Friday, April 27, 2007

Photo: Air by Thomas Hawk Outstanding shot. Bravo and thank you!

"He/She who has the ... Best Roster ... rules. Oh how I love ... LOVE ...those two words. TALENT. ROSTER. Say 'talent,' say 'roster' ... and the Yankees ... the Metropolitan Opera ... or a space shuttle crew ... or Microsoft's latest bet-the-company design team comes to mind...Talent is cool! Talent gravitates to cool! Talent attracts more Talent! Boss Job One (and 2 through 2,002 is the ... Attraction & Development & Retention of Talent. For NFL GMs, a few of whom I've known, Talent per se is a 25/8/53 Obsession (and don't forget to capitalize the 'O' in 'Obsession.')." Tom Peters

"Never hire anyone with a history of being unlucky." Bruce Johnson

"You can teach a kid everything else in the game but you can't teach speed." Al Davis

Startups are all the fun of a new car and fresh driver in the big race. Turnarounds are more like last year's losing car back in the race deciding to take on the additional challenges related to changing a flat tire without stopping or slowing down. Pit stops? We don't need no stinking pit stops to win this race. It's the difference between building new for the Parade of Homes and doing a major rehab project while the owner's family remains under roof. Both situations teach valuable lessons about hiring, directing and retaining talent while operating under unusual pressures and high expectations.

Ideal candidate description > Identification of suspects > Recruitment of prospects

Casting to role is very effective, it begins with creating the role, and a detailed description of the player needed to bring it to life. If breaking news is important you'll need a player that is strong off script. Should the role be built upon listener/viewer interaction you'll want a player that can work callers cold and love doing it. Ensemble cast? You will want one player that is great at bringing out the best in others, the player-coach that can keep things moving. What is the act? Tell me everything about the show. What's important? What is going to make the show work? Knowing what you're looking for keeps your casting focused.

Drafting term sheet "zero."

Managing up is about managing expectations. My suggestion is before you go shopping it's best to get a ballpark budget approved. We call this drafting term sheet "zero." When you get to the offer stage of recruitment you can revisit this approved budget and fine tune, creating your "first" draft or term sheet "one."

Start in your neighborhood.

We have all seen the nationwide search that ends with the job being offered to a person already on staff. My sense is this, in at least 50% of cases, is a signal of "settling." The ideal candidate you found 1,500 miles away wanted more money than you budgeted, including a pricey relo, and had five months left on their paper. The person on staff can "grow into the job" at a fraction of the budget hit. We have a winner.

In most cases, the ideal candidate is already in your neighborhood. From now on staff to across the street to within 200 miles of your mailing address. Hiring within your neighborhood, what my friends Charlie Boone and Roger Erickson call "the territory," has practical advantages. Candidates know what they're getting (see yesterday's post on my dumb mistake - bringing a sunbelt talent into the ice and snow of Chicago). The profile and reputation of you and your organization are likely to play larger in your neighborhood than nationally.

Perceptions rule, play the hand you hold. Curb appeal tends to diminish with distance unless you're in a glamour market (e.g., San Diego). Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee might be regarded as regional meccas to those in the neighborhood while viewed as "fly over land" by coastal denizens. Green shade benefit: your costs will be lower from scouting to relo.

Road trip!

After getting the book on everyone in your market, and that includes all part-time and free agents, it's time to hit the road. Once a quarter scouting trips or "market tours" as the legendary Al Heacock used to call them are invaluable. Not only do you get to discover talent, you also gain the advantages of getting out of the bubble, being exposed to new and different approaches. Forget air travel when scouting; "windshield time" gives you time to think, time to reflect.

Start and keep a talent journal.

Memorialize your thoughts, perceptions and findings in a journal. More than once I have hired someone years after first discovering them. This is also the one place to store priceless intel (e.g., contract expirations, candidate's "dream cities", name of candidate's significant other, candidate's birthday, anniversary, names of children, parent's DMA, et al). Doing this homework pays. We once made a great hire quickly as a result of my first learning years before that a candidate considered our market her "#1 dream city." For the exact reason we previously passed in Chicago we later hired her in New York. Sidebar: No one else had ever asked this Florida star about her "dream city" or "dream job." Only we knew her secret, she wanted to come home to the tri-state.

Cultivate and nurture.

Once you discover a talent the recruitment process should begin in earnest. Get to know the person. Stay in touch, especially on those special occasions. Stock up on birthday and congratulations cards. Follow their career. Be there to listen or watch their work and offer honest reviews. Odds are they are not getting the positive feedback on the job that they want and need. Catch them doing something right. This investment in building a relationship over months, even years, offers an excellent ROI. When the talent gets a new job out of the neighborhood stay in touch. On many occasions I have hired or recommended the hire of a star first met years and multiple markets earlier. To connect the dots you need the dots. Exactly wrong today might just be the perfect fit tomorrow. Good talent can also grow while on the payroll of others. The killer street reporter of two years ago becomes the gifted up and coming anchor. The exceptional night guy grows into the afternoon drive star loaded with morning show potential. Know and understand their dreams.

When you witness a Ferrari getting into a go-kart race, that is, some major market star making a lifestyle move to a smaller, less competitive DMA, you can make book it's not an accident, someone has done their homework. Timing is everything if you have the right knowledge to act. Your goal should be establishing relationships with qualified candidates before you have a job to offer. It's working smart.

Lesson learned the hard way: develop a short list of qualified candidates for each position. Don't put yourself in a hostage situation by having only one best candidate. Odds are six to five against you when it's one or none. You think everything is going along just fine and suddenly you're face to face with Mr. Murphy in the mix. You end up settling or paying too much. You must have depth in your casting portfolio. Not having options is unlucky.

Develop your speed dial of gifted minds.

Networking with like minded managers everywhere, especially those in your neighborhood, is also part of working smart. One day you may want to get someone out of town or get the book on a promising candidate. This is a contact sport and the person with the best rolodex wins every single time. Know your neighborhood and all the players in it. Consider it one big chess board.

Casting is everything. When casting, go for greatness. Never settle, never.

NEXT: Part Three - Job ads, responding to applicants and hiring under the gun.