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    Entries in Sports (140)

    Tuesday
    Jun212016

    'The truth isn't always criticism. Sometimes it's just the truth'

    In the wake of the Cleveland Cavaliers victory in the NBA Finals on Sunday night, former Cleveland Browns (NFL football for those who may have forgotten about the woeful Browns), and NFL legend Jim Brown was being interviewed and was asked to share his thoughts on the city of Cleveland on one of the sports talk radio shows that were recapping the Cavs win. Brown, as the de facto representative and patriarch of Cleveland sports, had all the right and expected things to say about Cleveland, the Cavs, and their star LeBron James.

    The interview was not all that interesting, until for some reason the host changed the topic from the Cavs and towards Brown's comments on another former Browns player, running back Trent Richardson. Richardson, as I am sure you do not know, was a highly touted player coming out of college, but for some reason did not translate into a successful, (or even average), NFL player and is not out of the league.

    While many NFL talent scouts and media had picked Richardson for a star in the NFL, Jim Brown himself did not - seeing Richardson as 'nothing special', and never considering him likely to become a star or even a productive NFL player.

    On the talk show, the host asked Brown about Trent Richardson, reminding him that he was one of the only people to correctly predict Richardson would never be able to live up the the high expectations. and would never be a star in the NFL and in response Brown made the following observation, (I am paraphrasing a bit, but the gist of what he said is accurate):

    You know I am not really proud or happy about that prediction, and I was not trying to criticize him at all. I was just telling the truth. And the truth isn't always criticism, sometimes it's just the truth. And that's what it was for him.

    Preach it Jim Brown. 

    I think this little anecdote is worth thinking about and keeping in mind as more and more organizations transition away from the traditional annual performance management/review process and cadence and more towards a more frequent, regular, and lighter weight feedback scheme. 

    More feedback, even if it is the 'truth', (and that is definitely not always the case), increases the opportunities and likelihood for this feedback to be interpreted as criticism, and we all know how much fun being criticized is.

    As we see in the case of Brown's 'truthful' observation about Richardson, the difference between 'criticism' and 'truth' often is only determined by who is talking and who is listening. 

    Wednesday
    Jun152016

    The 8 Man Rotation - 2015 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, the workplace and ultimately winning from watching sports.

    In fact, not only do I believe that to be true, my 8 Man Rotation pals Kris DunnTim SackettLance HaunMatt 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 2015 Season is 106 pages of our best takes in 2015 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.  The 2015 Season I have to confess, was probably our finest season yet.

    Please check out The 2015 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. 

    Friday
    Jun032016

    Just the ball is moving

    I was tempted to drop this post into the 'Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy' series, but since JVG didn't actually relate the following observation I am going to drop, let's just call this the (unofficial) start of a new series titled 'The Wisdom of Martina Navratilova'.

    Tennis legend Martina was doing the TV commentary of a recent French Open match I was half-watching when one of the players missed an easy volley at the net. The slow-motion replay showed he had (slightly) looked up from the ball coming to his racket, and seemed to look over the net to the spot where he was aiming the shot.

    Here's what Martina said (more or less), after the missed shot and replay:

    He looked where he was going to hit the ball, and that is such a common mistake for regular players, club players, and even the professionals. Of course you want to see where you are going to hit the ball, but the problem is you stop seeing the ball. The court is not moving, just the ball is moving. You have to watch the ball, and that is such an easy mistake to make.

    Fantastic observation from Martina, (who was always my choice before Evert by the way), about not only the importance of concentration, but the need to focus on what really matters, and to let go of the things that are not fundamental or important to what you are trying to accomplish.

    It's kind of a different spin on the old classic advice to focus on the things you can control and not on the ones you can't. In tennis, you need to focus on the very thing you can't control, i.e. the ball, and not spend time on the other thing you also can't control, the court, but the one you can't impact.

    You may not always get the outcome you like, but you can at least try and influence the ball, so you'd better concentrate on that.

    The same idea is likely applicable in many other contexts as well. It makes no sense to fixate on the things that we not only can't control, but we have no ability to change.

     

    Tuesday
    May242016

    The most important relationship on any team

    The most important relationship on any team (work, school, sports - any of them), is the one between the leader (boss, coach, manager), and the best or most talented performer on said team.

    Want some context?

    Check the comments from a recent interview with former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt when asked about his relationship with the Cavs' top player, the legendary LeBron James:

    “The role of the coach is much larger as far as impact and persona,” Blatt said. “It’s much more of a coaches’ show. In the NBA, it’s a players’ show.”

    He also said: “You better be on the same page as your best player. If not, you’re going to be in trouble.”

    Pretty savvy observation from Blatt, who was actually hired by the Cavs prior to LeBron's decision to leave the Miami Heat and return to his hometown club. Once LeBron made his decision to re-join the Cavs, Blatt's job quickly changed from one of developing a young team for the future to one of molding a more veteran club to compete for a championship right now.

