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January 2009

Capitalist Superbowl Prediction - Job Board Ads Will Suck, and One Player/Agent Relationship Will Transcend the Game...

Last chance for Superbowl predictions.  Who ya got?

My predictions (email subscribers click through for the video):

1.  I predict there will be a meaningful exchange between a Cardinals wide receiver and his agent that will transcend the game.  OK, that's probably not going to happen, but I can't watch the Cardinals without thinking of Rod Tidwell and his struggling agent, Jerry McGuire.  Here are two scenes involving both to get you in the mood to root for the Cardinals on Sunday (go to 3:11 of the second video for the good stuff in that one):

2.  The CareerBuilder ad is going to suck.  Here's one on YouTube reported to be the 2009 ad entry from CareerBuilder.  Note to the marketing guys at CB - get the customer service rep in the speedo MUCH earlier in the spot.

Oh yeah - #3 - Cardinals 34, Steelers 31.  Enjoy the game and the commercials...

Talent Primer - Buy Vs. Building a Super Bowl Team...

I recently riffed on the topic of whether your career is portable or you are a "one-company" star. The riff was based on some research from a case study cited in Harvard Business entitled "When Stars Migrate, Do They Still Perform Like Stars?.  The case study looks at the "portability" of performance and the likelihood that some positions may improve or diminish one's prospects for career advancement. In autumn 2008, Groysberg and co-authors described their work on the National Football League in the MIT Sloan Management Review.

The findings of the research indicated that the more your job revolves around collaboration within yourKurtWarner_vmed_11pA_widec specific company, the less portable your level of performance is in the marketplace.  You can move, but if your performance is based on a high degree of collaboration in your company, the new boss probably shouldn't expect you to be immediately productive at the same level. 

It's a great topic and besides, it's Super Bowl week in America, which leads me to the following NFL related question.  Knowing what you know about the research tagged above, what NFL positions would you buy in the marketplace and which ones would you draft for and grow internally if you're trying to build a Super bowl winner?

Here's my list:

Buy in the marketplace:

-Punters and Kickers (duh..the fact these guys are the loneliest dudes in sports kind of solves the collaboration problem..)

-Wide Receivers - I disagree with the research and the Globe article.  I think a good receiver is out of the edge, runs a route and has to understand where the QB is going to deliver the ball.  Go buy them, and live with their diva-like ways...

-Cover Cornerbacks - Out on the edge defending the diva WR.  In man, he either covers the guy or he doesn't; in zone he drops to his spot and reacts.  Buy it...

-Defensive Ends - Your job?  Go crush the quarterback when the ball is snapped.  You caveman, like sacks...

Grow through the draft within your organization:

Anyone who has to collaborate heavily in every situation:

--Quarterbacks - Make sure you call that "Red 76, oskie, delta, simpsons, slash" play in a way everyone understands..

--Offensive Linemen - Who am I supposed to block when the defense shifts 5 times before the snap?  Guess I need to communicate with my OL teammate next to me...

--Linebackers - the Quarterbacks of the defense.  Nuff said...

What's on your list?  Hit me in the comments and be prepared to get crushed in Fantasy football next season.

Go Steelers, Go Kurt Warner...  Bill Bidwell? I'll spare you my thoughts (I'm from Missouri, where Bidwell moved the franchise from...that's also why Warner is pictured in Rams gear here...)

FOTv PILOT EPISODE: Needy Candidates, Social Media Fools and Toxic Job Descriptions....

It's "must see" TV time.  Well, maybe not must see TV, but how about Fistful TV?  Here's our pilot episodeFOT-Badge---Rally-Round of FOTv, our TV show that features the cast at FOT.  The format's pretty simple - we riff on a few topics, and you can't be all war and peace and stuff.  You've got a minute to make your point, then you're out.

We're still playing around with the name.  The idea behind the product is that we've got some great contributors over at FOT, and while I love the way they write, I know they have even MORE to give.  So, we stuck a camera in front of them at the same time, threw a list of topics on their lap and said.... "you're on....GO!"

First up - me, Jessica Lee and Josh Letourneau.  We're riffing on camera about the EFCA, social media, needy candidates, firing employees who interview for other jobs and job descriptions that suck.  We also take a shot at wondering aloud why JLee didn't get her apartment rented out for Inauguration Day.  What a missed revenue opportunity...

