In preparation for the Draft, NFL teams are checking out three criteria: Capabilities, Character, and Chemistry. Last week, I excerpted some of my book content on Capabilities, and how our hiring practices can benefit from some of the practices of football.
This week, we explore Character, the ultimate intangible. Character includes a recruit’s history on other teams, a record of past transgressions or awards, indicators of poor judgment or a squeaky clean record. Throughout the process of The Combine, recruiters pay close attention to the balancing act between a player’s past record of testing positive for marijuana use, versus having superior skills on the field. Typically in football, high-level skills win out. Why? Coaches and owners tend to risk historical misconduct, confident that since THEY can now influence a player, any bad behavior won’t carry over into a player’s professional life.
Coaches put much stock into their own ability to keep a tight rein on a player off the field, often having turned around several players over the course of their coaching careers. Instilling character remains an important part of professional sports, even though it doesn’t always appear that way. There are many more unreported successes in this regard than the tabloid headlines lead you to believe. At the Combine, coaches have only 15 minutes to interview a candidate. Most of that time is spent at the “white board” sketching out offensive plays to assess how quickly the player can pick them up and show he understands.
For us, it might be best NOT to follow the typical NFL hiring practice of trusting that you can “turn the employee around.” It’s critical for you to contact numerous sources who can vouch for a candidate (or not), and do extensive checking on a candidate’s referrals. In any workspace, employers simply cannot risk having their team members repeating past indiscretions or displaying poor judgment. Unlike professional football, when selecting a new hire, the character should already be well established. You have enough to do in your job without adding character-building to your job description!
Character is the trickiest criterion for us to assess, given employees bring all the baggage of their upbringing and previous jobs. Just as in personal relationships, after the “honeymoon period” is over, the character flaws can reveal themselves. That’s why many companies reduce the risk. They have a “probation period” of three months to further assess the new employee. That way, the company can back out of the deal with minimum expense. In my opinion, this is a good practice for all of us in business, entrepreneurs as well. Next week: Chemistry – No test tubes involved.