People with great skills, experience and expertise sometimes flounder in their roles and other times people with average assets succeed? I've seen losers change teams or change roles and become winners. Why?
Why do some people become legends in their chosen field and others merely plow in their field in obscurity? What's even worse is that many employers are wasting the right talent in the wrong roles. I hope you've considered these questions, whether you are pulling the plow or walking behind it.
I offer the following Louisiana Legends as illustrations of success: Shaquille O'Neil (basketball), David Toms (golf), Fats Domino (music), Calvin Borel (horse racing), Terry Bradshaw (football) and Ron "Louisiana Lightning" Guidry (baseball).
Shaq, Terry and Ron were team players. David and Fats chose careers requiring solo performances. In fact, Fats was a benchwarmer. Evidence of his genius includes the fact that he chose the right bench -- one positioned in front of a piano versus one on a sideline or courtside sitting next to bunches of other "B-team" members. Calvin's success is dependent upon a partnership -- his success is dependent upon teaming up with the "right horse."
What if Shaq had pursued life as a jockey or if Calvin had bet on a future as a center in the NBA? What if Fats and David Toms had switched roles in their early years? Could Terry have been as successful with a baseball as Ron? Could Ron have been as good with a football? This may not be completely absurd -- people make bad decisions every day.
Let's deal with the obvious first. All of these athletes have exceptional talent, the willingness to work hard and do what it takes to win and significant experience in their "game," their specific role (position) and the work they do. Most, if not all, have done well regardless of their teams. They are legends because of their gifts and their commitment.
What may not be so obvious is that somewhere along their way someone offered to each of these stars positive reinforcement, mentoring, coaching and occasional "butt-chewing" and whatever else was needed to make the good great. I've read Shaq's tribute to former Louisiana State University basketball coach Dale Brown. I knew Dale was important to Shaq -- he invested in that young man and over time his investment paid huge dividends to both of them. I'll bet each of these other stars have had one or more "Dales" in their lives. Did you ever realize that to your team members you can be a "Dale?"
Here's your reality. If you are a manger or a leader, you're building a team. To assure your success and the success of your organization it is important that you have the talent you need, position each player properly and create a culture that unifies all. You build on the players, their individual and collective talents and hard work and you create the right game plan for the opposition you face.
It seems so obvious -- yet as I talk with agency principals and their "players" I'm amazed that sometimes the coach and the team member are not working from the same playbook or even agree on the roles they play. Consider these simple reality checks.
Identify the roles most important to your agency -- manager, producer, IT, CSR, account executive, etc. Define in some degree of detail each of these roles. Then ask the top two or three players in each role to offer their definition. Do these match up? Ask yourself and the person doing the job what will get you rewarded and what will get you reprimanded in each position? Want to bet your view and theirs might not align?
For each job, identify the 10 skill sets necessary to be effective. Rank them in order of importance. Then distribute these to each employee for their self-evaluation. Ask them to grade themselves on an A - F scale. Give them two As, two Bs, two Cs, two Ds and two Fs. Finally grade them yourself using the same scale.
In a perfect world their grades and yours will match up. Even more perfect will be that their As and Bs will align with the most important priorities for each job and their Ds and Fs will parallel the priorities ranked seven to 10.
Unfortunately this world's not perfect. I'll bet their self-evaluation will differ from yours and their best scores will not align with the top priorities for each role. If I'm right the problem may be coaching -- not players.
May 4, 2012
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