NFL Draft

When it comes to successfully building your ideal team, the yearly NFL Draft is my favorite example. I’m kind of a geek about it. In fact, in the late 1990’s I created a draft algorithm that would predict who would be picked next based on constantly evolving factors. Like I said, geek.

The draft has thrown many surprises at us over the years, but one of the most memorable was in 2007, when the Green Bay Packers drafted a defensive lineman, Justin Harrell, during the first round of picks. Lots of draft professionals didn’t quite understand the decision.

Many people felt that, based on his injury history, Harrell had no business going in the first round.

It seemed our algorithm was wrong and it took some deep evaluation to figure out why.

What could Green Bay have seen that we missed? Were we wrong? Why? Could the Packers simply have over-drafted?

We dug in knowing that time would bear out whether or not it was the right call, but like any personnel move it’s impossible to know if it was a good call until after time.

Green Bay chose Harrell based on objective measurements like speed, height and weight rather than considering only his rank in the overall scheme of the NFL.  But they ALSO chose him because they measured the risk of losing him against the value of the remaining players on the board.  In short, they knew the market.

Green Bay’s scouting team put more value on these numbers in relation to their team’s needs. Instead of choosing their first round pick based on talent alone and which players were most wanted in general, Green Bay paid more attention to what Harrell could do for their team. In addition, they saw Harrell as valuable, not only for their team, but for other teams as well and determined that if they didn’t scoop him in the first round, Harrell would not be an option for them during the second round pick, 32 picks later. And just about every player left on the board was – essentially – the same value to them.

How can we know this?  Two ways.

1.  When Green Bay’s pick came up again 32 picks later, they traded way down the board to gain extra picks – so MORE was better than SOONER meaning the players were all valued roughly the same to them.

2. Look back on the history of the 32 players who were selected by the teams who picked after Green Bay. Only a few had worthwhile careers and they were all selected in the late 1st / early 2nd round….around the same spot Justin Harrell was projected to have been taken and before the Packers picked again.

Essentially, Green Bay took stock of what additions their team needed and determined that one of the most important positions they had to fill was an under tackle. Then scouts determined which players were valuable as under tackles and evaluated the chances that these players would be available in follow-up rounds.

What Green Bay saw was that, regardless of Harrell’s listed position, he was one of few options that year who would excel as an under tackle.  Plus, the value of drafting him early vs. drafting another player rated only slightly better who didn’t address a need or whose skill set group presented larger later in the draft meant he had scarcity compared to those who might have had a slightly better grade.

When they viewed him through these lenses, Green Bay chose Harrell confidently and utilized him for three seasons.

The ability to assess a player outside his overall talent level and instead see him for his value on your particular team, is an invaluable skill, and it translates outside professional sports.

When you’re building your perfect team, do you pay more attention to the overall package your potential employee presents, or do you know how to hone in on the skills you actually need?

It is a viable possibility that the perfect salesperson for your team may not be a top pick in other categories, but do you really need him (or her, this is 2014) to perform duties outside sales?

Do you know the market? Do you know how many exist and who’s open to moving? At any given time do you know when someone who is perfect for your team is available? Do you know when you’re taking a risk?

Maybe the NFL has it right, and the perfect team isn’t composed of a handful of all-stars, but is made up of a group of players who know where their strengths lie and how to capitalize on them.

Take an assessment of the methods you use to choose new team members. Do you put emphasis on each player being utility or can you see unique value in each potential employee? Are you on track to build a group of successful individuals or en route to creating a superstar team?

Oh, so how did Justin Harrell pan out?  He didn’t.  His injuries crept in and his career was uneventful at best.  BUT was Green Bay wrong?  No, because 2007 was also recently rated the worst draft in the last ten years.  So what did they REALLY risk?  Not much, and they knew that, because they understood the market, scarcity, skill sets, and team needs.  They didn’t just hunt for heads….

Interview YOU First

Everyone hates the job search. There are any number of reasons for this, beyond it being an awful user experience, but I want to offer a few words of motivation and a humble opinion.

As for motivation, know there is no such thing as a job or a career. There is only the decision on how you spend most of YOUR LIFE…and you only get one. Choose wisely.

