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    Entries in 8 Man Rotation (144)

    Friday
    Jan202017

    The Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy - Part VIII

    Time to revive an old series on the blog, and one of my favorites - on the (continuing) Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy.

    Since it has been a while, here's a little refresher on just who Jeff Van Gundy is, and why management, leadership, and organizational culture types should listen closely to what JVG has to say about performance, talent, and team dynamics.

    JVG is currently an NBA analyst and announcer for ESPN, previously he was the head coach of my beloved New York Knicks, as well as the Houston Rockets. He was successful as a coach, but may even be a better fit for broadcasting, as he over the years has shown consistent insights into the game, coupled with humor, irreverence, and fun that makes games in which he is broadcasting essential viewing for NBA fans.

    We've covered many of JVG's insights on the blog in the past, (good examples are here and here), and while listening to JVG recently being interviewed on ESPN's (Zach) Lowe Post Podcast, he had this nugget of enlightenment about the importance of conflict amongst team members, and how it is necessary (often), to drive performance improvement.

    Here's the JVG quote, and then a quick comment from me:

    (Some context, Lowe and JVG were discussing if players who are 'bad' or who have abrasive personalities should have that held against them when judging their performance) 

    JVG - To me, it is not about are you 'easy' in the locker room, it's are you right. If you are causing tension for the right reasons at the right times, to help spur your team to confront their issues, and their problems and you're willing to be confronted as well about your own issues and your own problems, then tension is a good thing. 

    This idea that everything should be happy go lucky in a locker room when you are a mediocre team, I disagree with. It's hard to get from mediocrity to average then from average to pretty good and from pretty good to good and then from good to great if there's no conflict. Conflict puts everybody's cards on the table. If you are causing tension for the right reasons at the right times and you are willing to be coached as well and confronted as well then I think tension is a good thing.

    A really interesting, and I think accurate, assessment of how conflict, how an occasional 'difficult' personality type on the team, and the tension and butting of heads that that kind of a person can cause should not be immediately looked at as a negative.

    In NBA basketball, and probably in your organization as well, there are plenty of folks who think their performance and their contribution is perfectly acceptable, and their position on the team is totally secure. They may even be your 'top' performers. But even they, probably, need to be challenged from time to time. Even they need to examine their own performance at least once in a while.

    And in basketball, and again, probably in your shop too, it often takes a gruff, difficult, hard to get along with personality type to force people into that kind of self-examination. And often in basketball, and for the final time, at 'normal' workplaces too, the tendency is to immediately point the finger at Mr. or Ms. 'Difficult' and ostracize them, (or simply get rid of them), for rocking the boat.

    As JVG reminds us, when a team of any kind aspires to do more, to do better, to achieve great things, some conflict along the way is not only inevitable, it is likely essential.

    Think about that the next time you are wondering what to do to make that hard to get along with person who likes to find the issues in what is going on around the office to simply pipe down and get along.

    Maybe they're not actually the problem after all.

    Have a great weekend! 

    Thursday
    Jan052017

    Over, Under, and Properly Rated #2

    My current favorite sports talk show is the Russillo and Kanell Show that airs nationally on ESPN radio. On the show, the hosts occasionally do a 'rated' segment where they categorize sports teams, players, and other aspects of sports and pop culture into one of three buckets. 'Overrated' for things they think are generally praised or valued more than they should be. 'Underrated' for the opposite - things that do not get enough attention or accolades. And finally 'Properly' rated, for the things that receive about the correct level of praise or derision.

    It is a fun segment, complete with sound effects, and in the spirit of having lots of 'real' work to do in this first week of 2017, I am going to steal borrow the idea for this site. So here goes, the first in what may be a series if I remember to do this again, of 'Over, Under, and Properly Rated' (SFB edition). Expect a mix of HR, workplace, Tech, sports, pop culture, and whatever else comes to mind.

    Overrated

    1. 2017 Predictions - Yes, I am a little biased since Trish McFarlane and I just did an HR Happy Hour Show titled 'There are no new HR predictions', but nonetheless, 99.95% of the 'predictions' pieces you see about HR or work or technology are 87.95% worthless, and more or less a waste of your time. Stop with the predictions and get on with the getting stuff done.

