Picking Teams – April column for the Kitsap Business Journal

Picking Teams…

Don Draper on Mad Men portrayed by Jon Hamm
April 2, 2012 @ 4:18pm | Dan Weedin

Do you remember choosing up teams to play baseball insert your sport) as a kid? Two captains would be “appointed” or “anointed” depending on the social structure of the playground. They were normally the two best players and their leadership role had nothing to do with their ability to lead the team or even pick good players (this is true in many of our adult playgrounds called “the office”). The remaining athletes would be lined up opposite the captains, staring intently at them trying to be the next person selected. The ultimate humiliation was being in the final two, knowing only one would be the infamous last pick. Sounds a little like American Idol, huh?

I’ve been watching AMC’s hit television show, Mad Men on Netflix. I just finished Year 3 (two years old so consider this your spoiler alert) where Don Draper leads a group of people from the firm, including two partners, to form their own agency. They take drastic and covert action when they find out that their old agency was being sold and they didn’t want to play along. At the end of the episode (and season), you see Draper standing in the hotel room being used as the new office. He is gazing at the 7-8 people he hand picked to “play ball” with the new agency. These were the ones he wanted to move forward with. He had a choice to pick the best of a larger field and he chose them.

Four years ago, as I was preparing to take the presidency of my 130-member Rotary Club, one of the guest speakers in my workshop asked a compelling question — “If your club had to whittle itself down to only 25 members, would you be one of them?’ Thought-provoking.

If you had to choose 5 people to move forward with a new organization, whom would you choose? Why? Would you even be one of them?

Not everyone in your organization work and perform at the same level of excellence. Are you spending too much time trying to “fix” them at the expense of enhancing your best performers? Unfortunately, many executives and business owners spend too much time with the squeaky wheel. The same thing happens in our schools and non-profit organizations. In the end, it only hurts them. The best path is to work on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

If you are the “captain” of your business, your non-profit organization, your school district, or your association, you have been given the opportunity to choose your team. Here are five characteristics to cogitate on…

  1. Does this person have the skill set for the task or job at hand, or are they merely being promoted due to longevity?
  2. Does this person care about the organization’s well-being or is it solely “what’s in it for me?”
  3. Does this person have a high ceiling to success or do they have a giant bump on their head from smacking their ceiling?
  4. How well do they play with others?
  5. Are they “coachable?” In other words, are they willing to constantly improve their skills, or do they think they have mastered it all?

Too many executives and business owners waste time and money on trying to fix the unfixable. You’re better served enhancing your strengths by empowering your strongest performers. Less labor intensity and more return on investment. Find ways to build on your strengths, rather than fix your weaknesses. It’s about success, not perfection.

Final thought — Look at yourself in the mirror. Should you be on the team? Are you providing leadership with passion, skill, and inspiration? Would your employees or your “team” trade you at the trading deadline? Are you enhancing or detracting your organization’s performance? Honest evaluation needs to be done on the entire team, including you.

Bottom line — Who would you go to war with if you only had four other people to choose? What characteristics make them your choice? What role do you play in best igniting their talent?

Take those answers and instill those values in your strongest performers and watch your organization prosper.

(Editor’s note: Dan Weedin is a Poulsbo-based management consultant, speaker, and mentor. He leads an executive peer-to-peer group in Kitsap County where he helps executives improve personally, professionally, and organizationally by enhancing leadership skills. He is one of only 32 consultants in the world to be accredited as an Alan Weiss Master Mentor. Reach Weedin at (360) 697-1058; dan@danweedin.com or on the web site www.DanWeedin.com.)

Saints to Sinners: Business Lessons Learned from the NFL

Today’s announcement of the penalties handed down by National Football League commissioner, Roger Goodell have dramatic consequences for the New Orleans Saints football

Sean Payton - New Orleans Saints

team and coaches. For those not familiar with the situation, The Saints were accused, and found guilty of, targeting opposing players (particularly quarterbacks) to injure them and get them removed from the game. The defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, developed a system (which he used when coaching with other teams) where his players would earn up to $1,500 for hard hits and getting other players injured. Basically, “Bounty-gate” as it’s being termed, was more about bad intentions than hard hits. When it comes to players safety, the NFL has taken a hard-line and made historic decisions.

The defensive coordinator Williams, has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL. It’s a minimum of a year with the chance to re-apply then. He has a new team and this impacts them substantially. The head coach, Sean Payton, who knew what was going on and failed to stop it, was suspended for a year without pay. That’s a cool $8,000,000 (that’s right – six zeros) never to be regained. He can’t appeal. He is an employee of the NFL without a union. One of the other assistants, Joe Vitt, was suspended for 6 games. The club has been fine $500,000, lost draft picks, and lost its reputation. This is unprecedented in the NFL, and maybe all of sports. It is punitive and a clear message to the rest of the teams that this behavior will end.

