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    The Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy - Part V

    The sage was at it again the other night during the Oklahoma City - Memphis NBA playoff game.

    In case you don't know what I am referring to, former NBA head coach, and current TV analyst Jeff Van Gundy (JVG) dropped another bit of simple, yet essential knowledge about basketball that I think is also directly applicable to the workplace, management, and organizational dynamics.

    By my reckoning, that is nothing new for JVG, and if you wish - you can check out the previous installments of the JVG 'wisdom' series here -  (Parts I, II, III, and IV).

    But back to the story. During the game Oklahoma City forward Nick Collison made a smart play on defense to cause Memphis to lose the ball, hustled to the offensive end of the floor, and then positioned himself properly to make a scoring move when the ball was rotated to him in the flow of the offensive play. It was a brief series of actions that were not necessarily terribly athletic or skilled or even that remarkable, but as a kind of orchestrated series did add up to an excellent and winning (apologies Chas. Sheen) play.

    Immediately after Collison, who is not a starting or star player on the team, completed the play, JVG observed that winning teams need guys like Collison, players that may not have all the physical skills of the top players on the team, but have found ways to contribute using capabilities and attributes that are mostly 'choices' and not simply genetic gifts.

    The money line from JVG:

    'Guys like Collison, guys that grind, are essential. The best ones are coachable, accountable, and professional. And you can win with guys like that.'

    Coachable - willing to accept suggestions, able to make adjustments in style of play to fit the team goals, and cognizant that what may have worked in the past (in college, or on former pro team), might not be the desired behavior on the current team.

    Accountable - understands the role, knows how the role impacts and contributes to the success of the team, makes the effort to put himself in the right situations, and simply does his job fully knowing the rest of the team depends on him to meet his objectives. And if other guys on the team, maybe the star players, are having an 'off' night, then he knows when to try and give a little more than normally needed.

    Professional - in the narrow sense, we are all professional, i.e. we are paid to perform. But what JVG really meant was a level of personal integrity, pride, and dedication to himself as a player, to his teammates, and to the supporters of the team. This means showing up and giving your best effort even when times are tough, when the team is down, or when you are not meeting your personal objectives. It means being proud of your contribution in every game, and even every practice. It means setting an example for others to follow, even if you don't hold a formal title or leadership role.

    Coachable, accountable, professional. All important. All under your control every day. Super talented people in any game or industry or field can get away with only one or two of these, and can still make incredible contributions to the organization. But if you are like most people, and are not in that rare category of naturally talented superstars, just focusing on being coachable, accountable and professional will go a long way in determining your success in any role.

    And stacking your team, no matter what the game, with those kinds of players will make you look pretty smart as a leader as well.

    And that my friends, is the Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy.


    HRevolution 2011 - Thoughts and Thank-You's


    What a fantastic event.

    HRevolution 2011 took place over the past weekend in Atlanta, Georgia and at least for me, was the best of the three HRevolution events we have put on thus far. And certainly as one of the members of the HRevolution organizing committee I could be accused of having a biased opinion. I freely admit it - I am biased. So if you don't want to take my word for it, connect with any of the 130 or so people that attended, keep an eye on the Twitter stream for the tag #HRevolution, and read some of what are sure to be dozens of reflection blog posts that will be posted in the next few weeks.

    I am not so biased though as to suggest that somehow HRevolution is better than other events, be they large and traditional major conferences like SHRM, or the many other 'Unconferences' that one can find these days. But I do believe HRevolution is different, and really kind of unique in the space, and really quite special. The level of commitment, passion, engagement, and enthusiasm for this event, at least for me, surpasses what I have seen and experienced for any other event in our extended industry.

    Attendance at professional conferences and events can be driven by many reasons - some are attended for specific learning opportunities, some for the chance to meet and network with one's colleagues in a professional community, and some simply are used to re-charge and energize and hopefully re-ignite passion for one's career. I think HRevolution succeeds as an event because it offers attendees all of these things. Intelligent and insightful session leaders, relevant and engaging content, a format that encourages connection and engagement, and finally the chance to spend time with 130 other folks as passionate as you are about the worlds of Human Resources, Recruiting, Talent Management, HR Technology, or whatever precisely matches your interest.

    After the event one of the attendees Bonni Titgemeyer tweeted the following:

    It is a fantastic and interesting question, and I think gets to some of the core or the essence of why so many people feel so passionate about the HRevolution event.