We've got tons of ideas to keep the format fresh, moving forward, so we'll be experimenting a good bit in the months to come with the product.  Expect to see Tolan, Hogan, Hebert, McClure, Dingee, Uranga, Pankow, Rapp and Seiden buck up in the near future as well.

A free orange county jail FOT jumpsuit to the first viewer to name the song/band in the intro...(email subscribers click through for the video...)

FOTv Pilot Launches On Thursday Over at Fistful of Talent...

If it's not already painfully obvious, I like to get ideas from other people and share my own.  SometimesFOT-Badge---Go-Big  it's good, sometimes it's average - but it's never boring.  That's why I'm excited to announce that we're launching a pilot video show over at Fistful of Talent on Thursday. 

We're still playing around with the name.  For now, we're calling the venue FOTv.  The idea behind the product is that we've got some great contributors over at FOT, and while I love the way they write, I know they have even MORE to give.  So we stuck a camera in front of them at the same time, threw a list of topics on their lap and said.... "you're on....GO!"

First up on Thursday are me, Jessica Lee and Josh Letourneau.  We're riffing on camera about the EFCA, social media, needy candidates, firing employees who interview for other jobs and job descriptions that suck.  We also take a shot at wondering aloud why JLee didn't get her apartment rented out for Inauguration Day.  What a missed revenue opportunity...

Stop by and take a look on Thursday!  We've got tons of ideas to keep the format fresh moving forward, so we'll be experimenting a good bit in the months to come with the product.  Expect to see Tolan, Hogan, Hebert, McClure, Dingee, Uranga, Pankow, Rapp and Seiden buck up in the near future as well.

Here's a 2 second tease (email subscribers click through for video)...

Why SHRM Should Fund a National Bailout of HR

You can’t turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper today without getting a rundown of the latestMo money entity/industry/organization that is seeking a bailout from the federal government. The economy has been in the tank, and any bailout (of financial institutions, auto manufacturers, etc.) is designed with the firm belief that the organizations in question need a capital infusion to ensure they don’t go out of business, and that their survival is crucial to the U.S. economy.

What about HR? Where’s our bailout?   HR's so beaten down, by many reports, we surely would qualify for funding.  All I'm asking for is a few billion dollars to upgrade the HR function and prepare it for the future. 

If you agree that the HR profession as a whole could use a capital infusion (a kinder term for a bailout) to retool, reinvent itself and prepare HR pros everywhere for the challenges that lie ahead, a source of such capital does exist.  Find out how SHRM could fund a national bailout of HR, and how I'd spend the cash, here.

You Think You Have Employee Handbook Issues? Enter the Strip Club Handbook...

You think you have a tough job in talent management?  You're a softie.  Take the HR Manager gig at a strip club.  That's a tough job...

From the land of strange but true, via my hometown newspaper, the Birmingham News.  Birmingham Circuit Judge Caryl Privett, this month, denied a request to toss out the suit Patsy Hamaker filed in 2008 against The Furnace strip club:

"That sets the stage for a possible Oct. 26 jury trial on her claims that mandatory on-the-job drinking led to a drunken crash on Oct. 18, 2007, that left her disfigured and with a broken back.  Among court documents is The Furnace's manual for dancers and a list of 46 house rules that cover how dancers should look, dress, act and do their jobs without running afoul of solicitation laws.

For example:

--House rules tell dancers they can't chew gum on the job or make a purse out of the blue felt bag sold with Crown Royal scotch.

--Dancers should make sure they have plenty of costumes for each shift, according to the rules. Their shoes should have no scuffs and their nail polish should not be chipped.

--They should be approachable and make sure every patron feels special, the manual says.

--"Remember you are here to entertain the customers," the rules say. "They are leaving their problems at home and coming here to escape."

--Dancers are told to enter the club from a side door -- never the main entrance -- and surrender their car keys when they arrive.

--"You must pass a breathayzer test before you can get your keys," the rules say.

--The dancers' manual takes a pep-rally approach, saying they are part of the "#1 team" in the nightclub business. It encourages the kind of positive and fun attitude the manual calls "Showtime."

--"We make the difference!" the manual says in all capital letters. "Not the tables, not the chairs, not the bars and not the lights . . . What time is it? It's showtime!"

Lots of possibilities for me to be snarky with this one, but I'll end with this.  Be thankful for the employees you have.  You don't have to take car keys and conduct sobriety tests at the end of every shift.

Well, at least, not every day...

