LeBron James Isn’t Good Enough For My Team

Just putting together the roster for my annual Men’s City Rec Basketball team.  I’ve been pretty lucky in the past and have gotten some great players to come out and let me jump on their back to the championships.  As of right now here’s my roster for 2013-2014 season:

Current Starters (based on last years roster):

Point Guard: Craig Miller – Mid 30’s, 5’10”- still in ‘decent shape’ (this means he’s younger and faster than most of us).  He’s good for one wide open layup per quarter and one turnover.

Shooting Guard:  Don McCormick – 39, 6’0″ – He’s flat out money, I don’t think he’s missed a shot since 1998. Played DIII ball back in the early 90’s.  His job sometimes makes it so he can’t make games – we struggle in those games.

Small Forward: Marcus Jones – 47, 6’2″ – He’s our one black guy (we’d like more black guys, but it’s hard to find middle aged black guys in the suburbs who want to play with a bunch of white guys), he’s also the oldest guy we have.  Really never makes a mistake unless it’s a no look pass to one of us which we weren’t expecting.

Big Forward: James Brookes – 32, 5’11” – He’s not a basketball player, he’s a weight lifter.  Can’t shoot or dribble, but he’s good to hurt at least one opposing player each game, sometimes two.

Center: Mikey ‘Stretch’ McGee – 42, 6′ 5″ – He’s our tallest guy.  He likes to shoot the three.  Could have played D1, ended up going the CC route.  Currently he’s a UPS driver.

The Backups:

Point Guard: Me – 43, 5’7″- player/coach/manager – I get in if we are really up big or down big.  I’ve never seen a shot I didn’t like.  My philosophy: ‘Shoot till you get hot, then shoot to stay hot”

The 6 footers:  Ben, Jerry and Ken: All of these guys are 6 foot and basically play any position.  I lumped them together because they really are the same player. Solid, can do it all, just don’t make them run too many minutes at one time.

We are looking to add one more player to our roster this year.  We lost Billy.  He had to have his knee replaced and his real estate business was taking off again after the recession, so he’s out.  Here are the three candidates we have to replace:

1. Matt Smith – New guy in town.  He’s really in shape.  His wife is way hot.  He has a great basement man cave.  Seems like he would fit in with the guys really well.

2. Josh Moore – Another six footer.  He’s subbed for us in the past.  Likes to shoot (meaning he takes my shots).  The guys know him, but he rubs some guys the wrong way (mostly me, he takes my shots)

3. LeBron James – Yep! You read that correctly.  Let’s just say I have a connection.  Nothing in his contract to stop him from playing with us on Tuesday nights.  His schedule actually allows him to make 90% of our 12 game schedule.  We would own the league!

Seems like a really easy choice right!?  Wrong!  You see, I went to the guys to vote.  Knowing they would all laugh and Lebron would get his ‘Legion 124’ jersey shipped in the mail.  But to my surprise Matt Smith won the vote.  I couldn’t believe it, I had to find out why.  Across the board the guys came back with the following reasons why LeBron wouldn’t be a good fit for our team:  Wouldn’t find it a challenge, he would be bored, he was over qualified, he would end up quitting half way into the season, he wouldn’t take it seriously.

We had a shot a Lebron James for our team, and we didn’t take him.  Hard to believe, right?

It’s your reality.  Everyday you turn down great talent in your organization.  You turn down LeBron James because you’re scared.  We don’t say we’re scared.  We give ‘legitimate’ reasons like: “You’re over qualified” and “You wouldn’t find this position challenging”.  But we are just telling ourselves this, to make us feel better about making a terrible decision to turn away great talent.  ‘Being over qualified’ for a position is the single lamest reason to turn down talent that HR and Talent Acquisition has ever come up with.

The question is, would you turn down LeBron James if he wanted to join your team?

3 Reasons To Hire Back An Employee You Fired

There is an unwritten HR law that needs to be addressed.  This law states:

“If you fire an employee, at no time in the history of mankind should you hire back that employee to your organization.”

So it is said, so shall it be…

I was reading an article recently about ESPN’s new CEO, John Skipper, when he was asked about bringing back former polarizing Sports Center anchor, Keith Oolbermann.  Here’s what Skipper had to say about the possibility of bringing back Olbermann:

“I wasn’t here when Keith was here, but he is very talented. So I had dinner with Keith — it was delightful and fun. And I would not have had dinner with him if we didn’t sit around and think about whether there was a reason to bring Keith back. I haven’t met with him again, but we don’t have a policy here that you can never come back.”

