What’s Your Omaha?

As we gear up for the Super Bowl, we are inundated with the stories surrounding the game.  Will Manning be able to throw in cold weather?  Can the top offense beat the top defense?  Will Richard Sherman snap and  eat a baby?  Anything is possible!

One of the stories we have heard quite a bit is about Peyton Manning’s “Omaha” call.  What is it?  According to Manning, it could be a lot of things.

“Omaha is a run play, but it could be a pass play or a play-action pass depending on a couple things: the wind, which way we’re going, the quarter and the jerseys that we’re wearing. So it varies, really, play to play, so, that’s — there’s your answer to that one.”

The truth is, apparently, that Omaha is a hurry-up call to get the ball snapped.  Usually.  Unless it is a non-hurry-up call to try to draw the defense.  But let’s stick with the first use for a moment.

The idea of an audible around the need to move quickly or in a pre-defined way isn’t all that new.  Heck, we used them playing Dungeons & Dragons when I was in college high school junior high school.  Anyone called out “red flag,” everyone knew to turn their attention in that direction for one round, usually to deal with a wraith, dragon or Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.  So most of us know from an audible.  But are you using them in the workplace?

Often the default setting for letting people know something is important is to be REALLY LOUD about it.  That’s also the setting for being angry, working in high winds, or finding yourself  in a country where you do not speak the local language (though this includes speaking slowly as well).  How useful would it be to have your own Omaha that, when called, let’s everyone know “hey, this is really important, we need to move quickly, and I’d really appreciate if anyone with a free moment could jump in to help take care of it, knowing that I will have your back as well should the situation ever call for it.”  Think of all the hurt feelings and misunderstandings that you could avoid, not to mention the productivity surges on critical items with no need for long project meetings.

You aren’t required to use Omaha, of course.  Feel free to use any Nebraska town or Counting Crows song.  You’ll be better for it.




Accountability and the NFL

Work rules are weird.  We talk a lot about culture, but rarely go after behaviors that build the wrong kind of culture.  Especially if those behaviors are perpetrated by high performers.  Have a sales manager who is killing his number, but close to 100% turnover in the process?  Maybe you overlook the damage he does to the “ditch diggers” on the way to higher revenue.  A high performing executive that verbally abuses his assistant in front of others?  Unless a lawsuit is coming your way, you might let it slide.  We all know the stories.  So it is nice when someone publicly holds a star accountable for their actions.  When it is a pro sports team, it’s that much more interesting.  From ESPN:

[DeSean] Jackson won’t play after he missed a team meeting on Saturday morning, a team source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Jackson, a two-time Pro Bowl pick, is the [Philadelphia Eagle’s] second-leading receiver with 29 catches for 503 yards and two touchdowns this season. Jackson had 110 catches for 2,223 yards and 15 TDs as a receiver the last two years and already owns the franchise record with four punt returns for scores.

There is some dispute over the benching.  His agent claims it is part of contract negotiations.  The team says this was the “final straw” in a series of behaviors.  Whatever the case, the Eagles were without one of their top players, and lost another in Jeremy Maclin to an injury early in the game.  Maclin came back, but the Eagles lost to Arizona 21-17.

How much have you put up with from a star player?  Or a borderline player, for that matter.  If you don’t hold people accountable, you can’t protect your culture.  And that, in itself, will build the culture for you.  Just not the one you are probably looking for.

Penn State, Blame and the NCAA

I wasn’t sure I was going to write about this, but I guess I am.  Wish I didn’t feel the need, or that there was anything to write about.  But there you go.  I’m not going to recount the details at any level.  That’s been done plenty in other places.

I have been fascinated by this story.  Not by the crimes, the terrible failures of leaders, the men who stood by and did nothing in exactly the situation where any person with a shred of compassion would have taken marked action.  Those things are tragic, but I think speak more to social inertia and to the incredible failure of a system that is supposedly designed to protect our youth. I don’t want to hear more of that than I already have.

I am, though, fascinated by the reaction of those uninvolved, or at least those whose involvement goes not further than their connection with the school, the football program, the coach, or to sports in general.  People who have made their voice heard on talk radio shows, ESPN, local newspapers and, of course, the Interwebs.  And far, far too many have spoken up in defense of Joe Paterno.  (For the record, I define too many, in this case, as any number greater than zero.)

Much of the bickering is over at whose feet would should lay the blame for this tragedy.  Some, quite understandably, demand the blame belongs to the perpetrator.  No argument here.  There’s not a punishment great enough.  But many of those people defend the coach, as he reported what he heard through “proper channels.”  The administration handed it to the police.  The police investigated and decided nothing need be done.  Time marched on, as did the string of events and victims.  The system failed.  Which of the people should take the blame?

Here’s the thing.  There’s no need to point fingers in the chain of command.  Every last one of these men are culpable.  Those who are concerned about the “legend” of JoePa are in arms that he was fired over the phone.  Stay tuned.  It’s not out of the question that a prosecutor decides to go ballistic on this case and file charges against everyone who knew anything.  And I have to admit, I’d be just fine with that.  If you knew something, anything, and stood idly by, that in my mind makes you part of what happened.

