Boyle-ing likeSimon Cowell

If you have an internet connection, you have undoubtedly heard about and even seen the Susan Boyle episode of Britain’s Got Talent on YouTube.   But did you catch the real lesson behind Simon and the frumpy spinster from a small UK village, who walked on stage to snickers and doubt, and walked off a super star?

SusanBoyle2

The audience and judges could not contain their awe merely 3 words into the song.  But as the audience sat down again and the cheers and beaming faces quieted down for judges commentary, conviction of something ugly in each of us set in.

“Biggest surprise” 

“Everyone was laughing at you”.

“We were very cynical.”

What these words really acknowledged was prejudice.  The audience and judges had pre-judged Susan Boyle based on her brief walk onto the stage and the few words she spoke before she started her song.

“Boyle-ing like Simon Cowell”.

I did it recently.  I reviewed a resume and wrote it off.  Not because of lack of relevant skills and experiences, but because of some common background with prior hires who did not turn out.  Urged by the phone screener to do a personal interview despite my reservations, I found I almost rejected a highly qualified and experienced candidate that was a great fit for our need. 

It might have happened again If had seen another gentleman across the room rather than joining him in a group discussion.  Going below the surface that some may have considered socially awkward, revealed  a deeply thoughtful, passionate and generous man that some will never get to know.

Transitioning from obscurity to instant worldwide fame on YouTube, Susan Boyle now conquers the world stage with her record smashing debut album titled after her song on Britain’s Got Talent, “I Dreamed A Dream”.

Susan Boyle edged out established chart topping mainstays such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Norah Jones to dominate the number 1 spot on Billboard 200.  While serial chart buster Barbra Streisand debuts her number 1 album with a sales volume of 180,000 recently, Susan Boyle makes a statement with 701,000 albums solid in her first week.  A sales volume never achieved by any other female solo artist. Ever.

While some of the sales are certainly the curious, Susan Boyle shows even greater talent on this album that we saw on YouTube.  She demonstrates she can hold her own and even trump superstars of the genre with her renditions of some terrific classics. 

She is no one-hit wonder.  Susan Boyle did not become a superstar.  She always was a superstar but finally got to step onto the stage and bless us with her gift.

It might have never happened.

How many Susan Boyle’s are not at our companies, on our teams, in our classrooms, galleries, and on our bookshelves, are not volunteering with us, preaching, teaching, caring because of the prejudice of the gatekeepers. 

We have to scratch below the surface and take off the filters.

What has Susan Boyle taught you?

Do We Deserve Our “A-Players”?

To build a great team, we are told, we need to hire the best, or as Mark Suster put it in his terrific post last week: “In my experience B players hire C people.  A begets A,  B begets C. Don’t go there.”  We have also learned through surveys like this one http://bit.ly/ROiZS to “hire good people, not skills”, and we have learned that “behavioral interview questions” about the past will help us better predict future performance as we recruit.  We have become pretty good at acquiring top talent.

Three Business People on Mountain Peak

But do we deserve the “A-Players” we have acquired? 

Are we fulfilling our responsibilities to them?

As leaders we have many responsibilities to the people we lead.  While these are common to all our staff, I believe there are 4 Essential Responsibilities to A-Players that we must keep front and center for these high performers.

1.)  Understand Their Expectations – What makes this a “Win” for them?

While our expectations for staff are generally clearly defined in vision & mission statements, job descriptions, employee manuals, bonus plans etc…, their expectations of us aren’t always so clear.

Top talent is typically highly ambitious, mobile, and have a plan for a specific journey.  How does working for your team or organization fit into that plan and journey?  Can you really meet their expectations and will you get what you need from the relationship during your leg of their journey?  Is this going to be a “Win – Win” for them and you?

2.) Don’t Hire Over-Qualified Candidates – Help them find their “Win”

We need to acquire people who want “the job” and not just “a job”.  While I want top talent for my teams, I will actively help sell over-qualified candidates that I find too good to pass up, to other parts of the organization.  If no opportunities exist internally, I will help them get connected with the right opportunities outside the organization. 

Over-qualified people are settling for less for some temporal reason, and you are doing neither them nor yourself a favor by hiring them.  Their heart will be yearning for “the thing I really want”, they won’t be focused on your side of the value equation, and they will disappear on you at the most inopportune time.

3.)  Watch Both Sides of the Value Equation – Manage the “Win – Win”  

Our job is to develop team members towards their full potential and give them a platform to prepare for bigger and better things, while doing the things our team needs to get done.  Our investment in them is not completely selfless, because it prepares them to return a superior value to us for an acceptable period of time.  Both you and your team members must be committed to balancing both sides of the value equation.

While this post touches on many of the questions that crave a positive response according to “First Break All the Rules”, the emphasis here is on positively answering the question: “Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?”

Many a corporate culture has run afoul because employees feel the company owes them.  You will experience no greater loyalty, dedication and quality of work, than from someone who feels a greater indebtedness to you as a result of your authentic care.

4.)  Set Them Free – Let them pursue a new “Win”

If you do the first three right, you will maximize the time the high performers will commit to you.  They become your most valuable and productive team members.  They make you look good and get things done, and you come to rely on them to pull your toughest challenges out of the fire and they help share your load. 

The time will come when you have given them all the assignments that stretch them and allow them to shine brightly. You will have given them all the professional and personal development opportunities you can, and cheered them on as they grew from tactical executers to strategic thinkers and progressed from individual contributors to leaders. 

Even when we do everything right in a healthy culture and growing organization, at some point some of our A-Players will outgrow us and the opportunities we can make available to them.  We can no longer fulfill our responsibility for keeping their side of the value equation a “Win”. 

Before it turns into a “Win – Lose” relationship, we need to do the difficult and unnatural thing, and willingly release them and maybe even give them a nudge. 

It’s time to Look with satisfaction and pride at the journey behind us, and bless them and look forward with joy and anticipation to the journey that lies ahead for them. 

With the relationship in tact, our paths will cross and again and maybe even intertwine.

Am I missing something? 

Please reply with your thoughts and experiences.

Book References

There are three books that I have discovered invaluable in honing my own staff management style, and that  I regularly recommend to others.  While the post is based on my experiences, it is also influenced by the relational core principles in these books.

The best book I know on the topic of negotiating is Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.The book shifts the paradigm from the traditional self centered “Win-Lose” or “Win-I Don’t Care” approach to a creative and relational approach focused on meeting the essential interests of all the parties, (way beyond a dollar for widget exchange).  The famous and critical “Win – Win”.  Also central to this post are the relational aspects discussed in the book First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently  and The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People (the book on staff management.  Deserves a dedicated post). 

Related Posts

Common Traits of A-Players  by Auren Hoffman