Tattoo’s and Courage – Lessons from the Superbowl

Right now many of you are at the least tired or at the worst hung over and tired from a night of revelry celebrating the uniquely American tradition known as the The Superbowl.  In this time-honored tradition we celebrate watching the two best teams in the NFL battle it out for the Lombardi Trophy, while drinking (usually) beer and eating chicken wings.

I’ve developed a fondness for American football in the last few years. I blame that largely on my upbringing (we planned our Sunday dinner around game time) and marrying a life-long Cleveland Browns fan. Beyond the entertainment value I’ve found many an allegory to the workplace through football and have blogged about that often (here, here and here).

So on this day after Superbowl Sunday (which by the way should really be a national holiday) let’s talk about some workplace lessons you can take away from this year’s two top teams:

1. Don’t judge a book by its cover: This is an old rule isn’t it? But one we often forget. Earlier this year some controversy was generated over Colin Kaepernick’s tattoos. A sportswriter claimed that Kaepernick looked like a recent parolee and wasn’t a good image for the 49ers. Those are tattoos of bible verses. So really get over your tattoo/piercing/hair/ bias– learn to look past the physical or you could end up missing a great person or opportunity.

2. Don’t be scared of intensity or fiercely competitive people – To say that Jim Harbaugh is intense is an understatement:

Just a little excited…

The 49ers coach is well-known for his passionate outbursts and fierce competitive style, which goes back to grade school.  It’s that determination and grit that makes some of our most successful leaders and employee’s.  Too often we discount people who are openly passionate as “kooks” or too emotionally involved. Instead of discounting these people, let’s embrace them. After all these are the people who are thinking about the business 24/7, when they think up the next great thing don’t you want them on your payroll? Not your competitor’s?

3. Besides passion, you need people who have the knowledge, skill and courage to make the tough decisions.  An example from both Superbowl contenders:

  • Jim Harbaugh: he shocked the nation when he benched Alex Smith and replaced him with backup QB Colin Kaepernick. After Kaepernick became the starting QB average points per game shot up amid impressive wins against teams like the Green Bay Packers
  • John Harbaugh: In December, this Harbaugh replaced his Offensive Coordinator…in December.  To make a change in that pivotal role, late in the season was a huge gamble that paid off.  Ravens QB Joe Flacco has flourished under his new OC.
  • Organization: Both Harbaugh’s needed a gutsy organization that trusted them to pull off those moves. You can hire all the stars you want but if you don’t give them the freedom to work independently, they will just be frustrated and walk away.

Some might say we can’t compare our organizations with professional sports…I don’t agree with that.  Your company and the NFL are certainly not identical. But can we learn something? Absolutely. How much better would our organizations be if we followed those basic rules I outlined above? Put away your bias, don’t discount the passionate as kooks and have the courage to trust your employees.

Weekly reMix 5/4/2012

Happy almost Cinco de Mayo! Do we really need an excuse to eat fajita’s and drink margarita’s?  I didn’t think so! but it’s all good. 

So the other exciting event this weekend is the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.  I’ll be drinking Margarita’s on Friday.  Mint Juleps on Saturday.  Unfortunately I’m too old to drink Margarita’s and Mint Juleps on the same day so I have to split it up. It’s all part of growing up kids.

So this week the reMix is heavily slated towards me.  I had some great posts this week:

NFL Draft Part 1 – Get your big girl pants on 

NFL Draft Part 2 – They can’t all be Tom Brady 

And over on Project Social HR I’m talking about:

No Second Chances

AND I was on the Drive Thru HR show,  I can’t tell you how excited and honored I was to be on the show. Bryan Wempen and William Tincup are great hosts who can make anyone talk.  Check out the show here,  it’s only 30 minutes!  Bryan mentioned a post he found on my blog called “Avoiding the Dementors Kiss”,  which nobody read but I’ve included it here if you are interested.

Okay, so besides my posts and self-promotion on Drive Thru HR I also had some time to read some good stuff from the HR blogsphere,  check out what I thought were some of the best from this week:

Best of the blogs: 

Always looking by Charlie Judy of HR Fishbowl.  Sound advice reminding you to always have your ear to the ground and ready for the next opportunity.

