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    Monday
    Feb162015

    Athletes don't need media, and what that might mean for the rest of us

    Fresh off the recently concluded Super Bowl where one of the pre-game sub-plots that we heard about incessantly was Seattle Seahawks star Marshawn Lynche's reluctance/defiance in his 'engagement' with the collected media types at the event. Lynch, whether due to some kind of genuine shyness or anxiety, or because he simply wanted to be kind of a jerk, would not answer media questions prior to the game. He simply answered every question with "I'm just here so I won't get fined." And that lack of cooperation/participation, made some members of the media insane with anger.

    I'm writing this post while waiting for the NBA All Star Game to tip off, and while sitting through the (really long) pre-game show, I hit upon this piece, about NBA superstar Kevin Durant's frustration with dealing with that sport's media types. In the piece, Durant, who is usually portrayed as a really nice, and genuine guy, is quoted as saying:

    "You guys really don't know (expletive)," Durant told reporters in his final interview session before Sunday's All-Star Game.

    Durant was later asked what stories he would like the media to focus on more.

    "To be honest, man, I'm only here talking to y'all because I have to," Durant said. "So I really don't care. Y'all not my friends. You're going to write what you want to write. You're going to love us one day and hate us the next. That's a part of it. So I just learn how to deal with y'all."

    For ages, sports media were intermediaries - they connected sports teams and star athletes to their adoring public. As recently as 10 years or so ago, there was almost no way for most athletes to engage with more than a handful of fans at a time, (before and after games, at autograph signing, etc.), without having to rely upon mass media and the reporters that were the conduit to the mass media outlets.

    And reporters loved this. They loved having access, being important, being on some level the voice of both the athletes (by sharing their quotes), and of the fans, (by asking the questions of the athletes that the fans only wished they could). For 100 years this was how things worked. 

    But like pretty much everything else in the world, social networks, and smart phones, and wifi everywhere, and personal branding concepts are flipping that relationship between athletes and sports media, or at least eliminating most of the reasons the relationship needed to exist in the first place. Star athletes like Lynch and Durant can (and have) amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on various social media networks, can send messages to these followers anytime they like, and enjoy the fact that one of their tweets is likely to reach many, many more eyeballs than a reporter's bylined article in the sports section of the New York Times

    So it isn't really surprising that stars like Lynch and Durant are increasingly taking a more disinterested, even adversarial posture with the sports media. They feel, perhaps rightly, that the media are out to paint them in a less-than-positive light, and in a modern world where stars can and do build and nurture their own fan bases, the risk and low reward of dealing with traditional media is just not worth the hassle.

    So if anything, I would expect more and more athletes taking Lynch and Durant's approach to media in the future.

    What might this new tendency for star athletes to shun traditional media mean for us 'normals?'

    Two things come to mind. The first one, and maybe the sort of obvious one, is that traditional middlemen, like many sports reporters, have little use in the modern, social world. No one needs a random reporter from Si.com or ESPN to ask any star player 'How did it feel when?' questions and then post the athlete's responses. The star can post their own tweet, or pic on Instagram, or whatever, to let their fans know 'How it felt.' The only middlemen that have a future it seems, are the ones that are based on an app and an algorithm, (Uber, AirBNB). People as middlemen? Not so much.

    The other thing I think worth considering is the more general idea of how status and power and influence are determined or accrued. In sports, it used to be a really, really big deal for an athlete to get on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine or on a Wheaties cereal box. And while those achievements might still matter in 2015, I wonder how much they have fallen in prestige compared to say, getting 1M Twitter followers or 500K views of a YouTube video of the athlete in action?

    And for us, us regular folks, how much in the future will working at the 'right' companies matter to our long-term career objectives, or will building our own identity, persona, brand, and portfolios, independent of corporate interests mean even more?

    Like Durant and Lynch don't need the mainstream media to communicate their message, or validate their success, I wonder if we are soon moving to a time when accountants, marketers, HR pros - whomever, won't need that same kind of validation from corporate owners.

    Think of Durant's quote about sports media again. 

    Y'all not my friends. You're going to write what you want to write. You're going to love us one day and hate us the next. That's a part of it.

    That quote could just as easily be about GM or Apple or Microsoft or your company.

    Have a great week!

    Saturday
    Feb142015

    Rob Lowes, Ranked

    Your definitive ranking of DirectTV commercial Rob Lowes.

    10. Far less attractive Rob Lowe

    9. Scrawny arms Rob Lowe

    8. Super creepy Rob Lowe

    7. Rob Lowe (the normal one)

    6. Peaked in high school Rob Lowe

    5. St. Elmo's Fire Rob Lowe (I know that one has not been in the DirectTV spots, but he should be)

    4. Painfully awkward Rob Lowe

    3. Crazy hairy Rob Lowe

    2. Overly paranoid Rob Lowe

    1. Meathead Rob Lowe

    Friday
    Feb132015

    VIDEO: Unconscious Bias at Work

    Save this one for the long weekend maybe, as it is about one hour long, (a 45 minute talk, followed by some Q&A), from Google's Director of People Analytics Brian Welle on the subject of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace.

