Recruiting – Baseball Does It Right
Could a business that’s as poorly run as baseball be an example of anything to the working world?
The game is without equal in how it recruits top-notch people. Here’s a look at what the Great American Pastime does right in recruiting, and what business leaders can learn from it.
Murray Cook eats, sleeps, and lives baseball. He broke in as a player with the Gastonia minor league club in 1962, when he was in his early 20s. He went on to run the scouting organization for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1975 to 1982. Since then, he’s had the top general manager job with the New York Yankees, the Montreal Expos, and the Cincinnati Reds. Now, after scouting gigs with the Minnesota Twins and Florida Marlins, he scouts for the Boston Red Sox. He’s really experienced both the industry and in recruiting.
Cook is well aware that baseball’s success depends on the quality of the recruits that scouts unearth in small towns and cities throughout the world. "R&D in this game is much more extensive and much more a part of the game itself than in most industries," Cook says. "Without that diligence, you don’t have a successful product."
Because the financial stakes are so high, baseball scouts undertake a remarkably thorough scrutiny of each player during the recruiting process. Scouts get to know each prospect personally. They travel to their homes and talk to their parents to find out more about each boy’s background and commitment to baseball. "As scouts we not only observe their athletic skills carefully at the ballpark but also confer with their coaches to find out more about each player’s motivation and drive. Some scouts go further and check with a prospect’s teachers to ascertain what sort of student they are and assess whether they present any disciplinary problems," he says. While scouts meticulously measure a prospect’s time from home plate to first base or record the number of home runs he hits (physical skills for the job), they regard a prospect’s "makeup" as even more critical.
John Mirabelli, assistant general manager of scouting operations for the Cleveland Indians, defines makeup as "what makes players tick: their mind, certainly their heart. We try to find out their aptitude, their drive, their desire, their ambition."
The recruiting job isn’t over until the person is successful
To help players maintain their focus, the scouts who initially recruit a player often remain involved in his development while he’s toiling in the minor leagues, particularly during the first year. "It’s the scout’s job not just to give us an indication of how a player will perform, but also to develop a future relationship with this person," Mirabelli says. "When we get a player into the Indians organization, he’s got someone that he’s comfortable with already who he can consult if he encounters any particular challenge."
Having either an external recruiter or an internal human resources recruitment specialist remain in touch with a new hire and monitor his or her progress will help ensure greater employee success in the long run. Some organizations are already doing this, according to Bill Curran, director of human resources and leadership development at the multinational technology company PerkinElmer. "It’s critical for people to feel part of the team when they first come in, and that’s why a lot of people fail early on," Curran says. "Assigning someone to help people transition smoothly into your organization and become productive faster and stay longer would be an effective strategy. When you spend all that money recruiting and then bring the person into the system and find out that a) it was not the right person or b) they left disgruntled six months later, it’s an enormous strain on the organization."
Whether corporate America will ever take the time, and frankly risks, that baseball does to screen its potential recruits, and give them as good a start remains to be seen. Curran stresses that, more than ever, employees are free agents and are more concerned about their own careers than about the organization. The key is to gain employee commitment, much the way baseball teams do. That starts with hiring the right person.
Adapted from article by Michael Welber, Workforce Online, May 2003
Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? — Answers from the Greats
We’ll give your mind a break this month and give you the answers:
Plato: For the greater good.
Karl Marx: It was a historical inevitability.
Machiavelli: So that its subjects will view it with admiration, as a chicken which has the daring and courage to boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom among them has the strength to contend with such a paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the princely chicken’s dominion maintained.
Hippocrates: Because of an excess of light pink gooey stuff in its pancreas.
Timothy Leary: Because that’s the only kind of trip the Establishment would let it take.
Nietzsche: Because if you gaze too long across the Road, the Road gazes also across you.
B.F. Skinner: Because the external influences which had pervaded its sensorium from birth had caused it to develop in such a fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while believing these actions to be of its own free will.
Carl Jung: The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at this historical juncture, and therefore synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.
Jean-Paul Sartre: In order to act in good faith and be true to itself, the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.
Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.
Aristotle: To actualize its potential.
Buddha: If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken-nature.
Darwin: It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: It didn’t cross the road; it transcended it.
Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain.
Henry David Thoreau: To live deliberately ... and suck all the marrow out of life.
Mark Twain: The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.
Gene Roddenberry: To boldly go where no chicken...
Remember a few months ago we got a call to give each person on a management team a copy of The Leadership Genius of George W. Bush? Bill, HR Services Division, Caterpillar, e-mailed us how it went:
“The George W. book was a big hit. We have been using it as a development tool in our weekly staff meetings. This past week we discussed intuition and “quieting the mind”.”
Inspire Yourself By NOT Working
Are you totally focused on your organization and career? Do you ever feel that in order to effectively carry out your responsibilities you have to be available 24/7, year around, with no time for yourself? Are you constantly on the run? Do you feel like you are working as hard as you possibly can but still not getting the results you desire?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are not alone. You could be past the point of diminishing returns, and, more importantly, you may be missing out on an excellent opportunity to achieve success in a better way, actually getting more from less.
Sound interesting? Would you like to get better results with less stress and enjoy your life a little more?
Can a hobby help you professionally?
Conclusion: the scientists who were able to step away from their normal surroundings and periodically focus on another interest were much more successful than those who were seemingly more focused on their work.