So, ESPN doesn’t have a policy about bringing back terminated employees.  Do you?

I know of companies that actually have it written into the policy manual about bringing back terminated employees.  Sometimes it’s a time thing – ‘it has to be more than 5 years’ – or a position thing – ‘it has to be into a different position than they had previously’  – or a severity thing – ‘the termination could not have been for cause’, etc.  Sometimes it’s just the classic unwritten rule thing!  Regardless if it’s written or unwritten any organization that refuses to hire back terminated employees is extremely shortsighted!  Let’s be clear – I’m not saying your should bring back the jerk who embezzled money or sexually harassed every female employee.  What I’m saying is – if you analyzed every single termination you’ve had over the past 10 years in your organization, there are probably some really good hire-backs in that group!  But you wouldn’t know that – because it’s not something you’re going to do – it’s a policy…err…un-policy thing!

Here’s 3 reasons you of when you should potentially hire back a previously terminated employee:

1. They’re the best at what they do.  Yep – talent and performance trumps all.  Well, mostly!  If the person got fired for some kind of behavior that they can’t or won’t change – well, it will end bad again – but many times – having years away and proving themselves all over again in another organization – makes these folks ultra-valuable again to your organization.

2. New Leadership.  Let’s face facts – a large percentage of your terminations happen because of personalities not matching.  In almost every leadership change organizations see high turnover.  This doesn’t truly mean those leaving are bad employees – it’s a phenomenon that happens when you new leadership and ideas meet old leadership behaviors and ideas and they don’t match.

3. Former Employee and You (your organization and leadership) have had significant growth.  I’ve seen some young, less experienced people get fired, who 5 -10 years later were completely different people.  All of that blind fight and energy that had when they were younger which distracted from their talent is gone, and what you have left is this focused high performing employee.  At the same token, our leader who was less experienced and didn’t know how to handle high potential employees, now does.  Growth happens.

Unfortunately, 99% of organizations refuse to bring back an employee who was fired, ever!  It’s too bad really – you’re probably missing out on some great talent, especially if you’re in a smaller geographic area with limited talent pools to begin with.  Sometimes it’s up to get our organizations to become a little more open minded to the fact that change happens, and not every person who gets fired, is a bad employee.

Have A Poor Performer, Call Their Parents!

It’s a different world we live. 30 is the new 20, which makes 20 the new 10, which makes me, still old.  I’ve mentioned this before, and people always felt like it was always tongue in cheek, but I think it’s time as HR pros and leaders we start having parents in on our performance conversations. I’m serious!  I have a great real-life example from the world of the NBA. Klay Thompson, a member of the Golden State Warriors, was involved in a fight recently and fined $35,000. No big deal, right? Typical NBA pro sports behavior. But, wait! His dad, former NBA player Mychal Thompson, keeps his son’s finances and “grounded” him from his weekly allowance! From the Bleacher Report:

“The 23-year-old doesn’t have access to his money, all cheques are paid to Mychal and Julie who take care of his accounts for him to make sure Klay’s financial situation is set up for his post NBA career. So, naturally, Papa Thompson’s going to teach Klay a lesson of his own by fining him personally also, however Klay will find out the old fashioned way.

“He will [find out he’s been fined by us] when he sees that cash envelope show up a little short this week,” he said.”

23 years old.  How many young 20’s do you have working in your office?  How many of those young 20’s and late 20’s and possibly 30’s – could use a little wake up call from Mom and/or Dad!?

If HR has taught me anything, it’s most leaders are terrible at holding their employees accountable and managing performance.  It’s not getting better, it’s gotten worse over the past 5 years.  Most organizations eliminated or reduced leadership training during the recession, so our leaders haven’t gotten better, they’ve gotten worse.  We can start spending a ton of resources to train them and get them up to speed – or – we could just hand them Billy’s Mom’s number and have her come by the office one day.  Kind of like a conference at school!

“Mrs. Sackett, we are glad you could take time out of your busy day to talk about Timmie.  You see, Timmie is a little…well, let’s say Tim’s performance isn’t where it should be for someone of his age, experience and education. I was hoping you might be able to help me get Tim back on track.  Here are some examples of what Tim’s been doing…”

Can you imagine how 99% of those poor performers involved in this conversation would change!?  We laugh because it seems absurd that we would have to call in someone’s parents to adjust their performance, but I truly think in the right circumstance, it could really work.  I’ve seen it work well with good performance.  I’ve had a past boss speak to my mother about my good performance and she lite up like a Christmas tree, made me feel proud.  After that happen to me, I did it with some employees who worked for me, with the same result.  If it works so well on the positive side – why should we dismiss it wouldn’t work on the correction side?