Employer loyalty isn’t dead? Wait. What? From China Gorman. If you aren’t tuning in to her data points series you should be. She finds a lot of great data and pulls out all the good nuggets.

HR Strategy for dummies – From the Tim Sackett Project.  All about our beloved HR strategies

HR Matrix: I’m plugged in – More goodness from Chris Fields at Cost of Work. He breaks it down on why it’s awesome to be an HR blogger.




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They can’t all be Tom Brady: NFL Draft Part 2

One of the greatest NFL draft picks of all time is Tom Brady.  The odds of a quarterback drafted in the sixth round who goes on to win the Super Bowl are minuscule but then to win three Super Bowl’s? To say it’s unlikely is an understatement. People love this story because it flies in the face of the conventional wisdom which is that the first round draft picks should be the best.  After all NFL scouts and the sports media pour over these draftees with a fine tooth comb. They have footage from their college games, the NFL combine where players essentially interview for their job, and of course far more extensive background checks then we can dream of.   But despite all that there are some spectacular fails from the NFL first round draft, check out my top three and what HR can learn:

 Tim Couch – How could I write a post about bad draft picks without mentioning the Browns? Sorry Cleveland! Couch was drafted as the overall number 1 pick and had the hopes of a rebuilding team on his back. Unfortunately, Cleveland, like many in sports media, overlooked the simple plays he was used to in his college career at Kentucky. The Browns also had a terrible offense which would have been difficult for any Quarterback to work with.

Lesson 1- When you are looking over that super star resume ask yourself if those accomplishments are applicable to your company and competitive environment. It’s easier to achieve in some environments then others. 

Lesson 2 – If you are expecting serious accomplishments from a new employee (like winning 6 playoff games or implementing a Shared Services Model) give them the team and the political capital to achieve it.  

JaMarcus Russell – Now this is an interesting story. On paper JaMarcus looked great. He had an excellent record throughout high school and most of college. His reviews at the NFL combine were stellar and he was drafted in the first round but…his play could be inconsistent and shaky at times. Despite this, the Oakland Raiders drafted him as the overall number 1 draft pick. Shortly after the drama started with contract negotiations that finally ended the first week of the NFL season (translation: he missed all of training camp, exhibition games and the first week of real play, which equals about four months) .  It really isn’t all that surprising to see that this champagne bubble burst quickly.

Lesson – Untested talent shouldn’t be obstinate about money.  In my view the long hold out for money was a huge red flag the Oakland Raiders ignored. As soon as things got heated (I’m sure they did, negotiations went on for months!) the Raiders should have said “final offer, take it or leave it”

 Ryan Leaf – And in the case of Ryan Leaf we just have a lot of hype.  He had a great arm, mobility and would be “a franchise leader.” Guess who else was in the first round draft with him? Peyton Manning! Well we all know who became a franchise player (even if he is now with Denver). Among the red flags before draft day? Ryan Leaf failed to show up for a meeting with the Indianapolis Colts at the combine,  supposedly it was a mis-communication.

Lesson – in the words of Jerry Angelo as quoted by Peter King: ”it really surprised me. Here’s what could be the biggest day of your life, the day you’re going to expose yourself to your future employers for the first time, and you show up out of shape and overweight. To me, that’s a signal. The quarterback has to be the CEO of your team. You have to trust him. I’d have some hard questions if that happened and we were going to pick him.” There is no excuse for not being at your best for an interview.  

One final lesson we can learn? Don’t believe the hype! In many of these situations bad choices were made because “everyone” was saying how great a player was and ignoring the red flags.  I don’t care if you have Jack Welch in front of you. Ask tough questions and expect real, concrete answers.  If a candidate can’t put in the effort for an interview what’s going to happen when they have the job and paycheck in hand?


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Get your big girl pants on: NFL Draft Part 1

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 11: Starting quarter...
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 11: Starting quarterback Colt McCoy #12 of the Cleveland Browns looks down field for a pass during the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals in the season opener at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

This week I’m talking about the NFL draft.  I know the typical NFL player isn’t your typical employee and that the NFL isn’t always reality but I think there is tons of insight to be gleaned about organizations from watching professional sports.  After all,  these are the guys who are paid millions to draft the right talent and they still get it wrong sometimes! 