There’s another aspect that I’m waiting to hear, and that’s the NCAA response.  On the same day that Paterno was fired, ESPN ran this story that Ohio State (sorry, THE Ohio State) “will face a ‘failure to monitor’ charge in addition to more allegations of rules violations by its troubled football program.”  That big deal about players getting free tattoos seems a little silly now, right?  Are you sure that “failure to monitor” note wasn’t intended for someone a little further east?

The NCAA is ready to step in whenever revenue is threatened or there is a perceived inequity in player treatment.  Except Cam Newton, of course.  How could they consider standing idle in this case?  It may be that they are waiting for the facts to come out, then plan to step in.  I hope that’s the case.  If not, it will be as great a failure as they have ever had.  They have handed out their “death penalty” to programs for recruiting and eligibility violations.  They take the team off the field, cancel scholarships, take away bowl and television appearances.

If you want to make sure schools, not to mention anyone who works for or with those schools in the capacity of watching over youths who come their way, take this to heart, you need to make a statement.  A bold one.

Take away the Penn State football program. 

I don’t mean a few scholarships.  I don’t mean their bowl rights.  I don’t mean their wins.  I mean the whole thing.  Shut it down.  Shut it down tomorrow.  Tell the world that there is a price to be paid by anyone who is in any way connected to this kind of crime.  There will be no more cover ups or hush money.  There will be a much higher standard applied going forward.  And it would be voluntary.  But it can only be driven home with a sledgehammer.  When you are done, stand aside and let them throw the bunch of them, Sandusky, Paterno, McQueary, Schultz, Curley, and anyone else involved, in jail. They each should bear the responsibility of what they have wrought.

Are you a College or Pro Recruiter?

Football season is almost upon us again, and the lockout has had an interested effect on the free agency period.  (This is American Football, of course.  Sorry for any confusion.)  And while I’m in a candidate experience mindset, I thought it was a good time to talk about the differences in the types of recruiters, and how their stakeholders drive their tactics.

College Recruiters

College gigs are tough.  It puts you, in theory, on a level playing field with your competition if you can’t pay the player.  (Yes, it’s a flawed assumption.  Just roll with it, OK?)  You are trying to bring in talent for your team based on:

  • Playing time
  • Location
  • Amenities
  • Academics
  • Prestige
  • Long term (meaning Pro) career opportunities

Pro Recruiter

The pros can recruit on those things.  But often, it comes down to one thing when wooing a free agent.

  • Cash

Too often, cash is king in the professional sports world.  (It is one reason I think it is so interesting that there is still so much anger towards LeBron James when he took less money to play with his friends and try for a title.  I mean, I get the anger, but that part gets glossed over.)  And there are plenty of examples where a professional player made their decisions strictly on the dollars.  They are pressured by the player’s association to do so in many cases.  It doesn’t mean the other things aren’t important, but there is a reason why people still joke about Mike Hampton signing with the Rockies and saying “the schools are better” in Denver.  The stacks of cash were higher, too.  It matters.

This came up a bit on my recent Drive Thru HR appearance.  Friend of the show William Tincup asked if I felt a candidate would choose company A over company B if company A provided a horrible candidate experience, but 20% more money.  My response was yes, maybe.  Depends on your situation.  (There’s more to it than that.  You should go listen to the whole thing.)

So which are you?

If you’ve done any time in HR or as a manager, you’ve done some recruiting.  So what’s your style?  Do you roll out the amenities and dance around the question of compensation as long as you can?  Or do you open with a strong package and then spin the “extras” around it?

There’s a time and place for each approach, I suppose.  Recruiters seem to want to talk comp after you are hooked.  It’s a bit like the car salesman that goes after the “is it just the price” angle.  If I know you love the car, and you want the car, the emotional decision is made and the logic part can be wrestled to the ground.  Likewise, if you want to join a team, and they want you on the team, the rest is just details, right?

The truth is, though, our world doesn’t always work that way.  Sometimes talent goes to the highest bidder.  You’ve got to know you candidate, where they are coming from, what is important in their world, and what their hot button will be.  Just like sales.  And if your candidate is all about the Benjamins, it doesn’t matter how new the exercise center is, or the quality of food in the cafeteria, or the free coffee, or the scenic view from their new office.  Sometimes is it just about compensation.

Of course, we all know that compensation doesn’t motivate performance (once moved past the point of being a demotivator, anyway).  That’s when the college recruiter should kick in and make sure that they are aware of the new treadmill, the gourmet salads, the French roast and the 5-acre lake.  They do matter.

There is one other kind of recruiter.  High School recruiters.  For the most part, a player is going to a  school because that’s where the bus takes them.  The recruiter’s job is pretty easy.  They also mostly live with the luck of the draw for getting talent on their team.  And as long as they don’t expect to succeed at the next level with that strategy, they are OK.

Don’t be the high school recruiter trying to fill out a pro or college roster.  You will fail.  So will your team.  Use the perks, use the cash, and create a comprehensive package to get the right talent.  Otherwise, you’re left with hoping to get what you need.  And we all know that hope is not a strategy.



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