    And the key to all of this was LeBron, and how (or if), LeBron and the new to the NBA coach would be able to co-exist.

    Fast forward about 18 months later and we know how things turned out. Blatt, LeBron, and the Cavs lost to the Golden State Warriors in the 2015 NBA finals and midway through the current season, and despite a stellar won-loss record, Blatt was fired by the Cavs.

    Ultimately, Blatt's undoing was his inability to find the optimal common ground between himself and LeBron, the best, most talented, and most charismatic player on the team. On paper, Blatt was 'in charge', but in reality, and by virtue of his talent, track record, and sustained contribution, LeBron was and is the most important member of the Cavs organization. When the organization, (and LeBron), determined that the relationship between Blatt and LeBron was not salvageable, well, Blatt had to go.

    It is probably tempting for managers and leaders to take an approach of treating everyone on the team more or less the same. It seems logical and equitable to spend equal amounts of time and energy on all the team members - making sure no one feels slighted or left out. We are all one team after all, right?

    But as sports in general, and the Blatt - LeBron story in particular remind us, not everyone on the team is actually 'equal'. Some team members contribute to overall team success much more than others. Some team members would be much, much harder to replace should they leave than others. Some team members exert significant influence over the rest of the team, much more than the average team member.

    Any leader's role is at least in part to be fair and honest with every member of the team. But the best leaders also realize that some team members play an outsized role in the overall team's success. And the very best leaders recognize that their relationship with these star performers is likely the most important one that they will have in the organization. 

    That is if they want to succeed, and if they want to ensure they won't end up like our pal David Blatt, on the outside looking in while the Cavs chase the NBA Championship yet again.

    Wednesday
    May182016

    The secret to buying software

    Indulge me, if you will, with a short quote from The Book of Basketball:

    (Isiah Thomas, NBA legend with the Detroit Pistons):

    "The secret of basketball is that it’s not about basketball."

    Here’s what Isiah Thomas meant: the guys who have the best numbers don’t always make the best team. There is more to winning than just the raw talent (although that plays a huge role).

    What Isiah learned while following those Lakers and Celtics teams around: it wasn’t about basketball.Those teams were loaded with talented players, yes, but that’s not the only reason they won. They won because they liked each other, knew their roles, ignored statistics, and valued winning over everything else." 

    What does the 'secret' of winning basketball have to do with 'real' work and more specifically, enterprise software?

     

    It is that more and more the 'secret' of making the right software solution purchase decision for your organization has less and less to do with the traditional measurements - system features, fit-gap analysis, and on-paper capability; and has more and more to do with the your mutual vision for the future, and the ability to execute on that shared vision by your potential software provider.

     

    Solution capabilities, certainly at the enterprise level, are evolving and expanding faster than ever. With cloud-based software deployment, shorter enhancement and upgrade cycles, and the comparative ease for organizations who wish to adopt new these capabilities to be able to derive value from them - the actual list of capabilities or 'yes' responses to an RFP questionnaire matter less than ever before.

     

    No, what matters today, and will likely matter even more in the next 5 years, is your ability to assess a potential software providers ability to 'see' around the corner, to articulate an idea of what will matter most for work, workplaces, and employees, and present more than just a list of software features, but rather expand upon a vision of how they (and you), will navigate the next few years of a working world that will almost certainly look much different than the one we live in today.

     

    Think I am wrong about this? That 'features' matter less than vision?

     

    Ok, think about this.

     

    If say three years ago you went out to collect bids for a new enterprise-wide performance management system, you would have challenged your potential vendors to show you features like goal alignment, cascading goal assignment, proportional competency evaluation, the connection of performance rating scores to compensation plans, and more. You would have made final evaluations not only on these points, but also on how easily you could migrate your existing annual performance management process to this new system.

    Fast forward to today, where we are entering into a new world of employee performance management.

    Today, if you were again to collect bids for a new enterprise-wide performance management system you likely would be looking for features like real-time feedback, peer-to-peer recognition, the ability to do 'scoreless' reviews, and a connection of the performance tool not to your comp system, but to your enterprise collaboration tools.

    The main features you would be chasing would be very, very different.

    That's why the secret to buying software for the organization is that it isn't about the software - at least not as it exists at a fixed point in time.

    If three years ago your chosen vendor for performance technology had the vision, and the ability to adapt to the new world of performance management, then you likely would not need to chase another new solution to meet your (and the workplace's) changing needs. But if they didn't? And they were really only or at least primarily concerned with checking 'yes' to every question on the RFP?

    Then three years later you are left with a technology that can really only support yesterday's process.

    Don't get caught up on features. At least don't make features the only thing you think about when evaluating technology.

    Features are cheap. They are easily copied. And they fall out of fashion faster than you think.

    Vision?

    Much harder to come by. And much more valuable.

    The secret to buying software is that it's not about the software.