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    Entries in Sports (125)

    Thursday
    Jul022015

    Three Talent Management Observations from the First Day of NBA Free Agency

    I continue to be on record as stating that HR/Talent pros can learn just about everything they need to know about talent management, leadership, team dynamics, managing for performance, and a million other things from careful observation of professional sports - and most notably the NBA.

    Yesterday was the first full day of the league's free agency period - the time where teams are free to recruit, negotiate with, and sign to new contracts those players whose contracts had expired - thus making them 'free' agents. As usual, Day 1 of free agency led to a flurry of announced and rumored deals between NBA teams and the most coveted of these players, three of which I want to mention here, as they all reveal some interesting insights towards talent and how top talent and exemplary organizations think.

    1. LeBron James and the 1-year deal - While the norm across the NBA on Day 1 of free agency has been for the most prized free agents to agree to 4 and 5-year deals for very large dollar amounts, (Kevin Love, Draymond Green, DeMarre Carroll, etc.), the league's very best player Lebron James is reported to only be willing to accept a 1-year deal from his current team, the Cavaliers. This short-term deal, while being riskier for James, (in case he gets injured), secures his leverage with team ownership, as he can demand that the Cavs do everything possible to field a contending caliber team, with the threat of losing James looming at the end of each season. Keep LeBron happy and you get to keep him. So while lots of talented players are willing to take 4 and 5 years, the best player doesn't need that security, he would rather keep the power shifted in his direction. The same probably holds true for the best, most-talented pros in any field. You need them more than they need you.

    2. Gregg Popovich will not call you at midnight - Popovich, the longtime coach of the San Antonio Spurs, one of the league's most admired and successful teams of the last 15 years, eschews the practice of attempting to begin wooing free agents at the stroke of midnight on July 1, the official starting point of free agency. According to Pop, "I'm not calling anyone at midnight, I'll be in bed. And if that's the difference in someone coming or not coming, then I don't want them." That stance cements two points in the recruiting process for the Spurs. One, they don't need to try and impress free agents with the (silly) gesture of the midnight phone call. And two, they realize that any player that requires that kind of a gesture in order to have their ego massaged is probably not the kind of player the famously unselfish and team-first Spurs are interested in having anyway. This is a great example of an organization living up to and reinforcing their specific culture in the recruiting process.

    3. LaMarcus Aldridge is not impressed - One of the most in-demand free agents this year is LaMarcus Aldridge, formerly of the Portland Trailblazers. In his meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers, a storied team that has recently fallen on hard times, Aldridge came away unimpressed. The reason? The Lakers presentation focused too much on off-the-court opportunities that the Los Angeles market can provide, and not enough on how the team plans to actually get better at playing basketball.  Aldridge has his pick of about a half-dozen teams, the market price for a player like him is pretty well defined, so money is not really an issue, so it actually boils down to the work and the opportunities to be on a competitive team that matters to him. The Lakers are trying to play off a reputation that might have mattered 20 years ago, but is lessened in its value today. Lesson here? You might have been a top place to work in 1998, but that matters almost nothing today to talented pros who want to grow in their careers. 

    As these three short examples indicate, the power dynamics at play between organizations and the best talent are always fascinating to watch. While different, they all lead us to just about the same place - he/she who holds the power gets to make the rules. And that balance is just that, a balance. Which means it can shift, subtly at first, but sometimes dramatically, leaving the unprepared side to wonder what the heck just happened.

    Have a great July 4th holiday weekend in the USA.  

    Quick editorial note - I am on the road for most of the next two weeks, making my first trip to China and Hong Kong in preparations for next years' first ever HR Tech China Conference. So posting may be a little sporadic over that time.

    Friday
    Jun262015

    Ways to describe basketball talent, ranked

    Following up yesterday's post on last night's NBA Draft, (and yes, the subject of that post, one Kristaps Porzingis was indeed selected by my New York Knicks, long may the Porzingis era reign), with a new edition of the ever-popular Ranked series on the blog.