    Link the video is here, it is also embedded below (Email and RSS subscribers will need to click through)

     

    From Google's description of the piece, and of unconscious bias more generally:

    There is a growing body of research – led by scientists at Google – surrounding unconscious bias and how we can prevent it from negatively impacting our decision making. The goal is to teach ourselves how unconscious bias can affect our perceptions, decisions, and interactions. It is aimed at raising awareness, sparking conversation, and initiating action. We’re hopeful that this will help us to create workplaces that are not only fun and innovative, but allow each of us, no matter our background, to achieve more than we could anywhere else.

    I definitely recommend the talk from Google's Welle, as it not only lays out a simple to follow 4-part plan for addressing unconscious bias at work, but as in typical Google fashion, his recommended approaches are all backed and supported by research, many of which are cited in the piece, (and in the accompanying notes).

    For me, the part that stood out the most was the research that showed that two identical resumes would be assessed completely differently when the first resume had a 'male' name attached to it, and the second had a 'female' name. Take the names off of the resumes, and suddenly this unconscious bias slips away.

    Anyway, take some time this weekend to check out the talk - if you are in the half of the country where it is about -5 degrees outside you are probably not going anywhere and have plenty of time!

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Feb122015

    Good stats, bad team

    I am still basking in the limelight from yesterday's launch of The 8 Man Rotation: The 2014 Season E-book, (if you missed the launch announcement, you can check it here), so I knew I had to drop in some kind of a sport-related take as a follow-up.

    There is a phenomenon in sports, most notably in NBA basketball, knows as 'Good Stats, Bad Team', which referred to the sometimes over-inflated to the positive personal statistics, (points, rebounds, etc.), that some players accrue largely by virtue of playing for a bad, losing team.World B. Free

    The explanation for this situation is pretty sound and understandable. Even the worst NBA teams are likely to generate near 100 total points and 45 - 50 total rebounds, even while losing. And someone on the team has to take shots, score points, grab rebounds, etc. So often a good player, playing on one of these bad teams, can look statistically to be almost a great player just by looking at their stats. He might get 5 or 6 more points per game and 3 or 4 more rebounds than if he were on a more competitive team, and surrounded by more talented teammates. This might not seem like that big a deal, but even small increases in points and rebounds are a big deal in the NBA - they translate to more valuable contracts, possible All Star game appearances, and recognition as an 'elite' player amongst fans and peers.

    So NBA team management has to be careful when dealing with these kinds of 'Good Stats, Bad Team' players, and attempt to quantify the impact on their performance when considering adding such a player to an already good team. You can take a look at Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers for a current example - since moving from the perennial bad Minnesota Timberwolves to the LeBron James-led Cavs this season, Love's numbers are down across the board, and has struggled at times fitting in to a team where he is no longer the best player.

    The 'Good Stas, Bad Team' concept was on my mind not just from watching another 4 hours of basketball last night, but from this piece, highlights of a recent interview of Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, where Costolo warned leaders of sort of the opposite of 'Good Stas, Bad Team', i.e. poaching managerial talent from already successful companies. 

    Here is Costolo's take:

    Twitter CEO Dick Costolo just finished speaking at the Goldman Sachs technology conference in San Francisco, and he said that he's spending a lot of time instilling proper management practices into his leadership team.

    It's particularly important because a lot of these employees are young, and have only had one other job. They sometimes think that just because something worked well at their previous company, it will work well at Twitter.

    Not so.

    As Costolo put it, "It might have just been that company X was making an extraordinary amount of money and you could've done anything."

    Did you catch that? 

    It is the reverse take on 'Good Stats, Bad Team'. In this context it could be called 'Average Manager, Great Team', maybe.

    Costolo warns us that when hiring talent out of great, successful companies that we need to be a little careful that maybe some portion, maybe a large portion, of the individual's success was due to the great company/team of which they were a part. Maybe in that context, anyone could have been successful in the role. And finally, it reminds us to at least consider what might happen when taking an individual out of that successful context and placing them into a new, (and possibly less successful, less talented context), might mean for their performance.

    It is a pretty interesting concept, and probably worth keeping in mind if you have convinced yourself that you only want to recruit from Apple, Google, (insert the name of the best company in your industry).

    Happy Thursday.

    Wednesday
    Feb112015

    The 8 Man Rotation: The 2014 Season - #8ManRotation

    As an HR/Talent pro I am on record as stating that you can learn just about everything you need to know about leadership, management, performance, assessment, teamwork, engagement, culture, succession planning, and ultimately winning from watching sports.

    In fact, not only do I believe that to be true, my 8 Man Rotation pals Kris Dunn, Tim Sackett, Lance Haun, Matt Stollak and I spend lots of time, energy, and pixels all year long trying to make that point through the numerous posts we craft that hit upon the themes of Sports and HR.

    And each year our pal Matt Stollak compiles these pieces into The 8 Man Rotation E-book, which the boys and I are proud to release today.

    The 8 Man Rotation: The 2014 Season is 161 pages of our best takes in 2014 on the themes of HR strategy, analytics, talent management, performance, recruiting, compensation and more - all with a connection to the wide, wide world of sports. With a forward from our pal Paul Hebert, The 2014 Season I have to confess, was probably our finest season yet.

    Please check out The 2014 Season, (embedded below, email and RSS subscribers will need to click through)

     

    Huge thanks go out once again to the fellas for letting me be a part of the crew and to Matty Ice in particular for doing all the hard work to bring the Ebook together each year.