. I think the combination of SHRM's tendency not to offer much content in the way of HR technology and the increasing importance of the subject to HR professionals everywhere contributed to the great turnout for our "conference ender."

    In fact, there were so many great questions asked both during and after the session (Trish and I were both amazed by how many attendees approached us at the end wanting to continue the conversation), I have to think other HR professionals and leaders not able to attend the session might also have some of the very same questions.

    So with that in mind, I'd like to share at least a few of the more common and pressing questions we were asked.

    What are the best sources of information about HR technology solutions to help me when I'm conducting market and vendor research?

    Trish shared some great information from her research about which sources of information HR professionals rely upon when researching HR-technology solutions. The most common sources used by HR professionals are external consultants (55 percent), talking with other HR colleagues (45 percent), and conducting online Internet searches (40 percent). While these are all valid and potentially valuable sources of information, HR pros should also be sure to take advantage of a plethora of additional -- and often freely available -- sources of HR technology information that exist in LinkedIn groups, (such as the HR Technology Conference group), in independent-analyst company reports and vendor profiles, as well as on social media. You'd be surprised how many responses you will get if you post a question about a particular HR-tech solution in a large and active LinkedIn group.

    Of course, events such as the HR Technology® Conference offer a great opportunity to compare and contrast many vendors in a short time period... 

    You can catch the rest of the piece over at HRE Online see what other HR Tech questions the HR pros were asking and sign up for the monthly 'Inside HR Tech' column there as well.

    Have a great week!