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    Entries in Sports (163)

    Thursday
    Jul062017

    Five HR and Talent lessons from the first five days of NBA free agency season

    Basketball is the world's greatest sport and the National Basketball Association provides the marquee platform and competition for the world's best basketball players. Being an NBA-level player is incredibly difficult and rare. There are about 450 people in the world at any given time who can call themselves active NBA players.

    And so it is that the competition among the 30 NBA teams for this batch of rare talents is fierce. Since there can be only five players on the basketball court at any one time, (and ofter, in important playoff games teams may only use on 7 or 8 players total in a game - side note, that is where the phrase '8 Man Rotation' is derived), identifying, attracting, and signing the very best NBA talent possible for your team is absolutely essential to have any chance at success. I can't really think of another business, (maybe the movie business), where talent acquisition and talent management is more important than in the NBA.

    In case you don't know, the NBA's annual 'Free agent season' started on July 1. This kicks off the period of time following the end of the season when players whose contracts have expired are free to negotiate with all teams for a new deal. There's tons of process/rules/labor agreement minutiae too, but none of that matters to this post. All we care about is the talent/team/agent/press/media dance that culminates in many of the NBA's stars signing new contracts.

    And lucky for us HR/sports nerds - much of the talent marketplace dynamics in the NBA play out in public with hundreds of basketball blogs, thousands of NBA geeks obsessively refreshing their Twitter feeds, and NBAtv spending literally hours upon hours discussion individual player moves. And really lucky for us, is that many of these NBA player/team contracts offer up valuable lessons and reminders for our own HR and Talent Management work - particularly when we are dealing with hard to find talent that are in high demand.

    Ok, enough preamble. Here are five of the more interesting NBA feee agent signings so far this year, and what we can take from them.

    1. Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics - 4 years / $127M

    Why interesting? Hayward, an emerging star and the face of the franchise for an up and coming Utah Jazz team, leaves the only team he knows (and a bunch of guaranteed $$ on the table due to the NBA's labor rules that allow current teams to offer higher compensation to retain a player than new teams can offer them to switch), to join the Celtics, shocking many Utah fans.

    HR/Talent angle: After stripping away team competitiveness, compensation, and potential, (kind of a toss up between Utah and Boston), Hayward elected to sign with Boston largely because the Celtics' coach Brad Stevens was Hayward's coach back in college at Butler University. The two formed a tight bond a decade ago that has lasted to this day. The HR lesson here? Make sure you know and leverage the relationships between people in your organization and the hot candidates you are trying to lure away from the competition. In this case, that one relationship likely swung the near-term futures of two franchises.

    2. Kevin Durant resigned with the Golden State Warriors - 2 years / $53M

    Why interesting? Durant, arguably the best player in the league and playing for the best team, signed a significantly smaller and below market deal than he could have demanded, (and received). Why? He wanted to allow the team more flexibility and salary cap space to try and retain as many of his Warriors teammates as possible, in order to strengthen their title defense chances next season.

    HR/Talent angle: I know we are talking about multi-millionaires here, but even for them, not everyone is completely motivated by money. Durant is so happy to be playing on the best team, in a fun location, and in a winning culture that those things possess value, at least to him, beyond just the $$. If you can get a lot of the 'not money' things right in the organization, you may be able to have a chance at competing for talent against your better-funded rivals.

    3. Steph Curry resigned with the Golden State Warriors - 5 years / $201M

    Why interesting? Remember the bit above about Durant accepting a below market contract for the good of the overall team? Well, two-time league MVP and champion Curry has been playing on a significantly below market deal based on his performance for the last several year. This was driven in large part by Curry's early career injury problems that for a time cast some doubt on his long-term potential. But since then, he has emerged as the leader of the Warriors, and probably no worse than the 3rd best player in the league overall. This new deal, for the maximum money allowed, will serve to 'make good' on his out performance of his last contract.

    HR/Talent angle: Really excellent talent might be able to be persuaded to work for less than market rates for a time, if the other things your company can offer them are attractive enough. But they won't/can't do that forever. At some point super-talented people need to be paid fairly, maybe even a little bit better than fairly, in order to 'make good' to them as well. All the company culture in the world won't pay someone's rent, and we should all keep that in mind.

    4. Joe Ingles resigned with the Utah Jazz - 4 years / $52m

    Why interesting? You might not have heard of Joe Ingles, but he has quietly emerged after a late start to his NBA career as an extremely versatile and productive player for a developing Utah Jazz team. He's also friendly with (now former), Jazz star Gordon Hayward, (see above), and by signing Ingles early, (and paying him really well), the Jazz hoped that would be another chip they could leverage in their efforts to retain Hayward. 

    HR/Talent angle: As we know now, the Jazz management couldn't convince Hayward to stay, so let's hope for their sakes (and jobs), that the $52M investment in Ingles works out. There is always a lot of chatter and talk about the importance of having friends at work, but I wonder if this example makes us pause a little bit on that, at least in terms of elite talent. I am not sure the very best performers at any line of work get all that worked up about having friends at the workplace. The best talent makes its own friends, if you get my meaning. If you do, you are smarter than me. 

