Monday, March 9, 2009

Softball and Talent

My 9 year old just started softball. She’s playing in an age-divided league, which means some girls have been playing since Kindergarten, and others are trying the sport for the first time. According to the rules, each player has to have equal time in the infield and outfield, but the coach can determine which positions they play. My daughter’s coach has decided each player gets to try each position at least once. The team they played yesterday has already specialized: the more experienced players are catching, and playing first or shortstop. All the new players are “helping pitch” or standing on second or third and counting on the experienced players to make the play.

I’ve been reading Outliers recently, and my daughter’s situation lines up quite well with the examples Gladwell gives about age-rated systems, and how they impact the development of competitive hockey players. If the more experienced or better skilled players are given the better playing positions, they are going to further differentiate their abilities. When they are ready to move to a competitive league, guess who will be more likely to move forward?

Thinking about this from a Talent Management perspective, how do you provide room for people to develop new skills? It’s easy to give the project to the person you know will get it done. They’ve done similar projects in the past, and you are confident in their abilities. But is that really the best thing for the team? Is there someone else – waiting in the outfield – who would really like to try something new? Now is a good time to see who on your team is up for a stretch assignment. Let them try a new position or project, and back them up with an experienced team member who can help them develop. You can use resource constraints imposed by the economy to help team members learn new skills and position them for future success. You may find you’ve had a star hidden on your team, just waiting for the opportunity.

Are you trying new things with Talent Management in this new economy? I’d love to hear about it! Join me at the Oracle Virtual Trade Show March 11th.

[No that's not my daughter, although I wish she would pitch. Image from Teeny!, used under CC.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article - so true!! I was thinking this very thing just today. I have tremendous talent, skills and experience from prior companies, but so far my skills have not been recognized or utilized at the current company in which I work. If given the opportunity, I could hit a grand slam. It's just that my coach (aka my manager) has never let me step up to bat. I am just itching to help our team win the pennant, but instead I'm stuck in the dugout.