Mike Forde’s Fire Yourself Friday: The Portability of Talent

In presentations I’ve given on leading and inspiring talent, I often ask the audience a question:

If you fired yourself on Friday, packed your belongings into a cardboard box, and went home for the weekend to muse on the impact you were having on your role, your company, your colleagues and your customers, and then re-employed yourself on Monday, what would you change?

The spirit of this weekly email is to help with the reflection process involved in that hypothetical scenario. Hopefully some of the themes and content shared can be of value when it comes to musing over the future and the impact you can make on the world.

The Portability of Talent: Creating the Conditions for Successful Leadership Change

As we enter the offseason for the majority of teams in major leagues such as the NBA, NHL and European soccer, decision makers will be looking for ways to get better talent in the building to make the organization more competitive next season.

Sometimes the best personnel moves simply involve the resigning of existing talent (especially if the cost of replacement or acute market forces are working against you in the present moment), but if we are planning to invest in new talent, how do we ensure that the resources we commit can deliver clear ROI?

For the purposes of this article I’ve focused on the search for new talent outside of the playing roster (even though in today’s world teams spend 55-90% of revenues on the 2.5% of the workforce represented by the athletes), looking at the drive for front office and coaching talent. At a time when headcount and operating spend are being forensically analyzed by owners and investors, changes in key leadership roles within franchises (Presidents, GMs, Head Coaches) have remained consistent with pre-Covid years. 

For me, this confirms the unique nature of elite sport in comparison with other elements of public and private sector business; there is a need to continue to win and find new ways of staying competitive. This is forcing ownership groups and investors to chase the promise of improved performance by upgrading their leadership despite blanket furlough policies and reduced headcounts across other sectors of the economy.

So, what questions should we be asking ourselves?

– If elite leadership changes remain a lever that can be pulled to influence tomorrow’s performance, how do we think in greater detail with respect to who, how, and why we are doing this?

– At a time when every dollar spent has to deliver 3x the value it did a year ago, how do we think about the ‘portability’ of talent into our franchises in a way that maximizes the chance of the changes having the desired effect?

– How do we communicate internally (both up and down the levels of the organization) to clearly demonstrate that the investment in new talent – at a time when most businesses are reducing headcount – will positively influence the future trajectory of the franchise?

According to a 2015 report by McKinsey, leadership changes (at CEO level in the case of the report) in only 50% of the companies studied produced results that exceeded previous benchmarks. In essence, half the time companies change their leadership it doesn’t give them the performance benefits they were hoping for.

Changing top talent is never easy. However, the steps you go through with respect to pre-acquisition planning – the team you put around leadership, the planning of workflow, onboarding plans, and professional development for your best people – will minimize the risk of failure.

As a leader you owe it to your staff (who may have endured tough times during the current crisis) to make sure that any new hire delivers a 3x value return and helps their franchise find a way to reach the next level.

Mike Forde is Executive Chairman of Sportsology

Image: Charles Forerunner/Unsplash

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