Goodbye, Tom Brady

tom-brady-goodbyeI’m still stunned by Tom Brady’s short-but-sweet goodbye.

I knew it was coming. But seeing it f’real is hard to swallow.

(Reminds me of my high school crush who dumped me after two dates. I knew that was coming too.)

Perhaps I was high on some Hopium…

Thinking that my hometown Bucs would get just one more year of Brady’s magic. But it wasn’t meant to be.

We’ll move on.

He’ll move on. (To his 10-year $375 Million deal with Fox Sports as a lead NFL analyst)

The Bucs’ll move on.

The NFL will move on.

We all have to move on. These transitions are part of life. You can root for Brady. Or against him. But you have to give him his props. In fact, you likely think this email will be brushing away the tears streaming down my cheek and celebrating all his wins and rings and records.

But I won’t.

Instead, this note is about transitions on your team (and in your work life, for that matter).

As a 25-year executive recruiter, it’s difficult for me to say this. (But it’s true.)

Hiring from the outside is always your last resort.

Yep. Most headhunters will tell you… hire, hire, hire. Bring in the talent. Find the best. Put the winners on your sidelines.

And I get it.

But here’s the hard truth: Hiring from the outside brings a ton of risks with it. For starters, you risk pissing off and not developing your internal people. Then, they ask to be traded to another team. And you have to backfill them too. In short, your sidelines bench (and coaching staff) become a revolving door. Leaving, hiring, training, leaving, hiring, training.

It’s exhausting. Plus, you’ll hit your salary cap.

Another risk: No matter how good you are at assessing talent, you’ll be lucky to get it 75% right. (That’s a 12-4 record in the NFL, good enough to get to the big game.)

But in business, that means 25% mis-hires. Which can really set your team back. Particularly if those mis-hires are bad DNA matches with your team. It’ll bum them out and blow out their knees. Even a trophy-winning team is a fragile thing. Personalities, compatibilities, chemistry, karma, call it what you will.

And when it’s working. OMG.

Then someone suddenly announces their departure. A Tom Brady. Or a newbie rookie punter. And you’re tempted to hire from the outside to fill the hole.

I get it. The rest of the team is busy. Performing. Putting points on the board.

It’s sooooo tempting to look outside. Because you don’t want to distract your players & risk running out of time on the clock.

I’ve seen this game for 25 years. And I promise you the most likely scenario is that you bypass your team, hire some stranger off the street, and you’ll get yourself a penalty flag.

Instead… your first reaction should be to dig deep & find someone already in the organization who can step up into the vacant role.

Even if they’re not 100% ready (if they were, you would have already moved them up.)

Even if you have doubts.

Even if they need to develop their skills.

Give them a shot. Perhaps even on an interim basis.

Back in the 90s, GE CEO Jack Welch built an unstoppable team. And one of his guiding principles was that he’d never get caught short of talent.

If someone gave notice to leave, he’d name their replacement within 24 hours. And typically it was someone from another role on the team.

I get that it’s not always possible. Especially on a small team with 1 engineer, 1 marketer, 1 salesperson, etc.

But most leaders don’t even try.

So next time someone wants off your team, resist the temptation to give a counteroffer (it rarely works long-term anyway). Instead, celebrate their wins, say goodbye, wish them the best. And then give a battlefield promotion to someone internally.

You’ll win their loyalty for another season (or their career.)

Don’t cry for Tom Brady.

Celebrate his momentous career.

And your career, as well. Put the best team on the field, coach them the best way you know how, celebrate their wins, and we’ll put you in the record books too.

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman launched his recruiting career at Heidrick & Struggles and Spencer Stuart, the preeminent global executive search firms. Today, he’s Chief Talent Officer at Chicago-based Strong Suit Executive Search. Along the way, Jeff created four companies, backed by $50 million in venture capital. He currently teaches the MBA course about recruiting at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and hosts the five-star Strong Suit Podcast. Jeff has been featured by Inc., Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets. He holds a master’s degree from Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from The Wharton School.

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