    Particularly for first-time attendees, the event can be seen as a bit of an enigma. It kind of looks like a 'regular' conference - we were in a large, professional conference center, there was an excellent catered lunch and a General Session room and smaller breakout rooms; some of the sessions had elements of more traditional presentation formats. But other sessions had attendees standing in front of the room holding up posters of cartoon characters and rap stars, and as Matt Stollak and Dawn Hrdlica-Burke both observed, the F-Bomb was dropped sort of casually and reasonably often during the day. But contrast that to the big-brained Josh LeTourneau exploring the depths of complex Social Network Analysis, a topic and conversation to challenge your ideas about talent management to their core.

    So is HRevolution a phenomenon, movement, or a cult?

    I am not sure. Maybe it is all three. For a small event, the HRevolution manages to be a collection of different, complementary, and interesting elements, and to me, that is why it really is unique and special. Maybe the event is anything the attendees want it to be.

    Lastly, many, many thanks for all who attended, presented, supported, and come toghether to make this event what it is.

    Most importantly, my thanks and undying respect and admiration for Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks, and Crystal Peterson. It is an honor and pleasure to work with you.


    Expectations and Surprises

    Today I am on my way to HRevolution 2011, the 'Unconference', (I really don't like that word), for Human Resources professionals that I have had a small part in organizing, along with my colleagues Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks, and Crystal Peterson. The event will most certainly be fantastic, I am excited to see so many old friends and also to meet many new ones, as the event has grown over the years there always seems to be a new class of HRevolutionaries it will be my privilege to meet.

    Today I fully expected to post about the event, to thank our generous sponsors, and to otherwise promote and recognize the many, many people that make the HRevolution event so worthwhile and special.

    But on Thursday I received some surprising news, that changed both my short-term plans for today's post, and certainly my plans for the future.

    On Thursday I was informed that my position, along with several of my colleagues, have been eliminated due to an organizational restructuring.

    On the blog, and in the other social circles I travel, I have not talked very much about my 'day job'. That was a conscious decision - I never got the sense that what I did on the blog, on the HR Happy Hour Show, at any Human Resources conferences or events, and really anywhere that was not 'work' was understood all that much or really appreciated by the decision makers there. And that is perfectly understandable and acceptable, I never had the expectation or assumption that any employer would or should care about what I was up to in my spare time.

    But unexpected changes and surprises are just that - surprising. And while I did have the sense that in the long run that I would likely need to move on to something more closely aligned with my interests, skills, and leveraging the strengths that having developed properties like this blog and the radio show have given me, I was not really prepared to commence that process on the day prior to the HRevolution event.

    But the reality is I need to move on to the next phase in my professional career.

    And it is kind of hard to think about that, mainly because of concerns about the team I am leaving behind. In my time with them, I found them to be extremely dedicated, competent, and a real pleasure to work with. I hope that I was able to help them, at least a little, and that whatever changes are in store for them will not be too difficult.

    For me, I plan on flying to HRevolution, enjoying time with friends and colleagues, and sure, talking some about my next phase and potential career opportunities, but hopefully not dwelling on that so much as to detract and distract from the HRevolution event itself, one that myself and the team have worked on so much over the last few months.

    When I get back from Atlanta, it will be time to sort out the future.

    If you are interested in talking about what that future may look like, either at HRevolution or after, I would love to hear from you.

    Find me at:

    Email - steveboese@gmail.com

    LinkedIn - www.linkedin.com/in/steveboese

    Phone (I promise I will try to answer) - 585-317-7492

    Twitter - @SteveBoese

    or via the contact form on the right side of the blog.



    The 8 Man Rotation - Ebook

    Today I am really pleased to support the launch of a little not-so-secret project that has been in the works for the last few months - an Ebook called 'The 8 Man Rotation', that I have the pleasure and honor to have played a small role in creating.

    The good Dr. Matthew Stollak, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at St. Norbert College, author of the excellent True Faith HR blog, and one of the most passionate sports fans I know hatched the plan to collect, curate, and organize some of the best 'Sports and HR' blog posts written in the last couple of years from a fantastic collection of writers, and create a free Ebook from the hundreds of pieces.

    The roster of contributors for The 8 Man Rotation Ebook reads like a who's who of dudes whose better athletic days are far behind them, but whose passion for sports, and the lessons and insights sports can offer to our profession, our workplaces, and our relationships continues unabated, and in spite of withering criticism from some who would hold that the endless sports analogies are tiresome and irrelevant. Haters.

    The starting lineup:

    Kris Dunn - The HR Capitalist

    Lance Haun - ReHaul.com

    Tim Sackett - The Tim Sackett Project

    Matt Stollak - True Faith HR

    and little old me.

