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    Entries in 8 Man Rotation (100)

    Tuesday
    Mar312015

    Candidate Advice You Should Not Share With Your Candidates

    Back in the 1970s and early 1980s after a spate of run-ins with the law and arrests and general bad behavior amongst members of his Oklahoma University football team, then-coach Barry Switzer was asked by a reporter what he planned to do about better controlling player's off-field conduct. Switzer, probably out of frustration, and the fact that that morning another player had been arrested for assault, is said to have replied "Frankly I am not sure what else I can do, short of putting up a sign in the locker room that says "Committing a felony is against team policy"."

    Switzer's point was that he should not have to remind the players of really obvious things - things every decent person just knows to be true, regardless of who they are or how experienced they might be. I thought of that old story when I saw another version of the endlessly repeated 'Advice to job candidates' tips pieces, that includes, among other nuggets, a recommendation to 'Be nice to the receptionist' when showing up for a job interview.

    That advice is terrible. Not because candidates shouldn't be nice to the receptionist, rather because no decent person, yet alone candidate, should have to be reminded to be nice to the receptionist, or anyone else. In fact, as an employer you would not want to artificially inject fake 'niceness' into a candidate who otherwise would not be nice. It would be better to catch them being an ass and reject them up front, rather than get duped by some fake interview day charm and learn only later how much of a jerk they really are.

    So with that said, here are my Top 3 pieces of candidate advice you should not share with candidates:

    1. Be nice to the receptionist/security guard/limo driver - sort of covered above, but worth repeating. No one, once they are older than about 9, should have to be reminded to be 'nice.' In fact, 'nice', needs to be the default setting. You should expect more than 'nice' from people that you really want to be around for more than 3 minutes at a time. Translated - I can accept 'nice' from the Starbucks barista, people I am going to work closely with for 40 hours a week had better be damn nice, if you get my meaning.

    2. Show up on time, be dressed appropriately, take a shower before the interview - Everything that falls into the category of 'Basic rules of conduct in a civilized society' should not be repeated under the mantle of candidate advice. The only exception possibly being when advising students preparing for their first experience in an interview setting, where some coaching on dress/conduct might be warranted. For everyone else though, if a candidate needs to be reminded to skip the flip-flops for the interview, then you should just let that candidate flip-flop on out of your office.

    3. Research the company/industry prior to the interview - 'Normal' people will read 27 reviews on Yelp before choosing a lunch restaurant and scour page after page of Amazon ratings while considering which pair of earbuds to buy. So we have to remind candidates to know something about the company they are about to interview with? If a candidate turned up for an interview less informed about your company than they were about the last season of The Walking Dead, then again, you want to catch that lack of intellectual curiosity and conscientiousness up front.

    I am sure if we really wanted to we could dredge up several more pieces of 'Candidate Advice' that are really just 'How to behave like a decent human being' tips, but you get the idea. Not taking a cell phone call in the middle of the interview probably deserves a mention too, but I think you get the idea.

    You don't want to coach your candidates to be decent human beings, you want your process to allow those 'not decent' folks to reveal themselves before you make the mistake of hiring them.

    Otherwise, you could find yourself tacking a 'Committing a felony is against company policy' sign on the break room wall.

    Thursday
    Mar052015

    Grumpy, Chill, Hip, or Out-of-touch - Some new dimensions for your 9-box grid

    The classic talent evaluation/assessment/review/calibration process usually looks to position everyone in the group of interest (managers, members of a specific department, everyone having the same type of role), on a 9-box grid that uses 'Performance' and  Potential' as its axes.

    If you have been in the talent management game for more than say 6 months, you are no doubt familiar with the process of reviewing, assigning, and then taking actions based on where individuals fall on the 9-box. High performer with high potential to advance? Make sure he/she is being given challenging assignments, is being rewarded well, and knows you recognize their value and they have a bright future if they keep up their great work. Low performance and low potential? Maybe it is time to have a frank conversation about whether they remain a good fit in the organization, at least in their current role.

    But 'Performance' and 'Potential' are not the only ways or measurements by which to assess and rank a group of employees. In fact, these measurements might not even be the best way to assess a group. Click for a larger version

    Take a look at the chart to the right, (courtesy of NBA.com) - a 9-box-like (I know it only has 4 boxes, lay off), that plots the current set of 30 NBA head coaches using 'Grumpy <---> Chill' on the horizontal axis, and 'Hip <---> Out of Touch' on the vertical.

    How does one go about assessing Grumpy vs. Chill, or Hip vs. Out of Touch?

    Well, here is how the NBA.com piece explains the distinctions?

    Grumpy-Chill -- Does the coach seem like a generally cheerful person? Then he's going to be more on the chill side. If he's cantankerous, he's going to be on the grumpy side. This one is pretty self-evident.

