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    Entries in talent (56)


    Know what game you're playing

    Three separate but sort of related stories from the worlds of music, movies, and sports that all seem to point in the same direction, even if it might not seem so at first glance. First, the background information, and then the (painfully obvious) conclusion and argument for why these things matter to 'regular' folk like you and me.

    Music - Adele's '25' breaks sales records, plus Adele keeps '25' off of most music streaming services

    From CNN Money:

    Adele's latest and highly anticipated album '25' will not be available on music streaming services, according to an executive with knowledge of the release strategy.

    The New York Times, which first reported the streaming decision on Thursday, said Adele was personally involved in making it.

    Adele is one of a small number of A-list artists who can make potentially more money by foregoing sites like Spotify and Apple Music.

    "Adele is an anomaly. If she decided to release her album on cassette tapes, it would still be the biggest album of the year," an industry source said.

    The music label has indicated to streaming executives that "25" will stay off Spotify-like services indefinitely, but that calculation could change in the coming months.

    Movies - 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' breaks pre-sales records, plus 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' will likely not be pre-screened for movie critics

    From The Verge:

    Normally when a movie studio decides not to screen a film for critics, it’s a sign of weakness. The film’s not working, so rather than let bad word of mouth hurt the opening weekend, the move is just to hide the problem from the moviegoing public as long as possible. But there’s nothing normal about the upcoming release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which according to recent reports isn’t screening for year-end awards consideration — and likely won’t be shown ahead of time to critics at all.

    What’s being hidden this time is the movie itself — and any spoilerific twists J.J. Abrams has cooked up. In an era of oversaturation, where it’s common for nearly every major joke and reveal to be spoiled by a movie’s trailers and marketing campaign, The Force Awakens has been a cinematic anomaly, parcelling out carefully chosen nuggets of information that have generated unprecedented levels of excitement without revealing much about what audiences will be seeing next month. For fans, it’s a welcome change that’s largely kept the notorious internet spoiler machine at bay — but for studios anxious to control how every facet of how a movie is perceived in order to maximize box office and hype, it could be the new blockbuster template

    Sports - 76ers Rookie Jahlil Okafor can't stay out of the news - street fights, speeding, fake ID at a bar, plus Okafor's current stats after 18 games (they're pretty good).

    From philly.com

    On the court, Jahlil Okafor had arguably the best start of any Eastern Conference rookie.

    However, his experiences off the court have been far from stellar.

    Four sources independently confirmed to The Inquirer that the 76ers center was pulled over on the Ben Franklin Bridge about three weeks ago for driving 108 m.p.h. The normal speed limit on the bridge is 45 m.p.h.

    The Sixers did not deny The Inquirer's report.

    Ok, three stories from three different component of pop culture, but all kind of instructive for us normals.

    None of us wants the 'rules' to apply to us. Or said differently, we like to think that we are so super talented so important or so irreplaceable that the rules shouldn't apply to us. Just like they don't seem to apply to Adele and Star Wars and NBA stars like Okafor.

    So how can we know if the rules, or at least most of them, should apply to us? Let's look at the above three examples for some guidance.

    1. From Adele - If the value you can create with your work is so unique and so hard to duplicate, then you can control how that work is going to be shared with the world, i.e., with more favorable terms and conditions than others in your field can demand. Adele's fans will buy full albums and CDs (like we all used to), where most other musical artists have to submit to the Spotifys and Apple Musics of the world in order to get their music to the fans (who don't want to pay anything). The entire music industry has been turned on its head in the last two decades, (when was the last time you bought a CD?), but for Adele, she can play the game by the old rules still because she creates value no one else can. 

    2. From Star Wars - If you have a direct line into the hearts and minds of your most important customers, and they will stick with you no matter what, like the fans of Star Wars have for the movie franchise, then you might have a case for the rules not applying to you. Star Wars does not need validation from movie critics, and if you don't need validation or approval of your work from middle management or the suits upstairs, then you have plenty of power. Gaining that kind of trust from customers is really rare and really valuable.

    3. From Okafor - If you have an incredibly rare and valuable set of skills, ones that are in extremely high demand and highly limited supply, then the rules might not apply to you. The list of people that can average 18 points and 8 rebounds in the NBA is very, very short. Like about 10-15 people in the world. If you are one of those 10-15 people then things are generally going to be pretty good for you.

    So should the rules apply to you, or that 'star' on your team?

    Well if you can create value like Adele, connect with your source of profit like Star Wars, or possess such a unique and almost impossible to replace set of skills like Okafor, then maybe the rules should not apply.

    But there are not many Adeles, Star Wars, or Okafors in this world it seems.


    At ESPN Product beats Talent

    Recently cable sports behemoth ESPN, which likes to bill itself as 'The Worldwide Leader in Sports', announced on its website that it was not renewing the contract of well-known personality Keith Olbermann, who has had a long and checkered relationship with the network.  This announcement follows fairly closely on the heels of ESPN deciding to not renew the contract of perhaps the network's most high-profile individual talent, Bill Simmons, editor of the sports and culture website Grantland, and host of the most popular sports podcast, The BS Report. In both cases, the network executives elected to move on without these high visibility, high maintenance, and high compensation performers for a couple of reasons, one more interesting than the other.Simmons, enjoying his time off

    At first glance these moves are straight up cost-cutting measures. It has been widely reported that ESPN's parent, Disney Corp, is looking for significant cost cuts at ESPN, as the sports division has seen a pretty dramatic increase in costs, primarily the rights fees it has to pay to sports leagues like the NFL and NBA for the rights to broadcast games. Increasingly in the heavily fragmented and competitive world of entertainment, particularly TV, live sports games, (along with awards shows), remain one of the very few types of TV shows that require and generate 'live' viewing. Therefore the value of these games has skyrocketed, the leagues recognize this, and are justifiably getting literally billions of dollars of fee increased from cable and broadcast networks for the rights. So, ESPN costs are going up, people like Olbemann and Simmons represent lots of salary costs, so simple math makes (and made), them both vulnerable.

    But the other reason the two personalities were jettisoned is perhaps more interesting and instructive to the rest of us. ESPN, as we can see from the sports rights fees issues above, is essentially in the business of broadcasting live sports events - NFL game, NBA games, MLB games, etc. That is the 'product' they provide to their audience and sell to their advertisers, and as we see above, pay tremendous and increasing fees to acquire. Everything has to be about generating an adequate return on those investments. People like Simmons and Olbermann, (and hundreds of others at ESPN), exist mainly to enhance the product - talk about the games, analyze the strategies, provide insight to the outcomes, and be entertaining while doing all of these things. But none of those things are the actual product - they only support the product. Simmons and Olbermann are more or less the back office, while the folks that acquire and produce the games, (and sell the ads), are the revenue generators. 

    Simmons and Olbermann are (mostly) Genral and Administrative costs to be trimmed, not significant Top Line drivers, (it has been reported that Grantland has never been profitable and podcasts, even Simmons' are notoriously difficult to monetize, and Olbermann's show was not a big revenue producer).

    And when you are G&A, no matter how funny and glib and well-known, your heads are always going to be first up on the chopping block when budget cuts are looming. You have to understand where you fit in the organization, not just on the org chart, but on the Income Statement.

    At ESPN, and I suppose where you work too, Product drives the Top Line. Not all talent does however. And good luck to folks who can't tell the difference.


    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!


    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. 


    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!