    2. Apple - leaving Apple on the overrated list again. Why? I just saw a Kickstarter project for a device to essentially replace all the MacBook ports that Apple decided you didn't need has been a runaway smash. What is happening with Amazon and Alexa reminds us (again), that the hardware is less important than the software and the platform. 

    3. Work/Life Integration - As yesterday's post about the new 'No email after 6PM' regulations in France suggest, I think the notion that most people want 'Integration' or 'Fit' between work and not-work may be finally unraveling, at least some. it could be that many, if not most people, don't want to bring their work home, or on vacation, or on Thanksgiving. It could be we want to work hard, (when we are working), and forget about work when we are not working. Just because a few pundits try and tell you that 'Balance' is the wrong term and concept doesn't mean you have to believe it.

    4. Company Culture - Important, sure. But not more important than Talent or Strategy. (A repeat from last time as well, I am going to keep beating this drum until, well, for a while longer anyway).

    5. The New York Knicks - Just lost their 6th in a row. Moving them from 'Under' to 'Over' rated. Another wasted season seems more and more possible. Time to trade 'Melo. 

     

    Underrated

    1. Amazon - Fun Fact! Amazon was my #2 underrated the first time I did this post last summer. Why are they on here again, and now at the top spot? Because all the interesting news I heard this week from the big CES show in Vegas has been about Amazon and their Alexa operating system. They are into everything - enterprise cloud services, content, drones, spaceships, and now they are set to dominate AI and conversational interfaces. When was the last time you heard anyone talk about Apple's Siri? 

    2. Electronic signatures - Been processing a ton of contracts, agreements, etc. lately and the lack of adoption of electronic signatures has been a major pain in the neck. I have had to print, sign, scan, save, then email I am not sure how many docs in the last month. So tedious. Let's all please move E-sigs up on the list of things to do in 2017.

    3. A basketball hoop in the driveway/backyard - Had the chance to play a little backyard hoops over the holidays. Man, I miss having a hoop in the backyard. Goal for 2017 is to get one. And a yard. 

    4. Email consolidation - In 2017, I have gone from 3 main 'work' email addresses and calendars down to 2. (I know I should only have one, but cut me a break). I already, three days in, have noticed a huge difference. AND, I cleared out my voice mail (finally). But please, don't leave me a voice mail.

    5. The Rose Parade - It's is still fun. It is still a great tradition. It is still what helps you get over your New Year's Eve hangover the next morning. I am there in person next year.

    Properly Rated

    1. Tech M&A - Yes, it is that time of year when companies start acquiring other companies, doing mergers, or making 'acqui-hires'. These events are almost always met with breathless and excited coverage and commentary from industry pundits and observers. But the thing is, M&A, and Tech M&A in particular, is about a 50/50 proposition, (at best). Maybe slow your roll on how wonderful the next big M&A deal is going to be before the new company business cards are even printed.

    2. Tesla - Probably not as influential and important (yet) as the insane amount of coverage they get warrants. They delivered 76,000 cars in 2016. That is 76,000 out of a market of over 17 million vehicles. Keep that in perspective.

    3. Ad blocking software - Is it just me, or are more and more 'free' websites failing to load if you have Ad Block software enabled? Ad blocking is now only marginally effective, and thus, 'properly' rated.

    4. The 'Process' - The mad scientist plan of former 76ers GM Sam Hinkie to rebuild the team by essentially losing almost every game for three seasons has swung from over, to under, and now has settled I think inot properly rated. But Joel Embiiid himself is probably underrated.

    5. Snow at Christmas - Yes, it's pretty. Yes, it makes it 'feel' like Christmas. But by December 26 it is just, for the most part, a nuisance. I am angling for Christmas on a beach somewhere next year.

    What do you think? Do I have it right? 

    Is this post itself over, under, or properly rated?

    Monday
    Jan022017

    VACATION REWIND: Five quick 'Sports and HR' takes from NBA Summer League

    NOTE: I am out of pocket more or less until the New Year, so I thought I would re-air a few pieces that I liked from earlier this year for folks who may have missed them the first time. Hope you are having a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!

    From July - Five Quick 'Sports and HR' takes from NBA Summer League

    I am out at the NBA's summer vacation also known as Summer League in Las Vegas joined by a couple of members of the 8 Man Rotation crew, Kris 'KD" Dunn and Matt 'Matty Ice, akaBruno' Stollak.

