Friday, October 24, 2014

Too Talented?! Preemptive Organizational Lessons from the 2014-2015 Kentucky Wildcats Men’s Basketball Team

Press Release April 25, 2014- Once assumed to be 2014 lottery picks the Harrison Twins are returning to the University of Kentucky for their sophomore seasons…

Thus began the barrage of questions about John Calipari’s 2014-2015 squad. Presumed NBA first round selections, and All-Americans Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, and Alex Polythress had all announced their 14-15 return while James Young and Julius Randle, two fixtures of the class of 13-14, decided to go pro. Expectations arose: “[this team] the 2014-2015 edition will have depth at just about every position, experience and balance (Goodman, April 26, 2014).” Goodman said that Calipari’s greatest challenge, as he balances an incoming #2 recruiting class and nine total McDonald’s All-Americans (by the way, the current Los Angeles Lakers roster boasts four), will be managing minutes, roles and ego.

Despite Big Blue Nation clamoring for a ninth national title the issues surrounding the 2014-2015 Wildcats are prevalent and real. However, despite the challenges, should a coach (or CEO) ever fear too much talent? No, absolutely not. The most successful organizations search for and develop talented individuals (see Google, Amazon, Apple). The question of too many gifted and effective individuals should never enter the mind of a leader. Organizational fit is absolutely a matter of importance. One should hire workers that can get behind the organization, will sacrifice for the good of the company and can adjust their personality and style to build up the corporation. All of these traits are crucial but employers should also look for talent and encourage leaders to mold talented individuals into a productive unit.  

The issue is not too much talent; the challenge is managing talent and morphing talented employees into an effective and efficient organizational force. Individuals are typically driven by what is good for “them” but a transformational leader will cast vision and encourages buy-in while developing the roadmap to accomplish what is good for all. The sports world will be watching John Calipari, can he manage minutes, roles, and ego? The corporate world should take note as well. Hire talented people and put in place transformational leaders who can cast a vision and manage implementation.

Alan Murray, author of The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management, believed that the magic of managing talented people centered on making sure the best members of the organization are committed to the goals of the organization and that the best people recognize that these goals are worth achieving. Talent can be refined, structured, encouraged. Harvard Business Review, in 2007, published a series of articles addressing hot topic of talent management but we still struggle with some of the same issues in 2014. Yes, managing average and mediocre employees can be easier, and less-threatening, but successful organizations and successful executives must not be afraid to harness and hire talent. Here are three practical tips to managing an army of talent: 

1) Cast a clear and unifying vision and encourage buy-in by articulating why the mission is important. The leader-follower (manager-employee) relationship will only work if the manager proves that the organization’s vision is worthy of executing. If talented individuals do not grasp the relevance of the moment they will not fight for results, nor will they fight for you. Buy-in, however, is not easy. Reinforce your ideas and manage on an interpersonal level. 

2) Define roles and expectations. Talented people typically appreciate the freedom to innovate. Define parameters but encourage creativity.

3) Hire talent but recognize that talent can be developed. Transformational leaders, if willing to put in the time and effort to cultivate the abilities of talented employees, can make a dramatic difference in organizations by mentoring those who have “rough” gifting.

John Calipari must manage the minutes, roles, and egos of his nine McDonald’s All-Americans. Incoming freshman, high and prep school all-stars must catch the vision of sacrifice, and upper classmen, armed with a fresh visit to the national championship game, must not get bored with recent success. Despite potential critics clamoring that Calipari has too much talent (a potentially ridiculous proposition) it is assumed that managers and executives would rather have too much talent than too little. Do not allow the potential difficulties of managing the responsibilities, roles and egos of talented individuals lead to safe hires. Oh, to be John Calipari and have too many talented individuals!