This past week the NFL draft was on my TV Thursday, Friday & most of Saturday because my husband is a believer in the perpetually re-building Cleveland Browns.  Now as many of you know, I am a Bears fan, but the Bears draft was pretty normal this year, no surprises, shocks, or screw-ups. But the Browns draft was another story.  At first there was joy at the drafting of Trent Richardson  but then a surprise came with the drafting of  Brandon Weeden, a twenty-eight year old quarterback in the first round. Take some time to re-read that…they drafted a TWENTY-EIGHT year old quarterback in the first round!  This move looks like complete lunacy  to loyal Browns fans everywhere, but the Browns organization felt it was time for a change in the QB position (although they really are tempting fate when you think about Cleveland’s history of quarterbacks).

You see many fans expected Colt McCoy to remain the QB in Cleveland because of his past accomplishments.  He was the QB at the helm when the Browns beat the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots, he showed a lot of potential when the right players were in place.  Unfortunately, due to injuries and player drama the Browns season puttered out, and as the face of the offense McCoy got much of the blame.

Now think about this, one of your organizations leaders has an excellent track record, she landed some great accounts in the past but recently the mojo hasn’t been there.  Maybe some team members have left the company.  Maybe others haven’t been able to put in the same amount of time and effort.  You’ve ended the year with less than stellar results.  The confidence you had in this leader has rapidly dwindled and your customers are getting impatient.

What to do? One option is to cut your losses and the employee, bring in new leadership and hope your customers are patient while the new team gets organized. Another option is to keep your flailing leader, re-organize, get some fresh blood on the team and hope your customers will be patient while the new team gets organized.

Both options have potential catastrophe written all over them but you don’t get paid the big bucks to make easy decisions do you?

What is the right decision? In the case of Colt Mccoy and the Browns, I think they would have done well to evaluate his past performance and the circumstances where it went downhill. After all, you need someone to catch the ball right? You could get Tom Brady in the Browns backfield and he would still be pummeled.  Finally, what about the replacement? If you are unhappy with a person’s performance, why replace them with an unproven entity?

A couple things to keep in mind when working out this kind of thorny decision:

  1. Keep the customer happy – be transparent about your reasoning and rationale for making the change.
  2. Understand the state your customers are in – The Cleveland Browns are in a precarious position when you look at their operating environment: struggling economy in Cleveland, a history of horrible draft picks, and a history of terrible seasons behind them.  This move could be the greatest or another nail in the coffin.

But then again mamma said there would be days like this right? You face the howling crowds regardless the decision you make, you are either a savior or the anti-christ.  Welcome to the world of tough decisions and ambiguous outcomes.  Time to get those big girl pants on!

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Wednesday! 

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Weekly reMix 3/16/2012

This has been a fantastic week for the reMix,  I wrote about Peyton Manning  and complacency, both have been getting great numbers so make sure to check them out:

Keep it classy 

It won’t happen to me

I am also really excited to announce that this week I was listed number 11 on The HR Examiners Top 25 Online Influencers: The Pulse of HR List: 

I’m honored to be featured in the top 25,  the full listing can be found here.

 Enough already with the self-congratulations! Here are some great articles I found on the web this week:

When the old outnumber the young – Great article from the Harvard Business Review taking a look at how changing demographics will effect organizations

Gap’s Social Media Policy– Great article about a company looking to revitazlie its image by letting its employees loose in social media.

How Liz Claiborne became a success – Interesting interview with the former CEO of Liz Claiborne about the rise and decline of the company, getting into the fashion industry now and the skills and talents necessary.

The argument for NOT hiring women – An interesting piece by Penelope Trunk, she started a very successful site/company you may have heard of called Brazen Careerist.

That’s it for this week.  Next week stay tuned for Part 2 of the Advice I never took series.  Here’s Part 1:

Smile Less

Until then “Keep your eyes on the road,  your hands upon the wheel…futures uncertain and the end is always near.

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