    Today, after watching about 5 hours of draft coverage, (and pre-draft and post-draft shows), I offer up ways to describe basketball talent, ranked:

    10. Efficient

    9. Wingspan

    8. Fluid

    7. Motor

    6. Elite-level athleticism

    5. Second jumpability

    4. High ceiling

    3. Toughness

    2. High basketball IQ

    1. Tremendous upside

    Quick note - If any readers are heading to the SHRM Annual Conference next week in Las Vegas, your humble HR Happy Hour Show hosts, (myself and Trish McFarlane), will be co-presenting a session on HR Technology implementations, (I promise it will be more fun than it sounds), on Tuesday June 30 at 7:00 AM. We will have some HR Happy Hour Show swag to give out as well as busting some common myths about HR technology. Hope to see some of you there.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Jun252015

    TALENT ASSESSMENT TIP: Watch out for 'soft' eyes

    The NBA Draft is tonight!  Aside, if you follow me on Twitter at @SteveBoese, be forewarned that there will likely be a flurry of NBA Draft tweets starting at about 8PM ET tonight.

    As I am sure I have previously covered on the blog here and over at Fistful of Talent, professional sports drafts offer up extraordinary amounts of interest and intrigue and insights about recruiting and talent management that remain relevant for HR/Talent professionals everywhere.

    Team management, coaching staffs, and professional talent assessors all spend months evaluating the top playing prospects coming out of college and the European (and other) professional leagues. The teams spend ages watching the players in game video, measure all manner of player's physical attributes, (down to things like hand size), and often will schedule in-depth personal interviews to try to get a better feel for a potential player's likelihood for success in the NBA.

    But even after all of this analysis of the player's actual performance in actual games, their 'measurables' like height, speed, jumping ability, etc., and 1-1 interviews, AND in a sport that has embraced advanced statistical analyses more so than any other in order to assess performance and shape strategy, there remains some let's just say odd ways to judge talent.

    On one of the many sports talk radio shows I listened to in advance of tonight's draft, one of the network's 'expert' basketball analysts warned against drafting one particular prospect, a 7-footer from Latvia named Kristaps Porzingis

    This expert's objections to a team using a high draft pick on Porzingis didn't mention lack of ability to shoot or to pass, didn't mention some specific physical limitation the Latvian has that would make him unlikely to succeed in the NBA, nor bring up anything at all related to how data and statistical review of his game led to this negative assessment.

    No, the main objective of this particular expert talent evaluator was, according to him, that Porzingis has 'soft' eyes. 

    The host of the show was a little taken aback by the comment, and asked the expert to elaborate. The expert said, and I am paraphrasing here, was that when he gazed at Porzingis he doesn't see a look that convinces him that Porzingis will want to work hard and compete at the extreme levels of intensity the NBA requires. In other words, Porzingis didn't have the proverbial 'Eye of the Tiger', but rather he had 'soft' eyes, and thus will never make it in the NBA.

    The host of the show, still a little dumbfounded by this kind of talent assessment, eventually let the point go and moved on, but you could tell he remained unsure of the predictive ability of the expert's 'soft' eye test.

    The relevance of this little tale for the rest of us?

    That you may have a sophisticated candidate assessment tool, a success profile you have developed from analysis of top performers, and a structured and sound interviewing process designed to consistently identify the best candidate for a position.

    You may have all of that, but if you run into a decision maker with their own version of the 'soft eyes' test then all your data, and process, and structure could be in jeopardy.

    It will be interesting to see where Porzigins and his soft eyes end up getting selected tonight. With my luck, the 'expert' will be right in his assessment and Porzingis will end up failing for my Knicks. 

    Friday
    Jun192015

    LISTEN: A classy way to make a career move - SVP's 'One Last Thing'

    Take seven minutes sometime this weekend and listen to ESPN Radio Host Scott Van Pelt bid farewell to the radio audience on today's final episode of the popular SVP and Russillo Show. Van Pelt is moving on to a (on paper) bigger role at ESPN, with his co-host Ryen Russillo set to take over solo host duties next week.

