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    Entries in Sports (135)

    Monday
    Jun082015

    The culture of performance and firing by form letter

    Super look at just one of the ways that a 'performance is the only thing that matters' culture that is professional American football manifests itself over at Deadspin last week in the piece This is the the letter you get when you are cut from an NFL team.

    Take a look at a typical player termination letter from one of the league's clubs, the Houston Texans:

    A couple of things about the letter, and then i am out for the rest of a summer Monday.

    1. First up, in a really hands-on job like 'NFL Player', physical ability to perform issues are number 1 and 2 on the 5 possible termination reasons. For the rest of us who are not NFL players, this could equate to keeping up our skills, learning new ones as business and technology shifts, and importantly, not 'faking' it in terms of what we say we can do.

    2. Reason 3, and the one that this example from 2006 shows, says basically, 'You are just not good enough, i.e., the other guys on the team are better'. No details, no wordy explanations or nuances. Just a cut and dried 'You're not good enough.' That's cold, but again, completely aligned with the organizational values and culture. Performance trumps everything. Want a high-performance culture? Then you have to be ruthless in trimming the organization of people who don't meet the standard. And you as a leader can't let it bother you too much either.

    3. The organization also has a broad right to terminate you for 'personal conduct that adversely affects or reflects on the club'. Heck, that could be just about anything, since it is the club who gets to evaluate the 'impact' of your behavior. In other words, we (mostly) care about your physical condition and your performance, but we can fire your butt for just about anything we want at any time. Heck, that sounds a lot like many of the places us 'normals' work too. Employment at will is a great deal for sure. Until you get fired, well, just 'because.'

    Hiring, promoting, rewards, and even terminations all play a big role in defining, supporting, and communicating an organization's values and culture. If you are going to go all-in on high performance, well, you need to remember the dark side of that decision too.

    And firing by form letter is one example of that.

    Have a great week!

    Wednesday
    May062015

    Your culture is defined by who you're willing to re-hire

    First the news on how owner and Class A jerk, James Dolan continues to destroy my single, favorite sports team, the New York Knicks.  From the Deadspin piece The Knicks and their Owner James Dolan, Are Shameless Garbage:

    Earlier today, James Dolan announced that Isiah Thomas, who once sexually harassed one of his co-workers while he was head coach of the Knicks, was going to be named president of the WNBA’s New York Liberty. To most people, putting a sexual harasser in charge of a women’s basketball team is a bad look, but the Knicks would like those people to know that they don’t care about bad looks.

    For those who might not be familiar with the entire back story, the facts of the case are these.

    1. Isiah Thomas was once the Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks from 2006 - 2008

    2. In October of 2007, a Federal Court in Manhattan, in response to a claim by a female former team executive, Anucha Browne Sanders, ruled that Thomas had sexually harassed Sanders, and that Madison Square Garden, the owner of the team, improperly fired her for complaining about the unwanted advances.

    3. Sanders was awarded $11.6 million in punitive damages from the Garden and James L. Dolan, the chairman of Cablevision, the parent company of the Garden and the Knicks. Of that figure, $6 million was awarded because of the hostile work environment Mr. Thomas was found to have created, and $5.6 million because Ms. Browne Sanders was fired for complaining about it.

    4. After finally being fired by the team in 2008, Thomas has drifted in and out of several basketball roles, serving as a college coach at Florida International for a bit, and recently as a TV commentator.

    5. And now, yesterday, the aforementioned James Dolan, who still presides over the Knicks and their Women's NBA team, the New York Liberty has not only re-hired the sexual harrasser Thomas, he has also placed him in a position of authority for the WNBA's Liberty. If you were a player or coach on the Liberty you can't be feeling really happy about reporting to a confirmed workplace sexual harasser like Thomas.

    I think if I had to pick one, singular data point from the sea of human capital data and information that is available to organizations today that reveals the most about an organization's culture and what it is they believe in (if anything), it would be which former employees that they are or are not willing to re-hire. 

    Initial hiring is kind of a crap shoot, even the best shops make 'bad' hires every so often. And really great organizations are sometimes guilty of waiting too long to pull the lever on a termination, even when it is justified or the person is just not working out. It happens.

    But the bad hire on a re-hire? That should NEVER happen. The people you are willing to re-hire and who you are done with forever tells anyone what kind of an organization that you want to be. You know exactly who these people are, what they can do, and whether or not you would be proud to have them represent your organization.

    The Knicks, it seems, want to be an organization that no one can take pride in.

    Thursday
    Apr302015

    Adapt or die, or at best become irrelevant (NBA edition)

    Of course you are following th human drama that is the NBA playoffs as closely as I am. That is a given. The playoffs are where the best teams rise to the top, the stars (and future stars) get their opportunity to shine, and is the case with many sports, more casual fans tune in to watch, as the games are now more important.

