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    Entries in management (18)

    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.

    Monday
    Jan262015

    Sprinkles are for winners

    Over the weekend during an extended period of extensive reading and research that keeps this blog full of interesting and provocative content, (I was mostly watching basketball on TV), I ran into this little beauty (video embedded below, email and RSS subscribers will need to click though), one of the latest in the long-running series of 'Flo' spots from Progressive Insurance. Watch the quick 30-second spot then some FREE comments from your humble correspondent.
    I, like you too probably, was just about done with Flo, she has been seemingly telling us about how fantastic discount auto insurance can be for literally YEARS.

     

    But with this little bit of wisdom, 'Spinkles are for winners', she is all the way back on Steve's 'approved' list.

     

    Why is this spot perfect, and relevant too?
    Because it reminds us that in life, sports, business, sales - whatever, that losing is sometimes the inevitable outcome. Sometimes the other guy/company/product/candidate is bringing is simply better than what you have to offer. And sometimes you just have to accept that.

     

    But, and here is the key, you don't get a complete pass, or a do-over, even if the other guy really is better. You get an acknowledgement, sure, (if you are lucky), but you don't get many more chances probably, and you definitely don't get a prize.

     

    You have to figure out a way to win, eventually, even when no one blames you for losing. 

     

    Sprinkles are for winners, Jimmy.

     

    Have a geat week!
    Friday
    Dec052014

    VIDEO: 56 seconds to drive home the importance of manager engagement

    If you have not yet seen the 'Target manager fires up the employees on Black Friday' clip (it made the rounds pretty widely this week), then take literally one minute and check out the short video (embedded below, Email and RSS subscribers will have to click through).

     

    The manager (Note: I could not verify 100% that he actually is the store manager, but from the content itself and the fact that no one else tried to stop him, I am going to assume he is in store leadership in some capacity), from a Target in Maryland, prepared his fellow employees for the start of the Black Friday 'battle' with a speech that echoed the stirring "This is Sparta" speech from the movie 300.

    "Whatever comes through those gates, you will stand your ground with a smile on your face. They come here with bargains in their heads and fire in their eyes and we shall give those bargains to them."

    Pretty cool stuff, if a little bit goofy. But the short speech illustrates, I think, a fantastic point about one of the topics that can be overly dwelled upon - employee engagement.

    You, me, everyone else has written, seen presentations, and talked about employee engagement for years. And thanks to our friends at Gallup, (no comment on whether or not we should care about Gallup, just making a point), we are reminded, annually, that NOTHING WE EVER DO impacts overall engagement levels all that much.

    And yet we continue to debate, discuss, even obsess about engagement.

    But in all this copious amounts of words and attention paid to engagement we don't seem to think or talk or consider manager engagement all that much. And not managers as just another employee too whose engagement or lack thereof gets tallied up by Gallup or whomever runs your survey.

    But manager engagement as it directly impacts, influences, and even helps change engagement levels of their teams - often, as is the case in this Target store, the front line staff that is the last mile in customer experience and satisfaction, well it seems to me we don't think about that much (or enough anyway).

    This little one minute pep talk from the Target manager is a great example of the how one person's high engagement has the potential to have a multiplier effect on the team. He may have swung one or two or maybe even ten of the employees to get charged up to perform at a high level, to take care of the customers, and to even get engaged themselves.

    Managers have the ability to influence a disproportionate number of staff every day. We should talk about manager engagement as much as we talk about employee engagement I think.

    Have a great weekend! 

    Wednesday
    May282014

    The Juergen Bomb: Three reasons why a new leader makes a strategic firing

    A couple of weeks back I riffed on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's decision to crack down amazingly tough on (disgraced, probably racist), soon-to-be former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling following the release of audio tapes that revealed once and for all time how horrible a person is Mr. Sterling.

    Commissioner Silver went full nuclear on Sterling - fining him the maximum allowable amount according to league policy, banning him for life from the Clippers and all NBA matters, and moving (along with the 29 other league owners), to force a sale of the Clippers by Sterling. You can check out my piece linked above for the full take, but essentially I think Silver's response to this first real leadership test was spot-on, and in particular, because it set a decisive tone for his leadership style and approach moving forward.

    Fast forward to last week, and we have another pretty high profile leadership (this one mixed in with some tasty talent management) situation from the world of sports - specifically from the United States Men's National Soccer team. In case you missed it, US coach Juergen Klinsmann made news when he dropped US soccer star (and the National team's all time leading scorer), Landon Donovan from the squad of 23 players that will compete in the upcoming World Cup. While Silver's handling of the Sterling mess has been universally lauded and wildly popular, Klinsmann's decision to essentially fire Donovan from the National team has been met with plenty of second-guessing, and is certainly not popular with several of the remaining (and influential) team members. This was a tough managerial decision around talent, and since my job as part of the 8 Man Rotation crew is to help you break down the connections between sports and your job as an HR/talent pro, here are three reasons I can think of why it makes sense for a new leader to make a strategic fire a la Klinsmann:

    1. The obvious one - dropping a veteran, established talent that seemed 'safe' by just about every stretch of the imagination signals out to the rest of the team (sports or otherwise), that the new leader is really in charge, and more importantly, has the security and management support to make tough decisions. Much speculation about Klinsmann's decision to drop Donovan from the World Cup squad was that the coach wanted to use that spot to give a younger, less experienced player a great developmental opportunity for what seems to be Klinsmann's true goal - mounting a serious challenge in the next World Cup in 2018, a competition which the then 36 year old Donovan would certainly not factor.  

