I’ve long been a fan of the work of Dr. Stephen Long of Motere Consulting. Dr. Long specializes in management team execution. He targets financially healthy, distressed, and underperfoming organizations where strategy might be sound, but lacks execution. His work has resulted in increased financial performance, innovation, improved decision making and judgment, and greater efficiency, as well as providing breakthrough strategies that provide measurable results – solutions that affect the bottom line. In a nutshell, he maximizes TEAM productivity. Dr. Long’s methods are as equally effective in corporate America as they are in collegiate and professional sports.
“Sit up straight and take notes.”
The Football Educator
The NFL Draft: How GM’s Manage Risk
By Stephen Long, PhD
This past weekend, over 6000 fans packed into New York’s Radio City Music Hall for the NFL’s annual dog and pony show, otherwise known as The Draft where men in their early 20’s experience a “lifetime dream.” As each player was paraded in front of the crowd, smiles were everywhere and congratulations were shared between family members, coaches and team executives. The underlying questions are which of these players will actually pan out? Which ones will actually play, contribute and help lead their teams to the playoffs and hopefully a Super Bowl championship?
Sweating it out
Although we all could see the tension and anxiety on Johnny Manziel’s face as he dropped to the 22nd overall pick, the actual pressure is on the general manager of every NFL team. It doesn’t do a General Manager’s career any good when a 1st round pick busts, but the 5th round turns into a Pro Bowl player. The credit goes to the player and maybe to a coach, but the General Manager is viewed as a fool by not only the fans, but also the people he really values: his co-workers in the organization and his peers around the league. Nobody sweats the draft like the General Manager.
A HISTORY of risk
History is filled with draft stories. Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf? How could any General Manager not see what was to come? Manning, a perennial All-Pro and Leaf a bust who can’t seem to stay out of jail. However, nobody really knew at the time. Bill Polian who was charged with the decision between Manning and Leaf, readily admits today the primary reason why he chose Manning was because of fear and intimidation—Manning threatened if Polian didn’t take him first, he’d come back and kick his butt the next 15 years. Obviously this is not an effective decision making model, but luckily it worked out for Polian. Other quarterbacks fooled NFL execs throughout the years. Along with Manning the best QB’s in the league are Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Brees was a 2nd round draft pick. Rodgers was the 24th overall pick in 2005 and Tom Brady was a 6th round choice—the 199th pick overall!
People are a risk factor. As the degree of risk increases, so does the degree of consequence. Managing risk includes identification, assessment, determining probabilities, implementation and prioritization of risk factors. One factor inadequately quantified by a General Manager is the level of emotional maturity of each player they select.
Measuring emotional maturity – Execution IQ
The primary indicator of emotional maturity is how a player transitions to the next level of competition. Just like stocks, a player’s previous performance is not an indicator of future performance. Scouts and player personnel executives—all under the supervision of the General Manager—have many assessment tools to determine the “potential” of every player under consideration for selection, but the validity of these tools are scrutinized. Each player is measured the same, but some turn out to be busts. Emotional maturity may be the single most important factor, but a General Manager is left with subjective measurement methods for this factor. Basically, it’s left up to gut feel. Do you really want the future of your organization left to an emotion? How is risk being managed when it’s left to a feeling?
When players successfully transition to the NFL from college they do so because they are able to execute what the coaches have drawn up. Talent is important, but possibly, just possibly a General Manager places too high an emphasis on the talent factor and not enough on the emotional maturity factor. When players successfully transition, they have both talent and emotional maturity, otherwise know as Execution IQ. The problem for a General Manager though, is he/she doesn’t have access to a tool that consistently measures Execution IQ.
Mindset, Skill set
Execution IQ is not a black and white concept—all players have some degree. Execution IQ is made up of two components — Mindset and Skill Set. The Mindset is powerful. It controls how people act. The Skill Set is equally powerful. Athletes are only as effective as the skills they have mastered. We’re not sure what comes first. Some athletes develop a strong Mindset that leads to developing a Skill Set where others develop skills that facilitate an effective Mindset.
Players with a high degree of Execution IQ demonstrate three qualities consistently. First, they learn more efficiently. The are excited to take on challenges, enabling them to process information quickly and then apply in competitive situations. Second, they adapt more effectively. Transition is all about adaptation. Players don’t need to adapt quickly, but it helps. The key is how successfully a player adapts. Speed, strength, balance and overall athletic ability of competitors are all enhanced in the NFL along with strategic aspects. It’s a different world from college football. Third, decision making skills enable players to transition. Judgment, on the field and off the field, is the best predictor of Execution IQ. Players who make good decisions process information efficiently while recognizing subtle differences enabling them to retain focus.
Execution IQ consists of four components: Drive, Learning & Growth, Self-Management and Relationship Management. Players who only look to get paid won’t transition very well. Drive cannot be simplified into whether one is money driven or intrinsically driven. All people have a combination and depending on the activity, we exert a different effort level. As long as a player has a higher intrinsic drive, they’ll continue to learn, make good decisions and adapt to competitive situations.
How a player uses their talent and experience determines if they’ll grow and develop consistently. Players’ relationships are instrumental to a successful transition. No man is an island especially in a team sport like football. Every player is dependent upon each other. Communication and bonding with teammates facilitate Execution IQ.
Making for a HAPPY owner
Self-management may be the most important for rookies and the most direct path for a General Manager to manage risk. Assessing and developing self-confidence, mental toughness, concentration and discipline are not just performance tools—they are risk management tools. In order to assess these skills, a General Manager must first be able to define them. Confidence is the difference between knowing what one can do and what one can’t do. Mental toughness is remaining patient and persistent when everyone else is losing theirs. Concentration is the ability to connect one thought to one action. Discipline is willingness and eagerness to do the hard thing. Players who demonstrate these skills have a high degree of Execution IQ. The General Manager who selects talented players with high Execution IQ manages risk, providing his/her organization with the human capital that their fans and customers pay for — a nucleus that provides the foundation for playoff bound teams. The owner may also like it.