Success is Relative #8ManRotation

It’s that time of year when college football coaches get fired because they weren’t ‘successful’.

This year’s unsuccessful coach of the year has to be Nebraska’s Bo Pelini.  Here are some of his stats:

– Won 9 games every year he has coached at Nebraska. Not averaged 9 wins. He’s won 9 games each year!

– 67-27 overall record – a +.700 winning percentage

That seems pretty freaking good!  How many of you would take 9 wins each year from your favorite college football team (Alabama fans you can’t participate!)?  I’m a huge Michigan State fan and we’ve been fortunate to have double digit win totals four out of the last five years and we’re on cloud nine! If you asked me five years ago if I would take 9 wins per year for the next five, I would have bought it for sure!

Here’s what Bo didn’t do:

– No conference titles

– No BCS bowl appearances

– At least 3 losses each season

99% of fans in the country would take 7 years in a row of 9 wins each year.  Because most of us will never come close that success on our best year.

That’s why success is relative.

Think of this with your own hires and employees.  You judge success of your new sales person on the results of the sales person that just left.  If your new sales person sells $1 million worth of products, and the old guy sold only $750K, the new person is a rock star.  That same new sales person is judge against your all time sales person at $2 million, and suddenly, they’re a piece of crap.

Nebraska holds their coaching hires against legendary Nebraska coach Tom Osborne who won 13 conference championships and 3 national titles.

This is why comparing individuals in terms of performance never really works out well.  A better way is to determine what does ‘good’ performance look like in your environment, no matter the individual. Also, what does great performance look like.  Then measure your employees against those metrics, not an individual who might have been good or bad.

Most organizations struggle with this concept, because defining good and great performance is hard.  It’s easy to compare.

Don’t allow yourself and your organization to take the easy road. It doesn’t lead you to where you want to go.

Do I believe Bo should have been fired?  Yes, but not because of his won/loss record.  Bo wasn’t a fit, culturally, with Nebraska football.  Bo had a short fuse and lost it publicly and on the field way too often for cameras to see.  This isn’t what Nebraska people want from their coach.  They’re extremely loyal fans, and don’t like to be embarrassed. Yes, they want to win, but it’s not a win-at-any-cost fandom that we’ve been accustom to seeing recently in major college athletics. Win, but win with pride and respect for the history of the program.  That’s tough. Nine wins per year, apparently doesn’t do that!


One thought on “Success is Relative #8ManRotation

  1. Tim, I think you nailed it at the end of this post: the single most important thing about a successful performance management system is the creation of a clear vision of what is good and what is great. Granted, that alone isn’t enough. I really like the work of Chris Lee and his book on “Performance Conversations.” We all know performance management needs a significant facelift. A less evaluative, more conversational approach is needed, and once-a-year goal-setting no longer is sufficient. Still, creating and agreeing on what is good and great remains the centerpiece of good performance management.

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