Before you let go of your next poor performer – do me one favor – make one more call – one last ditch effort – call Mom and Dad in for a meeting.

The 8 Man Rotation – 2012 Season

For those new to The Project – you’ll come to notice that every once in a while I like to write about the interaction between sports and HR.  What?  Seems like it doesn’t fit? Really?  Well, for the past three years a band of 5 brothers have been proving this theory wrong by producing an entire ebook worth of sports related HR posts. The starting five:

  • Matt (akaBruno) Stollak – We like to call him ‘The Professor’!
  • Lance Haun – The man at ERE, or at least ‘our’ man at ERE and all around conference husband!
  • Steve Boese – Mr. HR Tech to you!
  • Kris Dunn – KD – the coach on the floor, and the closest thing we have to an actual athlete!
  • And Me

Exciting, I know! But wait, there’s more!  The link below will send you to your own Free copy of The 8 Man Rotation – 2012 Season!  Really, it’s free – make copies, give it away to friends, create an Oprah type book club at work digesting our first 3 seasons – we’ll never send you an invoice – we promise!












The 8 Man Rotation – 2012 Season – On Sale Now! For Free!



HR’s Unwritten Rules

Welcome back! How was your long holiday weekend?  I ate too much and watched a ton of sports – so mine was wonderful!

For those NFL/Professional Sports Fans out there I give you one of the dumbest unwritten sports rules that is out there:

You can’t lose your starting spot due to injury.

San Fransisco 49’ers starting Quarterback, Alex Smith, was injured recently and potentially could have come back this past week, but his ‘backup’ Colin Kaepernik did such a good job in the one game he started in place of Smith, that the coach decided his starter wasn’t quite ready to go and let’s give the backup another game! This got sports news, radio and fans talking about ‘the rule’ – if you’re the starter and you get injured, once you are better, you automatically get your starting job back.  But, why?  Where does this come from?

I can think of a couple of reasons why an organization might want to have this type of rule, in sports:

1. You don’t want players playing injured and not wanting to tell the coaches for fear if they get pulled, they’ll lose their job.  Thus putting the team in a worse spot of playing injured instead of allowing a healthy player to come in. Also, you don’t want the player furthering injuring themselves worse.

2. If the person has proven themselves to be the best, then they get injured, why wouldn’t you go back with the proven commodity?

I can think of more ways this unwritten rule makes no sense at all:

1. No matter the reason, shouldn’t the person with the best performance get the job?  No matter the reason the person was given to have his or her shot – if they perform better than the previous person, they should keep the job.

2. If you want a performance-based culture, you go with the hot hand.

3. Injuries are a part of the game, just as leave of absences are a part of our work environments, the organizations that are best prepared for this will win in the end – that means having capable succession in place that should be able to perform at a similar level, and if you’re lucky – at a better level.

It’s different for us in HR, right?  We have laws we have to follow – FMLA for example, or your own leave policies.  But is it really that different?  In my experience I see companies constantly make moves when someone has to take a personal or medical leave, and go a different direction with a certain person or position. Let’s face it, the truth is our companies can’t just be put on hold while someone takes weeks or months off to take care of whatever it is they need to do.  That doesn’t mean we eliminate them – we can’t – but we do get very creative in how we bring them back and positions that get created to ensure they still have something, but at the same time the company can continue to move forward in their absence.

I wonder if ‘our’ thinking about the NFL’s unwritten rule of losing your position comes from our own HR rules and laws we have in place in our organizations.  It would seem, like the NFL, most HR shops figure out ways around their own rules as well!

The 8 Man Rotation – 2011 Season

In what is probably the most anticipated eBook release of 2012 the The 8 Man Rotation crew (Matt Stollack, Steve Boese, Lance Haun, Kris Dunn and I) today release to the world version two of our most famous HR/Sports related blog posts of 2011:  The 8 Man Rotation – the 2011 Season.   The forward is written by two of our HR friends and great writers in their own right – Trish McFarlane and William Tincup – who get to poke fun at our obsession with the weird combination of sports and HR that we just won’t give up writing about.  Check it out –

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