    If you are one of those casual NBA fans you might not be aware of one of the aspects of how NBA basketball has changed in recent years - namely the increasing volume and importance of 3-point shooting in the modern NBA game. In the past, most teams were designed (and attacked) from the 'inside-out', i.e. with dominant big men like Kareem, Hakeem, and Shaq dominating the play as their teams tried to feed them the ball close to the basket in order to take easy shots. 

    But in the modern NBA most of the better teams have taken a different approach to offensive basketball, one that still values close to the basket attempts as in the past, but increasingly relies upon and values taking and making the 3 point shot. Take a look at the chart below that shows how each NBA team stacked up this year with 3 point shot efficiency, then some (not all sports-related) comments from me after the data:

    One thing more hard-core NBA fans will notice is that the most proficient 3-point shooting teams, (Golden State and Atlanta), were also the teams with the best records in the league this season. And all of the top 10 or so 3-point shooting teams qualified for the playoffs, with several of them being considered real contenders for the title. Conversely, most of the teams on the far right of the chart, (the worst 3-point shooting teams), were in the conversation all year for 'worst teams in the league'. 

    So enough basketball, let's talk why this might matter more broadly and in non-NBA contexts. There are at least three lessons from how the modern NBA has (almost) completely changed its collective attitude towards the 3-point shot that are relevant for normal folks with responsibility to make their organizations better.

    1. There remains, despite easily and broadly available evidence of how increased proficiency at the 3-point shot leads to better team success, a still fairly significant set of team executives, coaches, and even pundits, who bemoan the growing importance of the long-range shot and long for the days of the 70s and 80s where more 'traditional' basketball was played. Teams that continue to leave these kinds of thinkers in positions of leadership and influence, (Lakers, Knicks), are simply going to continue to struggle to compete with more progressive and adaptive teams.

    Lesson - leaders who don't or can't adapt will take down the entire organization with them.

    2. The adoption of the 3-point shot as a primary strategic choice by the more successful teams is largely and compellingly backed by data. On the obvious level, it does not take a math wizard to know that a made 3-point shot is 50% more valuable than a traditional 2-point basket. And it is easy to calculate that making only 33% of 3-point shots produces the same number of total points as making 50% of traditional 2-point shots (with 50% being the normal barometer for 'good shooting'). But despite the data being that simple to digest and understand, as we saw in point one above, lots of folks remained unconvinced for way too long. 

    Lesson - 'Proving' your thesis with data to folks that are likely to be skeptical needs to be distilled into terms and concepts they will understand. In the NBA example talk about Winning, not 'True shooting percentage'. In your example, talk about sales, profits, market share, concepts your leaders will naturally embrace.

    3. Basketball has been played for 100+ years. The NBA has been around since the 40s and the 3-point shot was introduced to the NBA game in the 70s. But it has taken about 40 years for the leading thinkers in the game to more fully embrace the shot as the strategic weapon it has become in the modern game. The simple math I alluded to above has not changed in all that time. Why did it take so long to take hold? Hard to say.

    Lesson - Even the most mature industries and companies can still innovate and be disruptive (and disruptive). Even a simple idea like 'What is the best way to play basketball?' is subject to improvement re-imagining. It is never too late. Until it is too late that is.

    Do not fail to heed the lessons of the 3-point shot....

    I am on record as saying you can learn everything you need to know about work, the workplace, people, and business from careful study of the NBA. I remain correct in this belief.

    Happy Thursday.

    Tuesday
    Apr212015

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 211 - The NBA Playoffs Prediction Show

    HR Happy Hour 211 - The NBA Playoffs Prediction Show

    Recorded Monday April 20, 2015

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Featuring: Ben Eubanks

    Listen to the show HERE

    Fresh off the fun that was the HR Happy Hour Oscars Preview Show a few weeks back, Steve and Trish take a a look at and make their predictions for the just-started 2015 NBA Playoffs, in HR Happy Hour Show style. Translated: As in the Oscars show, one of your fearless hosts knows probably too much about the NBA, while the other brings a unique style and perspective to making their selections and predictions as to which NBA team will be raising the championship trophy in June.

    Let's just say things like local cuisine, team tie-ins to 'Keeping Up With the Khardashians', Las Vegas wagering, and where people we know reside all play an important role in the selections. NBA fan or not, you will not want to miss Steve and Trish's takes on the NBA playoffs.

    Additionally, Ben Eubanks stops by with Ben's HR Book Review, Steve and Trish discuss what states are actually in the 'midwest', we get a German Rondo reference, and we all learn if actually having seen an NBA basketball precludes someone from betting on basketball games. Hint: It probably does not.

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or using the widget player below:

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio

     

    And of course you can listen to and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, or via your favorite podcast app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to download and subscribe to the show and you will never miss a new episode.

    This was a really fun show, and we hope you have as much fun listening as we did recording the show!

    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...