by Michael Holland    

In the movie Moneyball, Manager Billy Beane looks to rebuild his dismal baseball team with a limited budget and therefore limited opportunity to acquire expensive talent.  He decides to gamble on a methodology to look deeply at what types of players and activity he needs to be successful, which brings him to recruit inexpensive players who “can get on base” but aren’t seen as elite (or even very good) players.  Long story short, he creates a successful team at a much lower cost.  But he must re-learn how he will lead because he has a different kind of team.

Busy managers go into the recruiting process attempting to hire well and as quickly as possible.  Often they are looking for a certain pedigree that’s worked in the past, or for one that is dictated by senior leadership or the cultural peer pressure of their organization.  This pedigree often requires that the potential employee:

  • Has attended a certain tier of colleges.
  • Has a certain job history with companies x,y and/or z.
  • Has a certain degree or combination of degrees.
  • Has obtained a GPA or SAT scores above a specific level.
  • Has been awarded an MBA from a prestigious business school.

But pedigree is not always the indicator of talent or success, though it certainly can be a great cya in the hiring process.  In reality there are a lot of great people who have the basic skills needed to do the job at hand, even if, upon first glance, they don’t fit your mold.  They may have worked in multiple industries with non-hierarchical career progression.  They may have gone to a state school or completed their graduate work part time at a no-name school.  They may have a music degree but an engineer’s mind.  They may appear to be less polished or socially connected, but have grown up in a large, healthy family in a smallish town with great community.  They may not appear as the great talent they actually are, and they will likely give your HR leader a bit of a worry.  But they may just be the perfect person to get on your bus (remember Jim Collins’ mantra of first get the right people on the bus)?

I’m not suggesting that you throw out all your well-worn processes and unwritten policies for recruiting.  I am suggesting, however, that great leaders find great talent because they truly know what they need on their team, and they know the type of person they need to make success happen… which may be a different version of pedigree.  What I love about these leaders is that they force their blinders off, both in what they think they may need and in their biases for perceived talent.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers:

  • What processes do you use as a guide for hiring? Are they hard and fast rules, or do you bend them? Do you think you should bend them from time to time?
  • When was the last time you had to adjust your leadership to allow for changes in your team? What did you do? How might you need to re-learn your leadership now?
  • Have you ever been surprised by an employee who didn’t match your expectations (either going way above or way below them)? What did you learn from this experience?