The Next Promotion

Those of you who follow professional basketball (and maybe just live in LA or NY) know that Phil Jackson has been hired by the New York Knicks to be their president of basketball operations.  Mr. Jackson was a role player on the Knicks’ championship teams in the 70s and won 12 championships as the head coach with the Chicago Bulls (when he had Michael Jordon and Scottie Pippen) and the LA Lakers (where he had Shaquille O’Neil and Kobe Bryant).  In both of these situations Jackson came to the team when it had two of the greatest players in NBA history.  New York will present him with a different set of challenges.

Since their glory days of the 70s, the Knicks have floundered.  Sure, they’ve made the playoffs, but they have not been a serious contender since the mid-90s.  Like with any poorly performing organization, there are a lot of reasons for this.  Recently, bad management decisions is definitely one of them.  Another is the team’s refusal to rebuild its talent in a significant way.  Right now they have one really good player (Carmelo Anthony) and not much else and they don’t have the money available to really be a factor in signing good players.

All of this makes Jackson an interesting choice.  He has no previous executive experience and with the Lakers and the Bulls he worked for very strong presidents of basketball operations.  One of the criticisms of Jackson’s coaching career was that he always had great players to work with.  Now, he’s going to have to build a team practically from scratch in a high pressure environment that gets a lot of media attention.

So, put yourself in the position of senior HR exec (or hiring executive) at the Knicks.  You’d look at Jackson’s resume and say, “Well, he certainly has been successful in previous positions.  But do we really want someone with no executive experience as our president?  He is smart and hopefully learned something from the executives he worked for.”

What would your interview questions have look like?

“Tell me about a time where you got a player to significantly improve his performance.  How did you do this?”

“How have you encouraged superstar players like Carmelo Anthony to raise the performance of his teammates without sacrificing the quality of his game?”

“How have you gone about evaluating talent on other teams?  College players?”

Of course, much of the above would have been a moot point as Jackson’s hiring had little to do with whether he was the best person for the job.  He wanted an executive position and there wasn’t one available (or made for him) with the Lakers.  The Knicks wanted the publicity and there wouldn’t much too much criticism for hiring a guy with more than two hands full of championships.  It also gives them some cover if the hire does not work out (but, we hired PHIL JACKSON!).

So, it turns out that the NBA is not much different than regular businesses.  People get promoted into positions based on how well they did in their previous one.  Like everywhere else, this is unlikely to work out well.  If you think otherwise, take a look at how well Michael Jordan is doing as the head of basketball operations of the Charlotte Bobcats.

For more information on pre-employment testing and talent management, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or  [email protected]

The Big Round Table

The Big Round Table

I had a chance to participate in a very large roundtable discussion on hiring last week.  Also participating were CEOs, other consultants (none I/O psychologists), students and executives of medium-sized businesses

It was a pretty free-wheeling discussion that covered a lot of ground.  I spoke last (or close to it), so I was able to make several observations about the participants’ thoughts about selection.

1)    The over-reliance on interviews was striking.  People thought you could interview accurately for just about everything.

2)    Only one person had any semblance of metrics of how good of an interviewer s/he was (no one I’ve interviewed has ever quit).

3)    The younger participants made a big deal about how an interview goes both ways.  However, they were poor at articulating what they expected from their prospective employer beyond the vague “it has to be a good fit.”  Considering their lack of leverage in this job market they should have a clearer idea about this before rejecting a job offer.

When it got to be my turn I focused my comments on how interviewing was expensive compared to most tests when you consider the hiring manager’s time.  This got some head nods.  The discussion moved towards hiring leaders and the traits they possess.  A discussion of leadership competencies ensued and this provided an opportunity to talk about assessing behaviors, which led to an opportunity to demonstrate how an assessment center works (two brave souls volunteered to participate in a coaching role-play).

The moral is that there is still a lack of sophistication in valid hiring methodologies.  One can either consider this a reason to fret (HR will never fully get it and is leaving value on the table) or an opportunity to provide education (there are HR professionals out there willing to learn and do things differently—they just need the right tools).

For more information on pre-employment testing and talent management, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or  [email protected]


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