    2. A strategic fire can often shake up a content workplace. The US team has been sort of running in place for the last few World Cup cycles. Sure, they have the occasional moments of success and games that make you think they are finally going to be serious contenders at elite competitions. But then they inexplicably fall to some lesser opponents, fail to seriously compete when facing the world's top teams, and generally seem comfortable just qualifying for the World Cup. Klinsmann does not want to reward that kind of status quo, that decade of mediocrity. The remaining players simply need to play better, or Klinsmann will find replacements. Dropping a former star, who still may be able to contribute, signals that performance standards across the entire organization are going up. The other players might think, "Crap, if he was willing to cut Landon, he definitely will drop me if I don't start scoring goals."

    3. The leader takes ownership of overall team results - especially if the results are poor. The primary reason in sports that coaches like to 'play it safe' and 'go by the book' is that they don't want to accept blame for failure, since they 'went by the book', whether it is in player selection or game strategy and tactics. In American football, the vast majority of coaches will punt the ball away on 4th down when the data clearly show that running an offensive play to try and keep possession of the ball is almost always the better statistical move. But if the coach plays it safe, and the team loses, he/she can usually shift blame to the players or some other external circumstance. Make 'risky' decisions like unexpectedly cutting a star player like Donovan and have them not pan out? All the blame, or at least a large part of the blame, will land on Klinsmann's shoulders. And I think that is a good thing, more coaches/leaders need to be willing to claim responsibility for failure (and accept the consequences too).

    Ok, that's it - I'm out.

    Go USA. Try not to lose to any country with less than 1% of our population this time.

    Wednesday
    Apr302014

    The Silver Hammer: Three reasons to come down hard on your first big leadership test

    I probably don't need to re-hash the Donald Sterling v. the NBA (and the World) narrative once again for you, by now you have heard the important details of the story. But just to re-set, and set up this piece, you need to know two things.

    1. Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers was just suspended from the NBA for life for making racist statements, fined $2.5M, and is going to be forced by the other 29 NBA team owners to sell the Clippers.

    2. This disciplinary judgement was handed down by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, whose name may not be terribly familiar to you, and is not that familiar to even many NBA fans. Silver just became the Commissioner about three months ago when he succeeded former commissioner and NBA legend David Stern, who had a 30-year reign leading the NBA. Stern in many ways became synonymous with the modern NBA, and while not perfect, will probably be remembered by history as one of the two or three greatest sports executives of his time.

    Adam Silver, the new person in charge, had to not only deal with the Donald Sterling situation, he also had the added challenge of this very public and high-profile problem being the first true test of his leadership. And in this test, Silver elected to mete out the harshest and most significant punishment that was possible according to the NBA constitution. Silver could have suspended Sterling for a fixed time period, like one year, could have fined him less than the max of $2.5M, and did not have to elect to push for Sterling's removal as an owner. But instead Silver went heavy, and in his first leadership test, (at least one that involved a disciplinary decision), he made a  pretty bold statement.

    That statement was essentially, "There's a new sheriff in town."

    Here are three reasons I can think of why it makes sense for a new leader to come down super heavy in their first big leadership spot:

    1. Old-school territory marking - A new leader, especially one succeeding a highly successful and influential predecessor, has to make sure the rest of the team knows who is running the ship now. One of the best ways to send that message is with really bold, decisive actions that help to instill confidence in the team. I have read lots of accounts of the NBA/Silver decision, and not once have I read "What would David Stern have done?" 

    2. If the decision is a "Should he/she stay or go?" one, you should almost always pick 'Go' - One of the biggest challenges for the new leader is evaluating the team around them. And it is usually obvious who needs to go, and most of the time the leader will know it in their gut but don’t do anything because they don't want to shake things up too soon.  It’s hard to face that there is some house cleaning that needs to be done before the new leader and team can move forward. Or they might think that with a new approach or style that the person can be coached. This almost never works out. A new leader is better off cutting bait nine times out of ten. These kinds of tough decisions can also open up opportunities for other members of the team who may have been languishing under the former regime, feeling stuck or blocked by folks that needed to be (gently) moved along.

    3. It's easier to lighten up later, than it is to get tougher - Did you ever have a teacher or coach or manager or even one of your parents that was kind of easy-going and took a laissez-faire kind of approach? The type of leader that generally liked to keep their hands clean, avoided most unpleasant confrontations, and tried to guide you more so than lead you? But later when there arose some kind of situation or screw-up where the leader really had to get tough, crack the whip, bang the hammer, (you get the idea), no one really took them seriously since they were always more of a friend rather than an authority figure? The point being it is almost impossible to pivot from 'nice-guy' to 'tough guy' once your reputation as a nice guy is established. It is much, much easier to ease off a little bit over time, once the team sees you as someone that is not afraid to make tough, sometimes unpopular decisions. Good luck trying to go the other way.

    What do you think, about Silver's decision here and about how new leaders stake out their position in general?

    Chalk up another 8 Man Rotation post for me, Professor Stollak.