    As in the past sojourns to NBA Summer League, the reason to attend is not just about the basketball. In fact it is perhaps not even half about the basketball. Rather it is for what happens and is happening outside the lines - the observations of members of NBA team management, league staff, players on the sidelines, and the general approach towards talent management that the different teams take as they all strive to reach the same goal - an NBA championship - in many, many different ways.

    Add in the natural sideshow/carnival atmosphere that is Las Vegas, and Summer League becomes just about the perfect confluence (for me), of sports, Talent Management, development, management philosophy, and business strategy played out in the open and in real time.

    So with that said, here are my first five quick takes from about a day and a half out at Summer League:

    1. A little bit of 'real' experience makes a huge difference. The best players in this year's Summer League have tended to be more experienced players like Devin Booker, D'Angelo Russell, and even the Nets' Sean Kilpatrick. One commonality across these players? They all have at least one full year experience in the NBA already and have come back to Summer League to continue to work on and refine their games. These players and others have shown how much even one year of development and experience makes a huge difference in performance. The lesson to me for managers of talent is that of patience. Even in this world of 'go-go-go', it often pays to invest in talent and development and to be patient to realize increased benefits later on. In other words, don't look at new employees just as ones that have no idea what they are doing, try to envision the value that they can deliver after a year of prep and learning.

    2. Stakes matter, i.e., if you give someone a lousy project don't be that surprised if their performance dips. Friday's games at NBA Summer League were all loser's bracket games - the final game of the summer for teams that had been eliminated from Summer League title contention. Basically, there was nothing on the line in terms of team goals in these games. And perhaps not surprisingly, the quality of play suffered. Even though many of the players had plenty personally at stake in these games, collectively they had no goals in common. The result was a day of mostly sloppy play, bad shooting, ill-advised shot attempts, and generally bad basketball. The real world implication of this? When you give employees and teams thankless, low-profile, and low-impact work they are naturally going to be tempted to give less or worse effort. That is just human nature. Don't judge someone solely on how they perform when the nature of the assignment drags their performance down a notch or two.

    3. But great organizations and leaders rise above these lousy circumstances. The best game amongst the losers, featured the Spurs topping the Kings in overtime. The game was entertaining because it went down to the wire sure, but the real reason I enjoyed the contest was that the Spurs, probably the league's best-run organization over the last 20 years, took such a professional, competent, and serious approach to the game, one that meant nothing in terms of the outcome. The players were engaged, the coaching, led by Becky Hammon, was exceptional, and the execution of the team when it mattered most was excellent, resulting in the win. So while I just said you can't judge individuals solely when things are going bad, you can see how world-class organizations get that way by seeing how they approach bad situations. The Spurs looked and acted like this meaningless game really did matter - and to great organizations everything matters, which helps make them great.

    4. Talent trumps everything. But you already knew that. The last game we caught on Friday night involved the Philadelphia 76ers and their new star, first pick in the 2016 draft Ben Simmons. Simmons was clearly the best athlete, had the best basketball instincts, and at times was held back by the inferior talent he was playing with and against. The key for Simmons' early development seems to be that he needs to understand both how good he is, and what he needs to do to improve. Simmons is a great rebounder and passer, but probably needs to work on his shooting in order to realize his full potential. It would be easy for him to stick with what he is comfortable doing, and excels at doing at the expense of working on the parts of his game that need improvement and he seems uncomfortable with (at least at the moment). But to be the best he can be, he needs to do more than just one or two things. HR lesson? The greatest talent can do more than one or two things exceedingly well, but they might need to be pushed a little to do those things that are uncomfortable with. But if you can and do that, then youu develop the rarest of commodities - someone who excels at all aspects of the game/job/function.

    5. You have to judge talent on performance, not by appearance. We had the chance to watch (and very briefly meet), NBA prospect Josh Magette, a point guard who starred in the NBA's Developmental League last season, and is playing for the Brooklyn Nets summer league squad. Magette was probably the best point guard in the  D-League last season, and has a real opportunity to break into the NBA this season. That means he is probably one of the best 500 - 1000 or so basketball players in the world right now. And Josh is listed at 6'1" , 160 pounds. And after seeing him up close, let's say those measurements are generous. Josh looks like he could still be playing high school ball, is not physically imposing at all, but yet can compete at the highest levels of basketball against guys that have six inches and 60 pounds on him. If you saw Josh on the street you would never think he was in upper echelon of basketball players in the world. And you'd be dead wrong. Final lesson from Summer League? Talent is everywhere - even in places you'd never expect to find it, and are often afraid to look.

