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Would You Hire Magic Johnson?

Feb 27

(this is Magic and I at a recent MSU basketball game)

You might not have paid attention to this because you’re not a sports geek, more specifically an NBA sports geek, but the Los Angeles Lakers just hired their most famous player ever, Magic Johnson, to be their President of Basketball Operations.

If you know anything about me you’ll know this:

  1. I’m a Sparty, which means I LOVE Magic. When I was 9 years old my parents let me stay up and watch him lead MSU to the National Championship. I followed him to the pros and watched him win championships with the Lakers. I think he’s pretty neat!
  2. My dream job is to be the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. I make this known widely. They’ve never called.

So, you would have expected I would be super happy that the Lakers went and put Magic in charge of the whole show! But, I’m not. I believe it’s a major mistake on their part. Here’s why:

– Running an NBA team is a really difficult job, that takes specific skills you only receive by coming up through an NBA organization.

– The time commitment to running an NBA team is off the charts.

– The travel commitment to running an NBA team is unbelievable.

Magic, for all of this wonderful qualities, doesn’t seem to possess any of these skills sets needed. He’s an ultra-successful business owner and an all-time great NBA player, who is well respected. He’s also on the back side of his business career, ultra-wealthy, and more than likely unwilling to travel all over the world evaluating players in small, smoke-filled gyms across Eastern Europe.

My hope is Magic, will do magic stuff for the Lakers. He’ll surround himself with the best minds in the game. The greatest data nerds who can find hidden gems. He’ll watch the Moneyball movie and understand he can’t do this on gut instinct and his unbelievable charm. Because that won’t work. Most really great basketball players, put in this position, fail.

We do this in corporations all over the world. We hire the best ‘basketball player’ for a role that has very little to do with playing basketball, and then we are shocked when the ‘basketball player’ fails in a position of not playing basketball! We do this constantly in corporations! High performance in one position does not guarantee high performance in another non-related position.

High performance in one position does not guarantee high performance in another non-related position. I think we could all agree on this concept. Yet, we equate great performance in ‘mechanical engineering’ with the potential to be a great ‘manager’ of mechanical engineers. We somehow think those two things are similar. Mechanical engineering and Managing people. They’re in fact, very different things.

I would hire Magic Johnson for a lot of positions, but running my NBA team is very high on that list. Yes, he’s the greatest employee our organization has ever had. Yes, he knows basketball and played at an unbelievable level. No, he’s probably not the best hire to run this team. But the Magic fan in me hopes he kills it!

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