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It’s called Talent…..

As much as it pains me to say this I believe Barry Bonds may have knocked the cover off the ball (pun intended) in helping us understand the importance of talent. In an interview several years ago he was asked to explain his performance. His answer, “It’s called talent. I just have it. I can’t explain it. You either have it or you don’t.”

Talent. Every organization talks about it as a critical driver to lead and compete in a dynamic global economic environment. There are entire functions within organizations committed to identifying, acquiring, managing, developing, optimizing, and retaining top talent.  

With so much focused attention and resources being directed toward “talent” why do so many organizations get it wrong? I believe it comes down to three things: 1)They struggle with identifying and recognizing top talent. 2)They are focused on the wrong talent acquisition criteria. 3) If they are fortunate enough to acquire top talent they don’t fully appreciate and optimize it to generate a competitive advantage.   

russel wilsonYou only have to look to this year’s NFL draft to see how organizations get the first two all wrong. Russell Wilson is a rookie starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. All he’s done in his rookie season is win the starting job in training camp and lead his team to a playoff berth for the first time in five years. Along the way he’s thrown for 25 touchdowns, which is 2nd all-time for rookie QB’s behind Peyton Manning.  

Wow! He must have been a high 1st round draft pick to come in and make that type of impact, right? Wrong! Russell Wilson was the 75th player taken, drafted in the 3rd round. There were five quarterbacks taken before him. It just so happens that two of them happen to be Andrew Luck and RGIII. What kept him from being drafted right behind Luck and RGIII in the 1st round? Look at your thumb for the answer. It came down to him being about 3″ too short. You see Russell Wilson is sub 5′ 11″ and all the experts said that if he were just 6′ 1″ he would have been a bona fide Top 10 draft pick. Really?!?!

This is a prime example of how talent evaluators’ judgment got clouded by questionable criteria. How tall is he? What did he run the 40-yard dash in? How high can he jump? Unfortunately, a player’s draft status is weighted too heavily on combine results. Too short? That’s the reason teams passed on him in the 1st two rounds? Teams were concerned about his vision and ability to see enough of the field to get a good view of his receivers

The University of Wisconsin puts more offensive linemen in the NFL than any other college program. Wilson didn’t have any problems seeing over a Wisconsin offensive line that averaged 6′ 5″ and 320 pounds. All you have to do is turn on any of his college games and see that he was the best athlete and leader on the field. The question we should be asking is how did so many teams get it wrong on an exceptional athlete with strong leadership qualities, high football IQ, and a proven track record. Russell Wilson is a football player. Period! 

Why do we miss on talent? Because we either have the wrong people assessing talent or we’re looking for the wrong things. First, most organizations are not investing enough to help leaders identify, acquire, develop, and retain top talent. World-class organizations invest in this area and make this a core competency with all hiring managers. Talent assessment and positional criteria also plays a major role in missing on talent. Are we looking for the right things? I’ve seen far too many hiring managers “wing it” and not rely upon fundamental disciplines. Do they have an exact job description? Have they taken the time to list the qualities, skill sets, and experiences they are looking for? Have they framed those in assessment criteria? Better yet…is it on paper? I’m a firm believer that if it’s not on paper it doesn’t exist. The last question is the most important one. Have they taken the time to develop these on their own or are they using a generic “playbook” they received from their organization?     

At the end of the day talent assessment comes down to simple things. Will the person’s qualities and experiences translate into success in your organization? Do they fit our culture? Is the individual a winner? Are they a natural leader? Do they have the “it” factor?  It goes back to the Barry Bonds example….you either have it or you don’t. 

raider nationIf you miss out on these simple things you could end up like the Oakland Raiders. Athletes with world-class speed and 42″ verticals. Guys that look all-world getting off the bus. Good football players?  No. Team success and a winning record? No. There’s a reason why the Raiders will continue to have early first round draft picks….and continue to produce busts. Sorry, Raider Nation! It all comes down to talent assessment…

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5 Comments on “It’s called Talent…..”

  1. mmlakeside 12/27/2012 at 7:59 AM #

    Excellent and well written. As a communicator and leader you have much in common with Barry Bonds. It’s called talent . . . . and you have it.

  2. Anonymous 12/27/2012 at 2:02 PM #

    One of the best feeds I’ve read about talent. The way you tie things together resonates with readers. I plan on using this information with my organization. Thank you and keep blogging.

  3. Anonymous 12/27/2012 at 9:47 PM #

    Your blog posts make me stop & think. They challenge me to think about how I do things. Thank you!

  4. Anonymous 12/27/2012 at 9:58 PM #

    You hit the nail own the head with NFL talent assessment. Too many busts due to combine results. And you’re right…the Raiders always get it wrong. LOL. Love your takes.

  5. Anonymous 12/28/2012 at 5:54 AM #

    Great blog. Talent wins!

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