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    Entries in 8 Man Rotation (97)

    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!

    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. 

    Tuesday
    Jan272015

    An incomplete list of things I don't understand

    There is snow everywhere, I am still trying to find most of my stuff after a recent move, I have 879 HR Tech Conference speaking proposals to review (only a slight exaggeration), and I am heading out tomorrow for my first work trip of 2015. In short, I have no time/energy/good ideas for the blog today.

    But carry on we must. Actually, we don't 'must', it just feels better to post something than not to post, so here goes something nothing. The first installment of what might become a semi-regular series titled 'An Incomplete List of Things I Don't Understand'. These things can be anything really, stuff that is really complex, things that are really popular and I don't get why, or just things I can't be bothered to figure out.

    Feel free to add the things you don't understand, (including the point of this post), in the comments.

    Here goes...

    10. The tendency when one popular social platform is down, for people to immediately migrate to a different social network to report/moan/whine/joke about the first network being down. 

    9. Taylor Swift. She might be great I guess. I don't really know.

    8. Why many people think music should be 'free', and artists should just give it away or allow it to be taken for no compensation. Actually, that was Ms. Swift's issue recently too. Maybe I do understand her.

    7. Why I get pitched 29 times each week to reprint someone's terrible infographic. 

    6. 'Follow Friday'

    5. Adults who think they need a 'Birthday month' or a 'Birthday week'. We were all, you know, actually born and have birthdays. You have not accomplished anything special here. Shut it about your stupid birthday already.

    4. Carmelo Anthony bashing that is done primarily by 'experts' that read statistics and don't actually watch Knicks games. Have you seen this team? Who else do you want taking shots? 

    3. Conference call PINs or Access codes that are actually longer than the dial-in number itself. Holy Hannah, we make cracking into someone's boring conference call harder than stealing their ATM pin number.

    2. Life coaches

    1. Stupid lists on the internet.

    Have a great day!

    Friday
    Jan232015

    Manager Tracking

    In case you missed it, we had a really fun, interesting, and dare I say engaging conversation last night on the very special 200th Episode of the HR Happy Hour Show and Podcast. You can catch the replay of the show here, or download to iTunes or your favorite podcast app - just search for 'HR Happy Hour'.

    The show, titled 'The Final Conversation on Employee Engagement?', had many highlights, (and was lots of fun too), but for me probably the one nugget that resonated the most was when Mike VanDervort shared how at a former employer, a large retail organization, HR and leadership realized that understanding how managers physically walked around the stores, in what speed and direction, and with whom they talked with and for how long, was a key to better understanding employee engagement. I don't want to put words into Mike's mouth, check out the replay of the show to hear his full comments, but to me this kind of insight while obvious on one level (management by walking around has been a thing for ages), is probably more valuable now than before due to the tremendous advance in wearable technologies, GPS-like tracking (even indoors), and our better ability to collect, analyze, and interpret data.

    Check out the pic below, (email and RSS subscribers may need to click through if the image does not render), it is an example of advanced visualization data on player movement from an NBA game. 

    The visualization above, of the movements of the 10 players on the court, the ball, and relative to the 24-second shot clock, provides both coaches and the players themselves insights into their performance on this play, and can help them make adjustments for future games, understand how player movements are coordinated with each other, understand where and how the movement of the ball impacts player positioning, and finally, use a data-driven approach to evaluating individual performance. This kind of deep dive into player movement is made possible by advanced video capture technology installed in NBA arenas, and powerful new software tools that can make sense of and display the massive data sets, in almost real-time.

    Let's jump back to the retail store manager example then. Just as the NBA is embracing advanced tech that captures player movements in order to make better decisions and improve team and player performance, Mike's example of the store manager incorporates those same concepts. If store leadership had a better understanding of how the best store managers actually, physically moved around the store, and where and how they chose their interactions, who they collaborated with, (the retail store version of sharing the ball in the NBA), they might be able to copy, or at least take the repeatable and transferable elements of successful manager interaction and movements to other, less successful stores and managers. With modern wearable technologies to track movements, record interactions, and supplemented by internal GPS or iBeacon tech, there is almost no reason why a large retail operation could not develop 'manager movement' maps similar to the one you see above from the NBA game. 

    Sure, the 'manager' map would move a little slower, and may not be as compelling a view, but the insights it could give to improve manager performance, (and then increase employee engagement, which is the context we were discussing on the Happy Hour Show), is I think quite attainable. 

    Already retail operations are experimenting with tracking technologies that locate, identify, and then target shoppers with custom ads and offers based on where they are in the store, their past shopping history, and what the retailer thinks will help convert a sale. I can definitely see a time when similar technology is brought to the HR technology stack, and instead of pinging a customer to a sale in Aisle 7, that due to some signals about low stock on the shelves in a certain department, it will then alert a front-line manager to spend some additional time with the employees on the receiving dock.

    It's cool, it is powerful, and I think it is coming...

    Have a great weekend!