    5. Jeff Teague to the Minnesota Timberwolves - 3 years / $57M

    Why interesting? This move, signing a veteran point guard in Teague, combined with a prior trade for All-star Jimmy Butler is sending a signal to the league that the Timberwolves want to compete for playoff places and championships now, and not in 5 years. Last year the team failed to live up to its pre-season hype, and part of the reason is that its primary star players (Towns and Wiggins) are so young and inexperienced. Bringing vets like Butler and Teague signals a different, 'win-now' approach.

    HR/Talent angle: This is kind of the NBA version of the startup company that needs to bring in some pro managers to help run things arc. The young talent or founders have all the great ideas, can generate a ton of excitement and buzz, maybe can secure the first couple of funding rounds, but when things start to get a little dicey, (and they almost always do), the inexperience of the leaders starts to hurt. It's important for HR leaders to take that kind of measure of leadership groups, particularly in new companies, and think hard about when, where, and how to get more experienced voices at the table before things go sideways. See Uber in case you want to read up.

    There will be more to come from NBA free agency in the next couple of weeks. Even though I am really depressed that their are no more 'real' NBA games on for a bit, I am looking forward to heading out to Las Vegas in a week or so for the annual 8 Man Rotation trip to catch some live NBA Summer League action.

    The NBA - there's nothing like it, and for HR/Talent pros, there's plenty we can learn from it too. 

    Friday
    Jun232017

    UPDATE: Ways to describe a basketball player's talent, ranked

    NOTE: Ran a version of this post 2 years ago the day after the 2015 NBA Draft, the draft were my New York Knicks did indeed select the 'Unicorn' Kristaps Porzingis in the first round. Fast forward two years later and these same Knicks apparently are flirting with the idea of trading the Unicorn, who is quite literally the only player worth watching on what has become a terrible team. If they do indeed decide to trade Porzingis, I want to make it publicly known that I am no longer a Knicks fan, and will be in search of a new team to support.

    Having said all that, let's take another look at the many ways that the NBA analysts and pundits have come up with to describe a basketball player's skills and talents. Did you think 'fast', 'tall', or 'can jump high?' were good enough? Oh no, my naive friend.

    After watching about 5 hours of draft coverage, (and pre-draft and post-draft shows), I offer up ways to describe basketball talent, ranked, and as always, these are unscientific, unresearched, and 100% correct.

    Here goes...

    15. Floor spacer

    14. Efficient

    13. Switch-capable

    12. Rim-runner

    11. Twitchy

    10. Bouncy

    9. Wingspan

    8. Fluid

    7. Motor

    6. Elite-level athleticism

    5. Second jumpability

    4. High ceiling

    3. Grit

    2. High basketball IQ

    1. Tremendous upside

    As always, you can disagree with these rankings, but of course you would be wrong.

    Have a great weekend!

    Friday
    Jun162017

    n = 1

    1. Three trips to China in the last three years and I am pretty sure it is the most fascinating place I've ever been and may ever get to. HR Tech China was amazing. Shanghai is probably the best city I've visited. I didn't get to see this when we were there, but check out this self-driving convenience store (yes, you read that correctly), coming soon to Shanghai.

    2. One of the harder things for independent consultants, contract workers, or other 'gig' economy types to manage is time out of the (home or otherwise) office. Unlike our corporate colleagues, there is often no one to delegate responsibility for work or even just responses to inquiries to when a gig workers is on vacation or traveling. Consequently, stuff piles up even more than usual. Once I dig out and some of the dust settles, I am going to figure out once and for all an email management system that can work for me. Until then, you can re-send if you are waiting for something from me.

    3. Due to above-mentioned travel, I missed 85% of the recently concluded NBA Finals series between the Warriors and Cavs. What a letdown. I probably watch (at least parts of), 400 NBA games each season. To miss the conclusion was kind of a drag. Thanks to the Delta Sky Club in MSP for having the game on this past Monday night while I was waiting out a 3.5 hour flight delay. 

    4. But now that NBA season is over, I am officially going to join the ranks of 'cord cutters'. Spectrum, look out for a call from me this weekend. In a related note, in the US, Netflix now has more subscribers than 'normal' Cable TV providers have.

    5. If you haven't yet, have a look at the latest shows on the HR Happy Hour Podcast Network. We've been producing some great content lately on HR Tech, Employee Wellbeing, Employee Engagement and more. 

    6. I am a huge fan (as a consumer/user) of Uber. But with each passing week we hear more and more of what a disaster of a company culture that has been allowed to develop over there. But yet, I still am compelled to call an Uber when I need a ride to the airport in Phoenix. I am not sure how to feel about all that. Have you dropped Uber the more you have learned about their culture?

