Mike Forde’s Fire Yourself Friday: The Science of Building Management Teams

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 Science of Building Management Teams

Spend time in Silicon Valley with any of the big global tech firms and I guarantee you that before the end of the day someone will deliver the quote, “When it comes to talent, an A hires an A but a B will hire a C.” This refers to the mindset of how the very best surround themselves with other talent of the same mentality, ambition and ability. The talent below that level will more often look for people of lesser ability – often to control and manage rather than openly challenge them.

In elite sport, particularly with regard to athlete talent, the quest is always to recruit the very best talent that is available in the market. Why else would you take the risk if it wasn’t to get better and improve your chances of winning today? When it comes to building management teams – be it coaches or front office executives – this mantra is frequently and paradoxically ignored by the people who drive this athlete narrative in the market.

The art and science of selecting and building a management team to surround the athletes is getting harder year on year. As the standard deviation and level of professionalism narrows between teams, no longer can the big team in the major market simply assume that they have the pick of the best leaders, coaches and scouts. One of the simplest ways to retain this competitive advantage and punch above your weight as a leader of non-playing talent is to promote a culture that pursues and hires the best talent on the board. This daily commitment to the idea that your organization is a hotbed for talent to grow, learn, be challenged, and ultimately achieve your professional goals, is a huge advantage in the war for talent. As a leader the only way to deliver on this is by pursuing and retaining ‘A’ star talent at all costs.

Through our work across multiple sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, one observation really stands out: team owners are more committed than ever to retaining their very best talent. Furloughing and deferred salaries are unfortunate realities across all industries, but keeping the best talent in the building during uncertain times has become the name of the game at ownership and leadership level. Nobody knows what’s around the corner, but the bet on building a bench deep with A star talent is the best insurance policy.

Here are five key actions and ideas for leaders looking to stay ahead in the talent game:

  1. Think several steps ahead with your staff recruitment – always keep a functional analysis mentality front and center in your thinking.
  2. Hire for the future of your sport, not today’s problems.
  3. Cognitive diversity matters. Find it, build it, nurture it.
  4. Get creative with job titles – protect the potential poaching of your best talent by defining the most effective titles and responsibilities.
  5. Constantly scan the horizon for tomorrow’s talent today. Don’t wait to be raided for your best talent two days after the postseason finishes. Make it your priority as a leader to know where the best talent in key roles is outside your business.

Mike Forde is Executive Chairman of Sportsology

Image: Lydia Tallent/Unsplash

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