Is Your Career Portable or Are You Walled Off as a "One Company Star"?

Ok, you've convinced me.  You're a star.  Nice work, you've done well at your company.

Here's the reality, though.  Just because you're a star at your current company doesn't mean you'll be aPinkFloydThm_5b7c431 star elsewhere.  Lot's of factors are involved when determining how portable your knowledge, skills and abilities are, and whether they transfer to the same performance level at a brand new company.

Curious?  I've always wanted to know that my skills could transfer, maybe even be more valuable, in a new environment/new company.  The concept of career portability is one of the reasons why I love the concept of a career in HR/Talent.  After all, I should be able to do HR or recruiting in any industry, right?  Aren't the core concepts the same?

More on the value of a portable career from Harvard Business:

"Teamwork and star talent will be on display February 1 at the National Football League's annual Super Bowl, in Tampa Bay, Florida. For football fans, the much-awaited Super Bowl is the highlight of the year. Minus the dramatic interceptions and exciting touchdowns, however, football teams are not so different from organizational teams in other fields of life, including business. And watching the career moves of football stars may shed light on how you, too, can plan your next step.

That's the message of new research by HBS professor Boris Groysberg, Lex Sant, and Robin Abrahams. Their case study "When Stars Migrate, Do They Still Perform Like Stars?" looks at the "portability" of performance and the likelihood that some positions may improve or diminish one's prospects for career advancement. In autumn 2008, Groysberg and coauthors described their work on the National Football League in the MIT Sloan Management Review:

"As research on the National Football League reveals, sometimes the specific nature of a job determines whether a great performer at one company can replicate that performance at another," they wrote. The lessons are directly relevant for hiring managers, too, says Groysberg. "Managers might want to think strategically about what positions they can hire a top-notch outsider for, and which ones they're better off developing talent for inside the organization."

Groysberg and team recently fielded e-mail questions from HBS Working Knowledge. Among the main points:

1. Research shows that stars whose jobs require them to cooperate and collaborate with other workers have a hard time maintaining performance when they move to a new organization. So if you're a manager, you might want to think strategically about what positions you can hire a top-notch outsider for, and which ones you're better off developing talent for inside the organization.

2. If you do hire outside talent for a highly interactive job—which sometimes happens—give them adequate time to get up to speed, and provide them with mentorship and structure. Don't be too quick to get rid of someone who needs to reestablish his or her network in order to succeed. Instead, focus your efforts on helping those individuals to build the network they need. Careful integration is a key.

3.  Research suggests is that portability isn't only determined by what industry you are in, or what particular company you work for, but it's also a result of how collaborative your job is. This suggests that workers who have already developed extensive firm-specific human capital (in the form of relationships or mastery of the firm's system and processes) should weigh the decision to change jobs carefully, because their major value is in the company they currently work for and the teammates they work with. If they do change jobs, they should make sure that the new employer is invested in their success and will give them the resources, and the time, to build the relationships that they need.

I'm not a pro football expert, but I'm assuming that means the players whose skills are most portable are the specialists who play one/one - the receivers, the defensive backs - because while the system they play in dictates the routes they run and who they cover, their success is ultimately a byproduct of their skills and requires little collaboration. 

What about you and me?  How can we contribute to our current companies to the maximum extent possible, yet ensure we're highly portable?  First, we shouldn't run from collaboration, because the ability to collaborate from scratch is a necessary skill in any company.  Collaboration in organizations these days is a reality, not an option.

Instead, the best way to ensure your skills are portable is to ensure you have a generalist type focus regarding professional development in your area of expertise.  For the HR pro, that means you challenge yourself regularly to read and attempt to apply your knowledge to the business world at large.

Social media is a great way to do that.  Subscribe to blogs and function-specific social networks and be involved in the conversations that occur.  As you do this, your focus will expand beyond the walls of your company, and you'll be more prepared to have conversations with hiring entities necessary to secure the next-level job within your functional area -but at another company and within another industry.

And that's what being portable is all about - whether you're a NFL wide receiver, an HR Pro, or a Marketing Analyst....

Don't Buy The Spin That Apple Failed on Steve Jobs Succession/Disclosure...

As expected, there's lots of buzz going on centered around Apple's failures regarding the curious case of Steve Jobs.  Can you remember a time when the fate of one company was so rumored to be tied to one individual?  Wal-Mart with Sam Walton?  Crazy Al "Chainsaw" Dunlap (in a negative way)? 

