Oscar Wilde told us that “life imitates art.” In a similar vein, I would suggest that business imitates sport, especially professional and major college level athletics. Think about it… Our vernacular is chock-full of sports-related terms and analogies. Sports stars are frequent keynoters at business conferences. My partner and I have shared the dais with plenty of them. A lot of business incentive programs and contests are oriented around sports themes. Professional sports invented player free-agentry. Business is perfecting it.
A recent event in the NBA foreshadows a developing theme in the business world. Los Angeles Clippers star point guard, Chris Paul, an unrestricted free agent in NBA parlance, is widely credited with putting his thumb on the scale that caused the firing of Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, and the subsequent hiring of Boston Celtics coach, Doc Rivers, who was still under contract to the Celtics. Mr. Paul made it pretty well known that he would be inclined to stay with the Clippers if the team somehow managed to recruit Rivers away from the Celtics. They did, and he did.
Buckle up, sports fans, because we’re about to see this playing out on a much larger, though less public scale in our own corner of the world. With the release of the June jobs report, evidence is accumulating that the U.S. job market is beginning to gather steam (okay, hot water). As interest in making career moves begins to stir in earnest, one of the biggest influencers on the stay vs. go decisions will be the reputation of individual leaders and the relationship people have, or want to have with them, much more so than the quality of the institution and its employment brand.
Subprime leaders will be the first to experience exodus, and in some cases star employees will, like Chris Paul, demand better leadership as a condition of staying put. Conversely, leaders of choice will become even bigger talent magnets if they stay, and higher priced players should they declare themselves free agents.
What should you be doing about it?
- Keep your finger on the pulse of the organization, at all levels. Stay current with employee survey data and use it, together with ‘stay interviews’ as a means of identifying at-risk leaders, and issues that might drive your talent to a competitor.
- Get serious about de-selecting those leaders who have lost the benefit of the doubt with their team, and coaching those who remain.
- Actively involve some of your stronger leaders in the recruitment process.
- Tighten up your recruitment and selection processes to make them more effective, efficient AND candidate-friendly.
Get moving with the four above-mentioned steps now. The Clippers can call a time out. You can’t.
A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows