Seth McColley Headline Animator

Monday, November 12, 2012

Forget Style...Choose Substance

Six sentences.

That was all it took to make my week.

Last week, I received a note, via LinkedIn, from a guy that I worked with several years and two employers ago. Nothing deep. Nothing profound. Just a simple note asking me how I was doing, giving me a brief update on his end and then this…

“Thank you for being a positive influence and “stand up guy”. I have fond memories of our working relationship.”

I literally have not heard from this guy for years, so this note was an unexpected gift and a welcome surprise.

Those two simple sentences made an impact. Maybe it was the timing, maybe it was the relationship, maybe it was the memories of what we had endured together, but it hit me in a way that I certainly was not expecting. Sure I had a good working relationship with this guy. He was a Sales Manager and I was his HR Business Partner. We didn’t always see eye to eye but at the end of the day we were both doing our part to manage and develop talent, grow sales and move the organization forward. Two simple sentences, but it gave me an incredible shot of encouragement to end the week.

How many times have you thought about reaching out to that old boss, a former peer, an employee you hired years ago, just to say ‘hello’, rattle their cage, find out how they’re doing or just tell them how much you appreciate them? Why do we sometimes feel that our words are not enough and that our gestures must be grander and greater? Our words are more powerful than we think and they carry more weight than we give them credit for. Never underestimate the power of your own words.

Now, this isn’t a post meant to encourage you to go tell those you love that you love them, because any day could be your last (although, it’s not a bad idea). But rather, it’s a simple reminder that recognition and praise can come in the simplest forms. Sometimes we spend so much time and energy “dressing up” recognition that it comes across as unauthentic, fake, pretentious and ill-timed that it just misses the mark. We choose style over substance.

Case in point...

I’d like to encourage you to reach out to one person this week and thank them for something. Let someone know that they've made a difference. Just one. My hope is that you’ll be able to make the kind of impact that this person had on me last week. Forget style…choose substance.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Talent Management - Does "Dance With the One That Brung You" Still Work?

I'm going to do something a little bit different today and talk about two things that I'm very passionate about - HR (specifically talent management) and football (specifically the University of Texas). There are so many parallels between HR/management/leadership and sports, there's no shortage of blog fodder out there today. At some point, I'll do a whole series of posts with a sports theme. But I digress...

Case McCoy (wearing No. 6) and David Ash (wearing No. 14)
We've got a saying down here in Texas - "dance with the one that brung you". It's a reference to staying loyal, faithful, and committed to the one who invited you to the dance and resisting the urge, and requests, to dance with others. In football, it refers to selecting plays and starting players that result in wins. In business, it refers to utilizing process, practices and people that have delivered results.

On the surface, this makes sense. But does it still work?

Case in point (no pun intended), the current quarterback situation at the University of Texas. Last season, the coaches failed to commit to a starting quarterback, for most of the season. The result was a mixed bag of wins, losses, frustration and confusion for the team, specifically the two quarterbacks, David Ash and Case McCoy. At the beginning of this season, Ash was named the starting quarterback. The decision was made and it was nice to start the season with clarity and conviction. He wasn't my choice, but hey...the coaches never asked for my opinion.

Here we are now, more than halfway through the season, and needless to say, Ash has lost some of his shine. He had a terrible outing last week against Kansas, so the coaches benched him (good call) and replaced him with McCoy. McCoy played lights out and engineered two incredible drives, including the game-winning drive.  Longhorns win. Everyone's happy. Right?

As the coach/leader...what do you do now?

Here's the connection to talent management and something we can all relate to in some way, shape or form. Do you "dance with the one that brung you" or do you opt for the one that gives you best chance of delivering results in the next game, or proposal, or project, or deal (insert the term that fits your business model here)? Do you stick with the sales guy who's been a rock star performer for years, but had a few rough months over the last few quarters? Or do you give the nod to the up-and-coming Hi Po (high potential employee) that's been producing solid (if not better) results, landing deals that were once considered long shots?

What's the difference you say? In my opinion, the difference is about the past and the future. The difference is about reviewing past performance and predicting future performance. The difference is about 'what you have done for me' and 'what can you do for me'. Some might argue that the best way to predict future performance is to review past performance. Maybe so, but circumstances change. Competitors change. Environments change. People and players change.

Personally, I've always been a fan of the 'dance with one that brung ya' mentality. It's reasonable to believe that how someone's performed in the past will be a good indication of how they'll perform in the future. BUT, when you insert new data points (interceptions, stellar play from a back-up QB, missed deadlines, fresh skill sets and perspectives, external talent, market conditions, customer nuances, etc.) I think it's time to reevaluate your strategy. Coaches and leaders who remain stubborn on this point, failing to flex and make the necessary adjustments, can be detrimental to their teams and organizations. I'm sure that there are a number of good reasons why Mack Brown is the Head Coach of the football team and I'm not. That being said, he named Ash as the starting quarterback this weekend against Texas Tech, leaving most Texas fans frustrated and scratching their head. Didn't McCoy just come in and save the day...again? Only time will tell if he made the right call or not.

It's ironic that Darrel Royal, the legendary University of Texas football coach, is one person whom this saying is attributed to. This leads me to the one remaining question...

What Would Coach Royal Do?