The reasons for the draconian nature of the penalties? The Saints were warned in 2009 by the NFL to stop bounties. The Saints said okay, but they didn’t stop. Basically, when you lie to an investigative unit, that leads to issues. In addition, the NFL smelled huge lawsuits coming at them and probably felt that they needed to make a big statement in order to show that they are doing all they can to end bounties. They did.

So what does this mean to business leaders? Read on…

1. Head Coach Sean Payton is stunned (Read article by Jay Glazer on NBC Sports). He has just lost $8M he can never get back. He is out of the league for a year. No contact. No decisions on players. Nothing. He didn’t instigate this bounty system. He allowed his defensive coordinator to do it and basically gave him full control. The similarities to Joe Paterno at Penn State are compelling. Payton (basically the CEO) ceded control to a maverick subordinate and stuck his head in the sand. He allowed bad behavior to persist in his organization even after being warned. For that, he ended up getting the deepest blow. He makes way more money than Williams. His reputation was bigger. He has lost big time.  Question – As a leader, do you cede control to subordinates who are highly successful and stop minding the store? Are you willing to “overlook” things because the person who is running it is very successful in other areas? Example – your top sales producer shows poor judgement frequently with clients and potentially can damage your reputation. You don’t do anything because they are your top producer. You risk your reputation and potentially increase your liability.

2. Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis was also suspended for a year. This is your club’s top executive. Payton may have been the CEO, but this guy is all about your talent acquisition. Again, this is a case of not taking bold and courageous actions when you’re smart enough to know you should. It’s easy to say sitting here on the outside, but really tough sometimes when you are in the midst of the fire. Question – Do you take bold and courageous action when your gut tells you what you know is right?

3. Looking at the big picture. The NFL is all about winning today. Now, not necessarily later. Teams will fire coaches, executives, and players at a drop of a hat to win today. Heck, today Tim Tebow (last year’s golden boy and media sensation) was traded by the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets because Denver picked up Peyton Manning. Nobody is safe. The pressure to think only in the moment and eschew long-range consequences may be very prevalent in this environment. Question – Do economic challenges and issues keep you focused only on the now, rather than strategizing and preparing for long-term sustainability?

4. Reputation Damage Control – I’ve heard very little from the Saints today. Maybe they are still trying to get up off the floor. They have damage control to do. It starts with their fans and continues on with the NFL, public perception, and the media. This may haunt them for years as they go to different cities and receive the cat calls, the heckling, the poor press, etc. How does this affect their employees and families? It will have devastating ramifications for a whole lot of people. Question – Do you consider reputation damage when thinking about crisis management? Do you ever think about crisis management?

I have to think that thee will be more penalties levied against players. Lawsuits may pop up. It’s truly a tragic situation. Bad judgement and poor behavior is not relegated to the NFL. It happens daily in business. Although they are purely for entertainment value, television shows like Mad Men and The Office, and cartoons like Dilbert often skim that surface of reality and we recognize it. That’s why we watch, read, and laugh at them. But nobody is laughing in New Orleans or in the NFL offices today. I know it’s a baseball axiom, but there is no joy in Mudville today. Make sure that you learn from others mistakes and avoid a similar fate in your business.

© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

Extra Points from Monday – Team

Team.

Don Draper on Mad Men portrayed by Jon Hamm

I’ve been watching AMC’s hit television show, Mad Men on Netflix. I just finished Year 3 (two years ago so consider this your spoiler alert) where Don Draper leads a group of people from the firm, including two partners, to form their own agency. They take drastic and covert action when they find out that their old agency was being sold and they didn’t want to play along. At the end of the episode (and season), you see Draper standing in the hotel room being used as the new office. He is gazing at the 7-8 people hand picked to go to war with the new agency. These were “his people.” The ones he wanted to move forward. He had a choice to pick the best and he chose them.

Four years ago, as I was preparing to take the presidency of my 130 member Rotary Club, one of the speakers asked a compelling question – “If you’re club had to whittle itself down to only 25 members, would you be one of them?’ Very thought-provoking.

If you had to choose 5 people to move forward with a new organization, who would you choose? Why? Would you be one of them? Not everyone in your organization work and perform at the same level of excellence. Are you spending too much time trying to “fix” them at the expense of enhancing your best performers? Unfortunately, many executives and business owners spend too much time with the squeaky wheel. The same thing happens in schools. In the end, it only hurts the organizations. The best path is to work on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

Bottom line. Who would you go to war with if you only had 4 people to choose. What makes them your choice? Take those answers and instill those values in your strongest performers and watch your organization prosper.

This week’s quote – “Don’t let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent and kick ’em out!” Robert Tew