    That's it - I'm out for now and about to hit another full day at the Thomas & Mack Center  - there might be a wrap post up early next week for those of you, (both of you), who can't get enough of these sports and HR takes.

    Have a great and exciting and prosperous 2017!

    Tuesday
    Dec272016

    VACATION REWIND: Goal alignment sounds boring, but it can get you fired

    NOTE: I am out of pocket more or less until the New Year, so I thought I would re-air a few pieces that I liked from earlier this year for folks who may have missed them the first time. Hope you are having a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!

    From February - Goal alignment sounds boring, but it can get you fired, (NBA coaching edition)

    My favorite sport is basketball, my favorite league is the NBA, and my favorite team is the New York Knicks.

    Yesterday, my beloved Knicks relieved their head coach, Derek Fisher, of his duties about 2/3 of the way through his second season as head coach, with the Knicks currently possessing a 23-31 record, good (or bad) for 12th place in the NBA's Eastern Conference and about 5 games out of the 8th place, and the final playoff spot in the East.

    There were various reasons for Knicks' team ownership and management to make the move to release Fisher, but I want to focus on one in particular that has been cited in many of the reports of Fisher's firing. It's a classic HR/Talent Management concept as well - dull sounding goal alignment - the basic, but as we will see overlooked in the Knicks' case, idea that organizational goals should be defined, communicated, and understood throughout and down the organization. Playoffs? Playoffs?

    The goal in question that at least partially served as a catalyst for Fisher's demise: for the team to finish in the top 8 places in the Eastern Conference and make the NBA playoffs, one season (and a few new players) removed from last year's franchise worst 17- 65 record, and dead last finish in the East.

    Here's an excerpt from one report on the firing on how management and Fisher's boss, Knick team President (and NBA coaching legend), Phil Jackson were disapponted in some recent comments from Fisher regarding the Knick's goal of reaching the playoffs this season:

    More importantly, however, ESPN reports that Fisher wasn't developing as a coach quick enough for Knicks management. Some of that pressure may have been because the Knicks, for stretches, looked like a playoff team. Yet in the midst of a rough patch, Fisher, during an interview, said missing the playoffs wouldn't be a "disappointment."

    "No. Disappointed in what?" Fisher said in an interview on ESPN radio. "We’re a developing team with a ton of new players. ... We have to be reasonable about who we are and where we are and accept what is and not get caught up in what we should be and allow other people to define what our success is."

    Let's unpack that a little, exspecially for folks who don't follow the NBA as much as I do, (everyone).

    At the start of the season the Knicks were incorporating several new players, their best player (Carmelo Anthony), was working his way back into form following an injury/surgey last year, and after only 17 wins a yar ago, probably could not have been reasonably expected to compete for a playoff berth this year. Jackson and Fisher, both veterans of the NBA, had to have known this, even if they said different things publicly.

    But then a few things broke in the Knicks favor in the first half of the year. Anthony rebounded well from injury and was playing some good basketball, rookie Kristaps Porzingis was MUCH, MUCH better than anyone would have expected, and several new players made contributions to the team. The team was actually in contention for a playoff spot until their recent swoon - losing 9 of their last 10, culminating in the firing of Fisher yesterday.

    So the organizational goal at the beginning of the season was probably something along the lines of 'Let's be better than last year, let's develop some new players, and let's figure out which players are not going to cut it.'

    About half way in the season, due to some unexpected and better play, at least to Jackson and managment the goal shifted to 'Let's make the playoffs this season.'

    But somehow Coach Fisher either didn't get the message, or, didn't buy in to the new goal as one that was reasonable, and one upon which his performance should be evaluated.

    Against the first set of goals for the season, even at 23-31, Fisher's performance would have at least been 'acceptable.' The team is better than last year, rookie Porzingis has been a pleasant surprise, and (mostly) Fisher has found a way to be competitive game in and game out.