    In just a short seven minute monologue SVP hits all the right notes; he thanks and recognizes the team of contributors and behind the scenes folks that helped make the show possible (singling out specific and personal areas to highlight), he admits that bringing on a talented and creative co-host in Russillo forced him to be a better host himself, as he didn't want to be outshined on his own show, and is honest about realizing that in just about any successful career, there is a combination of luck, good timing, a great team, and hard work necessary to achieve whatever dreams and goals that one has.

    The clip is embedded below, (email and RSS subscribers may need to click through). It's worth a listen even if you are not a fan of the SVP and Russillo show or a fan of sports at all. 

    Great message on reflecting, caring about your team, and looking forward to the next thing, all in just seven minutes.

    Have a great weekend!

    Monday
    Jun152015

    DINOSAUR ALERT: When the new leader doesn't 'Get' social media

    You know what says 'I am pretty much out of step with most of the major developments and trends of the last decade or so?"

    A quote like this:

    I don't like social media. I don’t like it at all. I don’t know anything about it. I don’t do it, I don’t use it, I really don’t want anybody to know where I’m at all the time or what I’m eating.

    That might be a perfectly reasonable and harmless opinion if it was coming from say, your Grandma, or if it was uttered by someone 5 or 7 years ago when it still was not totally clear that Facebook and Snapchat and Instagram and Twitter would scale to the levels that back then would have seemed impossible to comprehend.

    And in business and marketing that might be an acceptable position on social media from someone buried in the innards of the organization, with no external-facing role or responsibility, and limited ability to influence others on social networks. I would still probably argue that most professionals can extract value and work on personal/professional development goals using social media as a tool, but in a big picture sense if the assistant accounting manager doesn't believe in Twitter or LinkedIn, that really is not that big a deal for the organization.

    But the above block quote wasn't taken from a recent conversation with Grandma, or from an article in Time Magazine in 2006, or even from some late night TV show random 'person on the street' skit. No, this quote was from the new Head Coach National Football League club the San Francisco 49ers, a Mr. Jim Tomsula. The new head coach doesn't 'get' social media, doesn't participate, and quite frankly can't understand why any of the rest of us do either.

    And this might not be a big deal, at least taken at face value, in the context of a football coach. After all, NFL head coaches are notorious lunatics workaholics, often spending 80 - 100 hours a week on the job, watching film, preparing game plans, and running practices. When you work crazy hours under crazy pressure like that, who has time to worry about Twitter and Instagram and the like? Cerainly not Jim Tomsula.

    But I think it is kind of a big deal, when a new, high-profile leader in the organization like Tomsula expresses those kinds of dinosaur-like opinions about social media. Sure, he, or any other prominent organizational leader doesn't really have to be some kind of Twitter personality, but in 2015, they need to at least acknowledge and hopefully understand something about the business importance of social media. And as a leader of people, many are very active on social media, (the 49er players, mainly), Tomsula has to be able to take his head out of the sand and at least attempt to relate to these players and understand their use of social media from their perspective. 

    And lastly, when a leader like this expresses these kinds of backwards opinions it begs the question of whether or not they will be open to any kinds of newer, innovative approaches to business, leadership, and their specifc industry. A huge shift in professional sports management over the last 20 years has been the dramatic rise in importance of advanced statistics and analytics for measuring both player performance and in the creationof game plans and strategies.

    Will this modern and new approach be embraced by a leader like Tomsula? Or will he not 'get' that either, and wonder why anyone would waste their time running regression analysis on last week's play selections instead of monitoring the players push around the blocking sled for the 897th time.

    A leader not 'getting' social media is fine. Maybe. But what it might say about the leader's ability to 'get', anything not exactly in line with their view of the world is more troubling still.

    Have a great week!