The haters are after Apple on two fronts:

1. Investor groups feel Apple should have been more forthcoming about the health of Jobs; and Steve_jobs

2. Lots of groups are critical of Apple for not having a real succession plan for Jobs.

We'll hit them one at a time, but first, here's a taste from ABC News:

"Because of it's impact, the mystery surrounding Jobs' condition may raise a broader question: How much does the public have a right to know about leaders of publicly traded companies -- especially one as closely associated in the public mind as Jobs is with Apple?

After all, besides being CEO of Apple, Jobs is widely seen as primary creative force behind the company. His product presentations are legendary and have helped make hits out of such consumer electronics as the iMac desktop computer, the iPod digital music player and the iPhone.

Financial lawyers say the information investors are entitled to versus the information they may want to hear are two different things.  The Securities and Exchange Commission doesn't have an established rule regarding a company's disclosure about a CEO's illness.

However, according to Gary Stern, a writer for Investors Business Daily, "There are several securities laws that stipulate a company must make material information available to the public that influences an investor's knowledge of a company."

Stern said that includes "any major changes to its highest officers or board of directors that could affect the company's revenue."  Until this week, Apple has been reluctant to discuss Jobs' health, saying it's his personal business."

So, two primary criticisms - medical disclosure and succession.  First, let's debunk the myth that investors are due special consideration regarding the health of Jobs.  Regardless of his medical condition, if Jobs has been active in working, no one really has a right to his personal medical information.  Can investor groups find some arcane law under which to file claims?  I'm sure.  Will those be successful?  I doubt it, especially if he was actively working in any capacity during the period in question.  If he was, none of the claims mean a thing and privacy will rule the day.

Which brings us to the topic of succession.  It's easy to say that Apple doesn't have a plan to sustain the energy and passion that Jobs brought to the table via a viable succession plan.  The problem with that?  How do you put a succession plan in place that replaces a legend?  How'd that work for Apple the first time around?  There's no way that you can mimic what Jobs brought to the table.

With that in mind, I think Apple was right to ride the Steve Jobs train as far as he could push them.  Ride the creativity, the passion, the (at times) craziness, all the way to the iPod and the rest of the new products were born under his watch. 

Then, deal with succession when you have to, maybe now.  Because the qualities that Jobs brings to the table are impossible to replace.  After all, you think one of the buttoned up types is going to bring the passion, like Steve Jobs in the clip below?  If SJ brings it like this culturally in an interview he wasn't even supposed to be at, you think his direct reports are going to settle for average?

Get better Steve Jobs.  Here's hoping there's no need for a permanent succession plan.  I'm a PC, but the business world is better with you in it. 

Using Deliberate Practice to Land a Jet in the Hudson...

I finally finished the book "Talent is Overrated" by Fortune Editor-at-Large Geoff Colvin, which explores the question of whether pure talent or hard, focused work is the key to becoming a world class performer in any discipline.  As you might expect, the book concludes that you can't become world class at anything without putting in tons of hours on your craft, and making sure those hours are focused in a certain way.  I read it.  I'm a believer.

The following is one of five quick primers I'll do on the book focused on the following concepts: 1) whatTalent is overrated Deliberate Practice is, 2) applying the concepts of Deliberate Practice to the workplace and your organization, 3) why creativity is a myth, 4) why great talent continues to perform as it ages, and 5) where passion comes from and the "multiplier effect".

However, we're interrupting the series today to talk about deliberate practice in a practical, yet miraculous way.  The incredible story of a life's preparation for a moment in time - the case of US Air pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger, the pilot who recently executed the emergency landing of the US Air jet in the Hudson River.

Primer #2 - The Concept of Deliberate Practice for "normal people"...

When you read "Talent is Overrated", one of the hardest things to get your head around is how the average person can apply the principles of deliberate practice to their life.  After all, the vast majority of us aren't going to be world-class musicians or athletes, so how can we apply the same principles to our lives in the office park.

The reality is that the 10,000 hour rule, which stipulates you have to put 10,000 hours into a craft in order to become world class, can occur over a lifetime.  The tricky part is you have to be mindful of the knowledge, skills and abilities that constitute your career or "craft", then set out to gain experiences that make those better week by week, month by month, and yes, year by year.

Do it long enough and pretty soon, you're approaching 10,000 hours and have a competitive advantageSullenberger that no one can take away from you.