    7. Speaking of Uber, in one of their 'healing' meetings recently, their new HR head asked employees to stand up and hug each other. This is a terrible idea on every level. Mark me down on the side of 'no hugging at work ever' policy. In fact, I am not that big a fan of hugging in real life outside of work as well. I think Jerry has it right in this clip (email and RSS subscribers click through)

     

     

    8. This is a really interesting longer read on corporate branding and logos from Fortune. I didn't know that the Bass Ale 'red triangle' logo is generally considered the first corporate logo, dating back to 1870. 

    9. Which companies generate the most revenue per employee? If your guesses start with Apple or Amazon, keep guessing. Some fascinating data from Visual Capitalist. If you could pick just one metric for the condition of your business, revenue per employee would probably be the smartest choice.

    10. I gave myself exactly 23 minutes to write this post, and I am at minute 22. So it ends here. Have a great weekend all!

    Monday
    May082017

    15 Years Later, Still Talkin' About Practice

    This week was the 15th Anniversary of NBA legend Allen Iverson's classic 'talkin' about practice' press conference, where the Philadelphia 76ers star, just a few days after seeing his Sixers team eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics addressed the media and was confronted with questions about his (allegedly poor) practice habits. Iverson had a tempestuous relationship with 76er coach Larry Brown, himself no stranger to controversy, and the 'practice' rant stemmed largely from Brown's comments to the media about Iverson's casual attitude towards practice and preparation.

    Some video exists from the 2002 press conference, (embedded below, email and RSS subscribers will need to click through), that shows Iverson in full on 'practice' rant, mentioning about 20 times in two and a half minutes that he saw it as being ridiculous as a the franchise player, and league MVP just one season prior, and a legendary fierce and fearless competitor, that he had to spend time well, talking about practice.

    Video below and some more comments from me after the jump...

    A few things about Iverson's comments and the 'practice' issue overall.

    One, the video, and most of what everyone remembers from the press conference was the two minutes of so of Iverson repeating, 'we're talking about practice, not a game' over and over, which makes it very easy to call into question Iverson's dedication and commitment. What is missing from the video, and can be found in the full transcript of the press conference here, is that before and after the 'practice' rant, Iverson talked openly about being hurt, confused, and disappointed in trade rumors that were floating around at that time. Iverson, rightly so, considered himself and was recognized by the league, as one of the very best players in the game. In 2002, he was in the middle of an 8 or 9 year run where he'd be named to the All-NBA 1st, 2nd, or 3rd team each year. In our workplace parlance, he was 'top talent' an 'A player' or a purple squirrel if you will. So naturally Iverson would have to be surprised and insulted that the team he had performed so well for, including dragging on his back to the NBA finals just one year prior, would even consider shopping him around the league.

    Two, the rant, and the 'practice' context raise really interesting and ongoing questions about talent and more specifically how hard it can be to 'manage' the best talent. Iverson was a former league MVP, the league's leading scorer, and had an unquestionably ferocious style of play, notable for a guy just 6 feet tall and thin-framed. No one who watched Iverson play consistently ever came away from recognizing his commitment and intensity to winning basketball games.  At the time of the 'practice' press conference, he was 26, had just completed his 6th year in the league, and won his third league scoring title. Was he a perfect player? No. But he was one of the very best in the game and it can be argued he knew how to best prepare himself and his body to stand up to the rigors of a long season and playoffs.

    Should Iverson have been more attentive and subservient to the wishes of the coach, and tried to be a more dedicated 'practice' player?

    Probably.

    Did Brown know the right way how to get the best out of Iverson, his star player?

    Probably not.

    I guess I am coming off as a bit of an Iverson apologist here, especially when most of the people that have seen or heard about the 'practice' rant come to the quick conclusion that Iverson was selfish, pampered, and in the wrong. I guess all I will say to that is as a manager or leader you eventually sink or swim largely by your ability to get the best performance out of your star performers.

    Iverson has some blame here for sure, but definitely not all of it.

    Probably too much of it.

    Friday
    Mar312017

    Final Four teams, ranked

    I'm off to the Final Four and folks who know me personally know my allegiances well.

    But for folks that may not, here I present my unscientific, unresearched, subjective, and COMPLETELY biased breakdown of this weekend's Men's College Basketball teams.

    4. North Carolina - Almost as smug and easy to despise as Duke. Not quite at that level, but easily the most loathsome of this group.

    3. Gonzaga - I am so tired of hearing about this team being the 'little guy' that has only been a contending team for almost two decades. "Crying Adam Morrison" is my favorite memory of this squad. Google it.

    2. Oregon - Don't know anything about them. Have not watched any of their games. But they always have sharp looking uniforms.

    1. South Carolina - The only team worth supporting this weekend. Have not been relevant in 45 years. First Final Four ever. And the team that ESPN gives a 2% chance of winning it all. Everyone loves an underdog.

    Of course you could disagree with these rankings, but of course, you would be wrong.

    Have a great weekend.

    Go Gamecocks!