Tim Brennan
Profiles International
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Recently, I noticed that every sports channel on cable TV has a program called “The Business of Sports”, or something similar. In the program, they uncover stories behind the scores and statistics. I like to look at it the other way: let’s call it “The Sport of Business”.

Sports teams have people who spend every day evaluating talent. Scouts look for talent in the minor leagues; coaches and analysts track every statistic possible. A team of people tape every practice and game for the sole purpose of understanding talent and potential talent!

Sports teams know where the gaps are and have a General Manager who is responsible for finding talent and integrating it into the team. They don’t limit themselves to what they have. They don’t wait till the end of the season. They certainly don’t wait for the player to retire. They look over the field and go after the ones they want!

Do you evaluate your talent like a sports team? How does your performance appraisal system work? Does it work to improve the team, or is it just something endured to get an annual raise?

Imagine this: My daughter plays on a hockey team. Their rink does not have a scoreboard, just a clock. When the buzzer sounds, you know the game is over. The players return to the dressing room, and about twenty minutes later the referee comes in and tells them who won and who lost. Doesn’t this sound silly? How is this different than your appraisal system?

Are you having problems attracting talent? In baseball, the top performers want to play with the best. Consider the New York Yankees: who would not want to play for the Yankees, a team that is competitive every year and has won more championships than any sports team in any sport? Top performers enjoy playing with other top performers! What is your team’s goal? Win a championship, or finish and go home?

When you think talent in sports, do you think Tiger Woods? How many “Tiger Woods” do you have on your team? Do you pay them like Tiger Woods? Top performers in sports earn four-to-five times more than average performers. Is it like that at your company? Is there motivation to be a top performer or do you have team members who are happy to make what they made last year? Are top performers compensated like the superstars they are?

I grew up in Brantford, Ontario – the same community as Wayne Gretzky. I learned something at a young age: some people have more talent than others and some people have a lot more talent than others. Why are top performers top performers? There are many theories…but I am not a big fan of theories. I like action! Here is my action plan: profile top performers in your organization, profile your middle group and finally examine some of your poor performers. What characteristics are different between these three groups? In each business where we use this process, we find different combinations of important characteristics. This explains why someone can be a marginal player on one team, then move to another team, fit in better, and have a career season!

What about training in your organization? Sports teams spend more time training than they do playing the game. Sometimes a player is sent to a farm team in the system for future coaching and development. Sports teams recognize that it is a good investment to spend dollars on training raw talent, if he or she has the right attitudes and characteristics to fit in with the future team.

Have you ever noticed that the top players are not the coaches? Phil Jackson, coach of the Chicago Bulls (eight championships in 12 years), had it figured out. Phil understood his players better than they knew themselves. He knew the “whole person,” and he knew each player needed to be coached on individual terms. After the championship season of 2001, Jackson was quoted as having said, “Coaching is winning people over.” He understood winning them over, one player at a time.

What is each player’s role on your team? Coach? Star forward? Fourth-line grinder trying to hold on to the last spot on the roster, hoping someone with more talent is not just around the corner to take their job? If you are not sure, maybe now is the time to find out.

Assess your talent—win in the sport of business.