    But against the revised or re-calibrated goal of making the playoffs this season? Well it seems almost certain after losing 9 of 10 that the Knicks are not going to achieve that. Fisher publicly stating that missing that goal 'would not be a disappointment' said to Knicks management that their was a disconnect between what the organization was working towards and what one of its key managers, (Fisher), had in mind. And so Fisher had to go.

    It's ok for leaders to change course, set a new goal mid-stream, or ask even more from people who are performing well. But if those folks you are asking to do more and be better are not fully on board? Well then you have pretty different definitions of 'success' in the organization, and that ultimately will drive a wedge between leadership, management, and employees.

    Note: I have probably watched 45 or so of the Knicks 54 games this season. I don't think they are a playoff team either.

    Friday
    Dec232016

    Another way of winning

    I have only a very few things I care about deeply, (Note: I am talking about 'things', not people here). 

    One of those things is the New York Knicks who are, (for now), in the midst of their best season in the last few years. 

    One other sports-related thing I care about deeply are my beloved Liverpool Reds of the English Premier League who are also in the midst of a fine season, currently sitting in second place only a few points behind the leaders. Liverpool play an exciting, attacking brand of football/soccer, and as has been in the past few years have paired a dynamic and high scoring offense, with a porous, weak defense. Liverpool often concede goals in the most embarrassing ways, and with regularity.

    This lack of maturity and poise in their defense and goalkeeping is what is usually cited as the reason that despite their ability to create and score amazing goals, Liverpool will never be a real title contender. They simply for the most part have shown only one way to compete - run and press as much as possible, and hope to simply outscore their opponents 4-3 or 5-2, etc.

    While this approach can win some games, and is really entertaining to watch, it probably isn't the best way to win championships.

    Why the deep dive into a soccer club that you don't care about?

    Because a recent Liverpool match against rival Everton, won by my Reds 1-0, was interesting not only from a sports perspective, but what it also reminds us about the importance of adaptability in work, business, and our careers. 

    From the Bleacher Report coverage of the match:

    Since Liverpool's strong start to the 2015/16 Premier League season, some pundits have poured cold water on their title credentials by claiming that Jurgen Klopp's side don't have another way of winning than to blitz opponents away with relentless pressing.

    It has been claimed in media circles that Liverpool do not have the cliched "other way" of winning—something that was thoroughly dismissed as Klopp's side recorded a 1-0 success in the Merseyside derby.

    The Reds' first 1-0 win in the Premier League of 2016 arrived after rivals Everton had put them under firm pressure for the first half an hour, but Liverpool held on before taking control of the game in the second half and eventually getting their rewards deep into stoppage time.

    It was another way of winning. A way of winning that title contenders have had in the past and that Liverpool showed at Goodison Park.

    The specifics of the soccer tactics are not what matters here. What matters is that in soccer the very best teams usually have to be able to adapt at times from their preferred methods and strategies in order to achieve the greatest success. Liverpool, if they want to win the title, have to be able to win close, defensive battles like the Everton game, as well as the kinds of games they prefer, that are more open, and high scoring.

    This is an important to remember for all of us as well. Some of us succeed by simply trying to out-work or out-hustle our competition. But if that is all you can compete on, then your work and hustle will sometimes, maybe even often, get trumped by someone else who just has a better, more creative idea.

    And then there is the flip side to this, e.g., folks that maybe don't grind all that hard, but come up with enough clever ideas, decent recommendations, and can normally just outsmart their way forward. Sure, they can ride, sometimes for quite a while on their last good idea, but what happens when the daylight between the last and next great idea starts to increase? What happens then? Can they fill in the space where they are not really contributing or earning all that much with something else - maybe a stint of 12-hour days to at least be 'doing' something?

    The key is, as we see in the Liverpool example, to have 'another way of winning', or another way of efforting, competing, and contributing in order to in the long run give yourself the best chance for sustained success.

    No matter how great the idea is, someone else will copy it, forget you had the idea in the first place, or time will reveal it wasn't such a great idea after all.

    No matter how hard/long you work, (and you are probably lying about that a little), someone else out there is working a little bit harder/longer than you.

    By having 'another way of winning' you protect yourself from the competition and from relying too much on a single strategy that if/when it fails, you end up on the losing end of the 1-0 score.

    Go Reds.

    Have a wonderful weekend and holiday season!