    The Ebook covers topic ranging from Workforce Planning and Strategy, to Recruiting, to Performance and Talent Management. Of course with a heavy mix of basketball, football, and baseball mixed in.

    The PDF version of the Ebook can be downloaded here, and also can be accessed on Slideshare here (also embedded below, email and RSS subscribers may need to click through).

     The 8 Man Rotation Ebook

    View more documents from steveboese

    Many, many thanks to Matt Stollak for having the idea for the project, sifting through many hundreds of posts about LeBron James, and compiling this really awesome publication of which I am proud to be a small part.

    Now download the Ebook and keep it handy while you watch the NBA Playoffs tonight!


    Grading Talent the Big Tuna Way

    Last night ESPN ran an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how American professional teams typically evaluate talent, with special guest former National Football League executive and head coach Bill 'Big Tuna' Parcells. The context of the show was the league's upcoming college player draft, the annual exercise where the league's teams assess, grade, and ultimately select from 5-10 players each to 're-supply' the talent on their teams. It is a massive, high-stakes, expensive, and critically important recruiting, assessment, and alignment exercise.

    Parcells' resume and achievements as a successful coach, and talent evaluator are solid - he served in very senior roles at several NFL organizations, winning two Super Bowl Championships as the Head Coach of the New York Football Giants. 

    In the show Parcells' shared some of the talent selection criteria and thought processes that organizations that he was a member of, and in general, most other teams tend to follow when making player selections in the league's annual college player draft. Some of the criteria and processes were fairly obvious, and would apply generally to any talent selection or recruiting context, (players who had been kicked off their college team for disciplinary reasons should be avoided), but some of the other concepts Parcells discussed perhaps are not so apparent to casual observers, and just might have some additional applicability to more conventional talent selection processes.

    Here are three Talent Evaluation ideas straight from the Big Tuna:

    1. Understand the predictors of success (some are not so obvious)

    In NFL football every team measures and grades the basic and easily understood physical characteristics of potential draftees, (height, weight, strength, speed), but during the show Parcells mentioned a few not-so-obvious keys he assesses, (e.g. for the position of cornerback, length of the player's arms). For potential quarterback prospects, Parcells insisted he only wanted players that actually graduated from college, as he felt it demonstrated intelligence, and more importantly commitment. 

    The larger point is every competitor has access to the same talent pool, the basic and obvious assessment criteria are widely known and universally adopted, so finding the less clear and more predictive evaluation criteria that other teams may not have discovered is one of the ways to claim some advantage and make better selection decisions than the competition.

    2. Make sure everyone involved in Talent selection understands these predictors

    Once the criteria is established, and a process to collect and assess these criteria developed, Parcells emphasized the critical need for everyone involved in the talent selection process to understand the criteria, and consistently grade to the criteria. From scouts, to assistant coaches, to even the team owner, the definition of what a top candidate looks like has to be understood by everyone. There are so many players to assess, that no one member of the organization can possibly 'know' every candidate, so the selection process becomes a team effort, and the talent selection team has to have that common ground for any chance of success. Talent is talked about in the common language of the team's assessment ratings, and no conversation about talent fails to reference these assessments.

    3. Know yourself

    Parcells described a common acronym used in football draft processes, NFU, which means 'Not For Us'. This term is assigned to players that the strict adherence to positional capability assessments or past production in the college game might indicate are good candidates and should be considered in the selection process. But these NFL players have raised some concern off the field, of their attitude, style, work ethic somehow will not be a cultural match to what the organization is looking for. Parcells strongly advises teams to know themselves, know the style they want to play, the kinds of mental makeups that players need to have to 'fit' on the team, and to avoid the temptation of selecting players with fantastic physical skills that might not 'fit' otherwise. These kinds of gambles rarely work out, and they are the ones that get coaches and talent evaluators fired.

    But in the end, despite incredibly detailed and complex processes for physical measurement, tests of intelligence, and well-documented and easily reviewed past performance in college football, selecting players for NFL teams is still and imperfect process. So-called 'can't miss' top prospects often fail to live up to expectations, while others deemed marginal prospects once vetted by the traditional processes end up as star players.

    Having a system and some ground rules to follow, to find ways to uncover predictors your competition may have missed, and perhaps most importantly a deep and confident organizational self-awareness are a few ways our pal the Big Tuna offered up to try and land more Peyton Mannings and less Ryan Leafs (inside football reference, Google it).