In another example, Isaac Newton, arguably the greatest scientist of all time, attributed many of his most significant discoveries to time off when the European plague had forced the closing of Cambridge University, where Newton worked. Luckily for us, Newton went back to his farm in Lincolnshire to wait it out. While waiting on the farm, he made the lives we live today possible through many amazing discoveries.
Ideas grow from fresh perspectives
It’s all about balance. You need to work hard to be successful and you also need to give your mind an opportunity to step back and get out of its normal surroundings.
Perhaps for you it is a course of study totally unrelated to what you do, or it’s a vacation in some very different location or possibly just hanging out around the house.
I have experienced this principle so many times I could hardly count them. I never come back to my office from a few days off without bringing back a list of great ideas I thought of while I was away.
It isn’t that I spend my vacation time thinking about work, because I don’t. Usually I am totally involved in whatever activity I am sharing with my family. However, many times when we relax in a different environment, or enjoy some activity totally unrelated to our job, we subconsciously see things from a different perspective. And, many times this different perspective will provide new answers to some old problems.
It is amazing to me how many leaders are willing to make a type of Faustian bargain to achieve their success. However, in their version of the story, the leader plays both Faust and Mephistopheles, convincing themselves that by selling out their lives to their work they will achieve the success they want.
Unfortunately many of those people lose it all. They sacrifice their family, health, personal development and relationships and, as Faust was doomed to never be satisfied, they still don’t obtain the success of which they dreamed. And if they do happen to achieve their success it is at an exorbitant price.
Remember, it is results that we want. And, many times getting those results requires stepping back and spending some time with your family or in some type of personal development or relaxation. I am convinced that, most of the time, the people that get the best results are balanced.
Start small. Try not working this weekend and see what you discover.
Adapted from an article by Bill Yeargin with permission from Church Executive Magazine, May, 2003
Humor in Learning Creates Attention & Retention
Any of you Southwest Airlines fliers out there, quick, name one safety instruction from an SWA flight attendant.
Those safety instructions are designed to keep us safe. But, come on, when you’ve heard them before, who listens? In the event of an emergency, we’d likely not know what to do, because we forgot what we heard on our first flight (the last time we looked up from the work on our lap). Same with your employees — a big problem for safety training — no less a problem for skills and procedures (think of how many questions you get weeks after training and you think, while hitting your forehead with the palm of your hand, “But they learned that in the training!”— no, someone told it to them, but they obviously didn’t learn it!
So, how do you incorporate humor into your group or self-study training?
2. Be sure it’s in good taste (no making fun of national origin, religion, safety issues, etc. Please use yourself as the humorous example of making a mistake but leave out your national origin and religion).
3. Use humor throughout. Make your training a culture of humor (humor is funny stories, humor is funny faces or voice while telling the story, humor is making plays on words – ex. SW Airlines, while learning how to vacuum the airplane aisle using a sweeper called a Hoky, had them doing the “Hokey-Pokey”.
Let us know how you boldly or mildly use humor to help people learn.
Let Employees Set Their Own Hours and Take All the Time Off They Want
It seems like a recipe for anarchy: At TechTarget, a Needham, Mass., interactive media company, all 210 employees are free to come and go as they please. There are no set policies mandating working hours or detailing sick, personal, or vacation days. More productive between midnight and 4 a.m.? No problem. Ditto if you need a day off to take your kid to camp. "I detest bureaucracy and silly policies," says founder and CEO Greg Strakosch. "You're either sick one day or eight, but a set number of sick days strikes me as arbitrary and dumb."
Strakosch, 40, may sound like a throwback to the feverish, try-anything days of the new economy. But TechTarget's financial results tell a different story. The four-year-old company's "open-leave" policy, Strakosch says, is a big reason why revenue is expected to hit $35 million this year, up nearly 30% from 2002. "It's a competitive weapon," he says.
That doesn't surprise Shoshana Zuboff, professor of business administration at Harvard. In the age of intellectual, intangible assets, she says, it's absurd to treat workers with an industrial-age mindset. "We should be beyond trusting employees to do good work but not trusting them to be honest and upright about managing their time," Zuboff says.
Open-leave sounds great in theory. But how do you make it work?
In exchange for the flexibility, employees are expected to remain in close contact with their managers -- you can't phone in Monday morning and say you're taking the week off. And whatever hours they work, employees must remain accessible via e-mail, cell phones, instant-messaging, and laptops -- all of which make open-leave possible in the first place.
Mary Beth Cadwell, TechTarget's art director and a hard-core triathlete, wouldn't trade the arrangement for anything. "I couldn't work somewhere where I wasn't allowed to take an afternoon off for a bike ride," she says. Other employees have used their time to take a class or travel to Australia with a theater troupe. TechTarget also employs 25 mothers with kids under the age of 10. Site editor Joyce Chutchian has two children and says open-leave "eliminates the guilt and stress from the equation. I never worry about being a good mother and a good employee."
Strakosch acknowledges the policy isn't for everyone. Despite a painstaking hiring process designed to weed out all but the most autonomous, Strakosch dismissed 7% of his work force last year. "We don't carry people who underachieve," he says. Others have been fired for abusing the policy. Nor will open-leave work for all companies. Success, according to University of Southern California business professor Edward Lawler, usually depends on "a charismatic founder or founders, but once they move on, it often breaks down." That's okay. Strakosch isn't going anywhere. Where else would he be allowed to coach his three kids' sports teams -- in the middle of the workday?
Adapted with permission, INC. Magazine, June 2003
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