No career illustrates this better today than that of Chesley B. Sullenberger, the pilot who recently executed the emergency landing of the US Air jet in the Hudson River.  Consider these markers of deliberate practice related to his career offered up by Time:

• Since 2007, he has run a safety consulting firm, Safety Reliability Methods, Inc., in addition to flying commercial aircraft

• Has been a US Airways pilot since 1980

• Served nearly seven years as an Air Force fighter pilot, attaining the rank of captain

• Served as a flight instructor, Air Line Pilots Association safety chairman, accident investigator and national technical committee member

• Has investigated aviation accidents for the Air Force and National Transportation Safety Board; helped developed new protocols for airline safety

• Recipient of a 1973 bachelor's degree from the Air Force Academy, where he majored in psychology and basic sciences and accrued an array of academic awards

• Has two master's degrees, one in industrial psychology from Purdue University (1973) and one in public administration from the University of Northern Colorado (1979)

• Recently named a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Center for Catastrophic Risk Management

So, not only did he fly a plane a lot (29 years, assuming 1,000 hours in the air each year, 29,000 hours), but he actively sought out related experiences in teaching others in his field, gaining domain expertise in safety, forming his own niche company related to safety, securing advanced degrees, etc.

Sound like luck?  Sounds like a great example of deliberate practice to me.  Average guy cranks out the work, chases it with passion, then gets the opportunity to save hundreds of lives based on his skill that developed through the deliberate practice.

Still unmotivated by your work?  Then get out and do something you have a passion for. 

Early success=passion=hard work=expert status over time=the chance to do something truly exceptional

Like our boy, Chesley B. Sullenberger, the poster child for deliberate practice.

Shaq Wants to be a HR Pro - What's the Equivalent of Missed Free Throws in the HR World?

It's official, boys and girls, the most irresistible force in the sports world, the Shaq-Diesel, wants to be a HR Pro.  Don't believe me?  Check out the following post from Shaq Fu's Twitter stream:


So, Shaquille O'Neal wants to be my HR partner.  Why that's undeniably cool and will obviously be good for the Rec-League hoops team of any company he joins, you have to wonder - what type of HR pro would Shaq be?  Let's look at some of Shaq's strengths and weaknesses and determine how that fits into the world of HR:

1.  Pure Power - Shaq won't be a consensus builder as a HR Pro. Just like he backs you down on the court and dunks on you, I'd expect him to take action first, ask questions later.  That will endear him to many and infuriate others.

2. If it Feels Good, Say It - Shaq has a tendency to say what he feels, when he feels it as a hoops legend.  Expect more of the same from the Diesel as an HR Pro, which like his power game, will thrill some in the corporate world, and makes others pull their hair out.

3. Stage Banter - When Shaq's at his best, it's the small conversations that mean the most.  Shaq's got a history of being accessible and, when he's not tearing Kobe Bryant apart verbally, is world-class at the fluff interview, throwing lovable pithy comments around that make you feel like you know him.  That means his open door policy will be among the best in the HR world.  Go to Shaq's office - you may not get what you wanted, but you'll leave laughing - and sometimes that's enough.

4. Continuous Improvement - Although Shaq-fur's game has always been about pure power, he's always added things to his game season to season.  That means a serviceable jump hook, better passing skills and the ability not to foul all came along to make Shaq a better player.  My money says that this would happen in HR, with Shaq showing an interest and adding different components to his HR game each year - maybe a depth in performance management one year, expertise in leadership development the next.

5. The Big Achilles Heel - Shaq can't hit a free throw consistently on the court.  Teams routinely foul him at the end of games (even away from the ball when he's not part of the play) to make him shoot free throws, confident he'll miss one or both foul shots.  What' the Achilles for Shaq in HR?  While I can't project what it will be, his NBA career suggests that he'll have a big one.  My take is that he'll hate administration, and it'll sting him and the company he works for every once in a while.

Of course, just because Shaq has a weak spot doesn't mean you shouldn't hire him.  If fact, I'm guessing that he's moderately serious, as he's done off-season police work due to a longtime interest in law enforcement.

Shaq - if you're out there, I've got an internship waiting on you this summer once the Suns get bounced from the playoffs (not that I want that, huge Suns, Shaq and Nash fan). 

Just be ready - some days, HR feels like being a cop, and some days it feels like you've clanged (that's "miss" for my non-sports readers) 5 straight free throws.