Growing Naked Teams (I)

by abclarke

(3a of 5 in The Rules of Naked Management)

Last week I talked about how to create and run a “naked team” by using transparency and ingrained human nature to accomplish goals. This week I’ll talk about how to grow a naked team.

Losers?

Tom Brady has never won the Superbowl. Michael Jordan has never won the NBA Finals. And Lance Armstrong has never won the Tour de France.

It’s true. Look it up(1).

OK, OK, I’m probably using a little hyperbole, but bear with me. I’ll bet most readers will begrudgingly give me that Tom Brady has not individually won the Superbowl, his teams did (but you’ll insist that Brady had a lot to do with it). You’ll probably also give me that Michael Jordan didn’t individually win, but his teams did (and again you’ll insist that Jordan had a lot to do with it).

But Armstrong? For God’s sake, cycling is an individual sport and Armstrong has finished first in the standings seven times in a row. He has won numerous individual time trials on top of that to boot. How can I claim he has never won the Tour de France?

The answer? Well Lance Armstrong has never individually won the Tour de France, and in fact only achieved Tour de France success once he stopped trying to win individually. Similarly a good manager will never try to individually hire someone onto a Naked Team – it’s just too inefficient.

Read on for more.

The Nature of Bicycling

Lance Armstrong is an amazing athlete. Nobody else has won the Tour De France seven times, never mind in a row (the closest is five times in a row), and never mind after coming back from testicular cancer. Clearly he did something right. But the thing is he didn’t win on his own.

Most American’s don’t know this, but professional cycling is not an individual sport(2); it’s a team sport. During the grueling 100+ miles rides over 20+ days, several different teams are racing. Armstrong was on the US Postal and then the Discovery Channel teams for a reason – the other members on the team rode in front of him during the first 80% of the ride, to block the wind, reduce resistance, keep rivals pinned in, and keep Armstrong as fresh as possible for the close races near the end. Riding behind someone on a bike can reduce the amount of energy you need to spend by over 15%, and over Tour de France distances this really adds up. Yes, Lance Armstrong is a great cyclist but he only won because other team members, such as George Hincapie, would ride in front of Armstrong to give him a chance.

It’s the same thing with hiring people. Technically it is your job as a manager to hire someone, and your organization will congratulate you when a new hire is made in your team. But hiring, like Cycling, is best approached as a team sport, and if you do that, you’re far more likely to end up with great hires, great teams, and great results.

Team Hiring

There are several reasons why team-based hiring works, some objective and some subjective. To illustrate the objective, let’s compare two managers named Bob and Alice (no relation to previously discussed Bobs and Alices). Both managers have existing teams of 5 people and need to add a sixth member. And let’s assume that each hour invested in hiring yields at least 1 lead with a 10% chance of converting the lead to an employee (this is not always accurate, but in general more time == more leads).

Bob works hard on hiring. Somehow he manages to devote 10 hours a week to hiring (in reality, it’s unlikely any manager will actually invest that much time consistently). He focuses hard on recruiting, hard on interviewing, and hard on selling. He manages to transform his 10 hours a week into a pipeline of 10 leads with 1 promising candidate – a relatively good ratio of candidates to leads in my experience. Yay Bob!

Alice also works hard on hiring, but in a different way. She only devotes 5 hours a week to hiring, but as part of that 5 hours spends 2 hours of that making sure the rest of her team is involved heavily in the recruiting and interviewing. Each of her team members spends 2 hours a week focused on hiring (5% of their time). Alice looks inefficient but counting her entire team she has spent a total of 15 hours on hiring (including 2 hours of overhead). And she has distributed recruiting among her 5 team members. As a result, Alice is able to transform her 15 hours a week into a pipeline of 23 leads (4 leads per employee, + 3 for Alice’s productive time). This leads to 2.3 promising candidates – which is an amazing return on Alice’s 5 hours. Alice wins!

But that’s the objective advantage and it is outweighed by the subjective advantages. If you approach hiring as a team sport you do the following:

  1. Everyone on your team acts as a recruiter to grow your pipeline, the most important thing to get up and running early when hiring.
  2. Everyone on your team will help sell a new candidate since they were involved in defining what’s needed and recruiting.
  3. New employees will be excited because they see a team, rather than a manager, that is excited.
  4. Everyone on your team feels invested in the new hire, and so will work harder to help them succeed when they start.

Those advantages pay off during recruiting, pay off during interviewing and hiring, and really shine as you incorporate your new employee.

Hiring is like cycling, except the advantages to team hiring are way greater than the 15% efficiency that team-cycling brings the team captain. And the best way to implement Team Hiring is to already run a Naked Team and use those philosophies to Grow the Naked Team.

How To Do It

OK, enough philosophical bullshit on why Growing Naked Teams works – how do you actually do it? Well… I’ll post that tomorrow but I’ll give you a hint now. Here are the 7 steps I follow:

  1. Know What You Want
  2. Draw a Map
  3. Install a Pacemaker
  4. Make Everyone Play
  5. Spoil Your Rejects
  6. Tease Your Candidates
  7. Run Past The Finish

(to be continued tomorrow…)

– Art

I’m attempting (maybe) to run the NYC Marathon on November 4th for Team Continuum. Click here to donate.

(1) Actually, don’t look it up. It’s not true. But you already knew that.

(2) Since several readers of this blog are cyclists, you guys already know this. But most American’s do not bike regularly, and have never watched or been in a professional bike race.

(3) It always amazes me that cycling continues as a team sport given that the media and public lionize only the winner – it’s a testament to how much the efficiency gains really matter. But watch what the “winning” rider talks about when they are doing post-win interviews; almost universally they talk about the team effort because they realize they wouldn’t be where they are without the team. As a manager, don’t forget this either.