    Out of Touch-Hip -- This is a little more confusing, since it incorporates coaching strategies, how they relate to players and a wealth of other things. If the coach runs an outdated offense that shuns threes and emphasizes long twos, he's going to end up on the out of touch side. If he can't seem to reach his players, that's also out of touch. But if he's running a "key and three" offense or really understands how to deal with today's players, he'll be on the hip side.

    It wouldn't be that hard to make a couple of minor tweaks to the axes and dimensions on the NBA coaches 4-box in order to make it relevant to just about any kind of organization, and in particular, its managers. Grumpy and Chill are pretty much universal concepts no matter what the industry. And grumpy doesn't necessarily equate to 'bad', depending on the context. As for Hip and Out of Touch, this is also a pretty universal continuum. Instead of assessing managers on basketball concepts, just replace them with your organization's version of what constitutes 'hip'. It could be new ways of organizing teams, adoption of new technology, acceptance of variable work styles and preferences - you get the idea. Like most organizations want some kind of a blend of folks on the traditional 9-box, so to you'd likely want at least some Grumpy leaders and maybe a couple that are 'Out-of-touch', as they probably help to remind everyone that 'new' is not always 'better'.

    I love the idea of using different, (and hopefully valuable), lenses through which to look at the world. Performance and Potential are good, and have a place in talent evaluation certainly. But they are not the only two dimensions that can be useful in describing people, and they definitely might not be the best ones. 

    In fact, if I was a front-line worker thinking about joining an organization, or choosing my next assignment, I would be much more interested in where my new manager sits on the Grumpy/Chill/Hip/Out-of-touch matrix than on some Performance Vs. Potential grid.

    I actually am not thinking about where I would self-assess on the 'Grumpy/Hip' matrix.

    Definitely more on the Grumpy side.  But I swear I am pretty hip...

    Tuesday
    Mar032015

    The Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy Part VII - On Visible Failure

    Over the weekend as I was doing blog writing/research, i.e., watching NBA basketball, I caught the better part of a game between the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Clippers. At a few points in the game the Bulls invoked a strategy of intentional fouling commonly known as 'Hack-a-Shaq', named after NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal, a notoriously poor free throw shooter. The idea of the 'Hack-a-Shaq' gambit is that since the player targeted to be intentionally fouled is such a poor free throw shooter that he would likely miss both free throws most of the time, thus resulting in an 'empty' or non-scoring possession for his team. Stack a few of these empty possessions in a row, and the fouling team could conceivably stake a large lead, or close a large deficit.JVG

    In the Bulls v. Clippers game, (ably announced by Mike Breen and former NBA coach and the star of this semi-regular 'Wisdom' series on the blog, Jeff Van Gundy), the Bulls' target for executing the 'Hack-a-Shaq' strategy was the Clipper center DeAndre Jordan, who like Shaq himself, is a terrible free throw shooter, making only about 40% of his attempts from the line. To set some context, the league average is about 75% accuracy, with the best free throw shooters making about 90% of their attempts.

    So Jordan is bad, really, really bad at shooting free throws. And the Bulls exploited that weakness in Jordan's game by repeatedly and intentionally fouling him, and he proceeded to make only 5 out of 12 attempts on the game. And each time he was fouled, he had to stand on the foul line, alone, while all the players, fans, and TV viewers got to watch him struggle, and fail quite a bit during the course of the game. It was during one of these potentially embarrassing Jordan trips to the line where Van Gundy, (JVG), dropped this little nugget of wisdom, (and note, I am paraphrasing here, I was not recording the game so I don't have JVG's quote word for word):

    Everyone needs to stop stressing about the 'Hack-a-Shaq' and how poorly DeAndre Jordan is shooting free throws. He is the league's top rebounder and one of, if not the best, defensive center in the game. He does so many other good things on the court that contribute to a winning team that we need to lay off about the free throws. Every player has weaknesses, his are just more noticeable to the naked eye because he's up there on this own at the free throw line where everyone can see.

    A super point by JVG, not just the one about Jordan's other demonstrable and measurable positive attributes like rebounds and blocked shots, but rather that since Jordan's struggles at the line are so obvious and clear to see, that we over-emphasize them, and hold Jordan somehow more accountable than we do for other player's whose weaknesses might be so apparent.

    There are lots of players who don't really play effective team defense, who don't set solid screens for their teammates, don't contest opponents' shots, or who fail to box out on the defensive glass - but these weaknesses are hard to see, really hard to see for the casual fan. But excelling in these areas all contribute to winning, and also happen to be areas where Jordan himself excels.

    We can 'see' Jordan fail at the free throw line. It is visible failure, even. But we fail as observers when we don't see all the less obvious things he does well. And this is not solely a basketball or sports phenomenon.

    (Here is the part of the 'Sports and HR' post where the formula tells me I have to relate this tale back to HR or Talent Management or some such)

    You know what, I think I am going to skip that part of the formula, I think you can probably make the connection.

    Have a great Tuesday.

    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.