What am I? Just a teacher – a member of one of the great professions in the world.
John Wooden, Wooden on Leadership
“For a lot of employees, Starbucks is their first professional experience… So we try to figure out how to give our employees the self-discipline they didn’t learn in high school.”
Quoted in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
So, let’s state the problem simply. Many employees are not equipped to do the actual jobs that they are hired to do. Even if an employee has the “skills,” or at least the “knowledge” to do some jobs, they have to grow into these jobs in a lot of ways. (Learning to make the right mixture and temperature of the coffee drink is a different skill than knowing how to successfully interact with a customer the “Starbucks way”).
In other words, developing employees is one of the critical needs of the era.
So, what do we do about it?
My colleague Karl Krayer, in his Team-Building workshops, talks about the two kinds of roles every team member fills. The first kind is the “official/formal” role. Captain; secretary; leader; foreman; “member” (every team member is always, officially a “member”). But there are other roles, the “unofficial/informal” roles that are never officially assigned. These are roles that people just seem to step into based partly on the power of their personality. These are roles such as the team “cheerleader;” the team “mother;” the team “counselor.” People have natural gifts, and tendencies , and they fill these roles just because that is who they are. These roles are “good,” and helpful to every group. Encourage folks to fill these roles. (There are also some “bad” unofficial roles, such as “slacker;” “pain-in-the-rear.” These are not good roles, and must be guarded against constantly).
Well, in the realm of employee development, I think there is this same official-unofficial (formal-informal) reality at work. Some people have a job title that represents some form of “leadership.” Here’s a representative list:
But for an employee who needs to be developed (and, don’t we all?!), there is also a great need for someone(s) to fill another set of roles; “unofficial” roles, but roles that are critical. Here’s one list of such roles:
Vice Principal (a disciplinarian role).
I think that in this under-managed, under-led era, there is also an under-coached, under-taught, under-mentored problem that must be addressed if we want to develop our employees.
Some of these roles can be filled (should be filled) by the people with the official titles. But there is also a need for “everyone” to start letting their natural gifts help build others.
Consider: in the movie Moneyball, there is a terrific scene when Billy Bean asks David Justice, now in the last days of his playing career, to step up and help the younger players know how to play this game. He had no title for this role. But Justice “got it,” and agreed to step up for this challenge. “Coach; mentor; teacher.” There is an element to each of these in the challenge that David Justice accepted.
So, here is what a good manager/supervisor needs to spend some time on. Look carefully at each employee. Does this particular employee need some teaching, or coaching, or some discipline, or some soft-skills development? Once the need is clearly identified, then the pairing begins to put the right coach or mentor or teacher with the employee.
Because, when the hiring is done, the employee does not usually arrive fully developed. With the right management, and the right teaching/coaching/mentoring, that employee just might rise to meet and exceed all of your high expectations.
Without such attention and help, we should not be surprised when employees cease to develop.
Last night, I presented for the first time in about six years my synopsis of Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis. It is a book that chronicles how the Oakland A’s, under the philosophy of General Manager Billy Beane, was able to compete with the big boys on much less money.
2002: New York Yankees – 103 wins — $126 million payroll
2002: Oakland A’s – 103 wins — $41 million payroll
Or, consider this: the worst team in major league baseball will win 49 games per year, with the “minimum” payroll. (No, I do not understand how the numbers gurus arrive at such calculations). So, the cost per win over 49 is another number worth crunching. So, ponder this comparison from the same time period:
The Texas Rangers spent $3 million per win for every win over 49
The Oakland A’s spent $500,000 per win for every win over 49
So Moneyball tried to tell the story of how numbers changed the thinking regarding how a team with limited resources could compete in a very unfair game/league. And, though it is disappointing that the story could not end with an A’s World Series win, it demonstrated that the A’s got really, really close – with far fewer dollars than the big spenders.
But this book is not about baseball (though it is entirely about baseball). It is actually about our blind spots. (Yes, Lewis wrote The Blind Side also). It is about the fact that we make so many evaluations and judgments and decisions based on intuition, and a commitmnt to “the way we have always done things,” rather than on hard and reliable data. And such a data-deprived approach to evaluation and decision making is flawed. And we are blind to our blindness.
Here’s a key quote from the book:
By analyzing baseball statistics you could see through a lot of baseball nonsense.
In the updated edition of Moneyball, Lewis has an afterword entitled: Inside Baseball’s Religious War. His premise: the way to evaluate talent in the old days (with a few checks, like running speed and batting average, and a whole lot of “gut”) is simply not as reliable as the new science of sabermetrics. In other words, scouting baseball talent is built on a “religion,” not a science. And Lewis chronicles how the insiders of baseball’s unofficial “Club, ” the followers of the old religion, utterly disdained Billy Beane and his ways.
But now, we are all learning to know better. Bill James, the father of sabermetrics, the father of Billy Beane baseball, works for the Boston Red Sox, and his numbers helped break the Bambino’s curse. (That really is the triumph of science over religion).
This is a book about baseball, about numbers, about blindness, about blindness to our blindness. It is also a book about Wall Street and the crash without ever mentioning Wall Street. It is about our unshakeable belief in our intuition, and our tendency to deny/ignore/stay purposefully blind to the numbers that could correct our thinking.
Michael Burry is one of the ones who saw the crash coming, and Michael Lewis tells his story in The Big Short. Here are the first lines of Burry’s op-ed from last weekend’s New York Times: I Saw the Crisis Coming. Why Didn’t the Fed?:
Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, proclaimed last month that no one could have predicted the housing bubble. “Everybody missed it,” he said, “academia, the Federal Reserve, all regulators.”
But that is not how I remember it.
Whether the topic is baseball, Wall Street, investment strategies, or a multitude of business concerns, we have the same need – how can we learn to read the data, how can we understand which data is the important/most useful/most critical data, and how can we fight our tendency to go with our gut when the numbers are screaming at us something like this:
“What are you, some kind of idiot?!”