How do I choose wisely? Stop focusing on what potential employers want; what do you want? If the goal is to enjoy life versus survive it, place more importance on what you need and want to ensure happiness. If happiness isn’t a concern, stop reading now.

What are you looking for? Create your employee profile. What kind of player are you? What sort of position are you hoping to find? You can tap into these answers with some internal examination, but there are tools to guide you and friends and family who know you well. One day I’ll go into my experience with this, but needless to say it resulted in me betting on myself, a decision I’m enjoying!

Check out aptitude tests such as Tom Rath’s StrengthFinder, Predictive Index (PI), and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. An online search also renders multiple, useful results. Even personality tests are helpful, as they can be guide to what type of job fits you best. According to my PI, some traits are that I openly challenge everything. I’m assertive and demanding, and I put high pressure on myself to achieve. I’m a risk taker who is highly adaptive and quick to decision, rarely dwelling on a positive or negative outcome. A common word for these traits is “jerk”. I’ve been told it’s French.

Input from friends and family helped me determine what type of role fits. Friends, family and coworkers (past or present) know you well and can see what makes you happy and unhappy, where you excel and where you…well…suck. Ask for feedback, and be grateful for it, because you’ll probably need to talk to these individuals again later for clarification.

Develop tough skin when receiving critical feedback and if you don’t get critical feedback, demand it – the world is still looking for the perfect person, odds are it’s not you. Accepting and assessing the feedback doesn’t mean others are always right, but consider the fact that these are perceptions you may need to alter. One of my best friends wonders why I can’t just work for a company versus starting companies, while another great friend believes I’m perfect for it. I tend to agree with the second friend. My wife tells me starts ups – mine or others – are best for me but she’s scared to hell of them She fears losing the house and stability for our kids, we agree there, but we also agree it’s a driver for me no matter where I am. This is all feedback I requested, and it’s honest. So make these conversations raw and real or don’t waste your (or their) time.

When defining your ideal job, don’t neglect factors like travel, weekly hours expected and various other responsibilities. If you derive joy in spending lots of time with family, don’t take a job that requires 70 hours a week. If you can’t handle airplanes, avoid jobs where you’ll spend lots of time in a seat with limited leg room. All of this makes a huge difference in career happiness. I’m like Dr. Seuss; I can work on a box, with rocks, while sitting on a fox, depending on what the fox is doing. I work all the time because it doesn’t feel like work, but when I need a break I take one. I desire flexibility because I hold myself so damn accountable. Seminal moments with my wife and kids are what get me going outside of work, so I schedule around those things…which leaves a ton of time to work. I don’t miss Cleveland Browns games either, though maybe it would be healthier if I did.

Once you’ve established these terms, consider your wallet. Remember that the amount of money you want and the amount you need are often two different numbers. Experts like Suzy Orman or Dave Ramsey can help create a budget of need, an annoying, but necessary evil. From that point, determine how much money you want overall. I hate family budgets, but I respect them. My wife and I barely met our “need” number last year. This year we should, but my want number is astronomical. I don’t care about boats or cars or things like that. I’m a dreamer and I have ideas I want to build and companies I want to make successful. I also want to buy the Browns; all that takes capital outside my family’s essential needs.

Once your employee profile has been built, define your preferences and skill sets in company terms to determine where you will be most comfortable. Are you a creative thinker? Are you money-driven? Do you prefer to work alone or function better as a team member? Different types of businesses value different characteristics, so this step is important in matching you with a corporation, start-up, small business, etc. In what sort of work atmosphere do you feel most at home? Do you excel in client relations or prefer to work behind the scenes? Figure this stuff out before searching . Sales 101 – if you go to France and you NEED something, you’d better damn well speak French. Stop speaking English and expecting them to get you what you want. Put your needs in their language…or don’t and see how that works for you.

Knowing what you bring to the table and what you’re willing to accept is pivotal in finding a satisfying career. Don’t discuss jobs if they won’t meet your needs. Ascertain who you are, then strap on your job binoculars. Your perfect fit is out there; but it helps to know what you’re looking for.