“Talent” is a subjective term – reference American Idol, The Voice, et al if you need proof of that. As hard as it may be to define what “talent” might be for your particular organization, but for all of its importance we are all pretty clueless about how to find it, keep it, and/or replace it.

There’s not a better example of that than the NFL Draft, scheduled to begin on April 25th. A huge part of the evaluation process is the NFL Combine, an invitation-only event bringing scouts and “talent” together under one roof. Akin to a Fat Stock Show, college football players are graded out on seven separate physical drills, subjected to the Wonderlic™ Assessment, and then interviewed by executives representing their respective NFL franchise.

It’s crazy, really, and it’s all accessible for your viewing pleasure on the NFL Network. There are no skeletons, there are no secrets (really, nothing could be hidden in the outfits they wear), it’s a coming out party for college debutantes.

It’s also a crapshoot.


“My turn Uncle Jerry!”

Football geeks will easily recognize the names of LaMarcus Russell, Tony Mandarich, Ryan Leaf, Lawrence Phillips, Vince Young, Jeff George, and Todd Marinovich. Their common thread is their complete failure in the NFL coupled with a complete mis-evaluation of their talent. How the hell does this happen when you have a team of people evaluating every last piece of data and film available for each individual under consideration? Well, being a Cowboys fan, I can speak to that directly:

  1. Beauty Pageant – Pharma companies hire babes to sell product, NFL teams want dudes that look like Zeus. Both theories work about 50% of the time, but at least one is capable of marrying a doctor – customer for life!
  2. Hannibal Lechter theory – “What do we covet, Clarise?” Remember this? We covet what we see every day; guys on the big college teams & on the big college stage become “must haves” to a dreamy-eyed NFL GM.
  3. Ignoring the obvious – The “busts” listed above were not cases of bad data; each of the guys had “off the field” issues; behavioral, substance, criminal, or capacity (as in, “mental midget”). But they look so good, “can you imagine him in our uniform?!”
  4. Big noses abound – It’s ironic in business and in sports; “talent” is the lifeblood of the company. People skilled at finding the talent are often at the bottom of the food chain. All the data in the world can’t overcome a Senior Executive sticking his or her big fat ego into the situation.
  5. Paper Tigers – A major cause of bad hires & bad draft picks; on paper, the candidate looks great. During the “20-yard Shuttle” or “Three-cone drill” a guy just jumps off the charts & catches everyone’s eye. Never mind he was an under-performer in college and high school. Never mind his interview is similar to watering a houseplant, it’s so intoxicating to see a 4.2 time in the 40-yard dash., we temporarily forget the felony charge.

As someone who advises and consults leaders on the practice of identifying, developing, and retaining top talent, it’s painful to watch the manner in which Jerry Jones conducts his draft. I’m offering my services to you, Jerry, at a 10% discounted rate, to manage your draft for you this year.

I’ll even go so far as to offer a money-back guarantee, ‘cuz that’s the kinda guy I am. 817-733-3052, I’m waiting for your call.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder of the HR Hardball™ Straight talk, no-nonsense approach to workplace issues. 

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