June 27, 2016

Build For the System

Originally published on The Huffington Post - June 22nd, 2016

With the NBA season just finishing up, it is time to take a look back at the year and try to make some sense of it all. The Warriors shocked the world and won more games in a single season than any team ever just to be upset by LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. One event of the season which surprised nobody was the Spurs competed yet again. Why is it that every year the team gets older and players move around but we all know the Spurs will be around come playoff time?

You probably recognize something similar in business. Why is your one competitor always first to market with a new innovation? Why is one of your business units routinely beating expectations? These questions are plaguing your business every single day. How can a team that has stayed the same continue to compete when everything around them is changing? I thought change is supposed to be good!

In 1988 the San Antonio Spurs hired new Head Coach Larry Brown, who brought along with him a young assistant, Gregg Popovich. At the time, Gregg Popovich was an unconventional choice for assistant coach as he was coaching at Division III school, Pomona-Pitzer, when Brown hired him. That same year the team used the number one overall selection to draft David Robinson. The message was clear - a new strategy built around a big man.

For the last quarter century, the Spurs have had a great player playing down-low. As Hall of Famer David Robinson began to show his age, a Wake Forest prospect, Tim Duncan was brought in to backfill. Last summer, as the guaranteed Hall of Famer is starting his swan song, the team went out and signed perennial All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. Did the Spurs just continually get lucky that the best player available was a center or were they making decisions based on a strategy?

Let’s walk you through an example that turned out a little differently. I was once working with a client who was seeing upwards of 30% turnover in their sales team. Leadership was beside themselves, they had been going out to the competition and paying top dollar for their competitors best sales associates on the market. The organization even restructured compensation packages so the bonuses were so good, it was impossible to leave the organization for competitors.

Through a little poking around, it became obvious what the problem was. In general, sales people can be lumped into two types: hunters and farmers. The hunter is the sales person that gets their motivation from the quick win, instant gratification. Farmers on the other-hand are cultivators, organically growing relationships before making a sale (or growing business within an existing account). Instant gratification is not a huge motivator for the farmer; they find themselves driven to solving a problem, fixing a need of their clients (and building relationships).

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Tags: consulting & assessment, I/O psych, sports

Marc Prine PhD

Marc is a Director in the Consulting & Assessment practice at Taylor Strategy Partners where he works with clients on improving their performance by using data to better select and develop their people. Dr. Prine earned his Ph.D. in Business Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, M.A. from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and undergraduate degree from Temple University. He is an adjunct professor in statistics and his work has been published in Forbes and FastCompany. In his spare time, Marc can be found looking for golf balls in tall grass, yelling as if the players on his fantasy team can hear him through the television or doing his best Andrew Zimmer impression and trying the most interesting thing on a menu.



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