HR Management, Talent Management

Do You Have a Jeremy Lin Hidden Somewhere on Your Staff?

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“Linsanity” has taken over New York and the NBA! Do you even know what it is?

Let’s begin with some background: “Linsanity” refers to Jeremy Lin the up-start point guard for the New York Knicks who seems to have materialized out of thin air. How up-start? In his first four NBA starts with the Knicks, he scored more than Allen Iverson, more than Shaquille O’Neal, more than Michael Jordan, and the tops since the NBA and ABA merged in 1976.

Where did he come from? Harvard – he was a good player in college, but not a star. Was signed and released by both Golden State and Houston and spent some time in the NBA Developmental League before signing a 10-day contract with the Knicks (which has turned into a longer term deal).

Jeremy Lin coming onto the scene in the NBA is akin to you knocking down a wall in your house and finding $50 million. It doesn’t happen. Professional sports are professional because they have and find the best – they scout talent 24/7/365 – and they do make mistakes, but rarely does potential get missed.

How did Jeremy Lin’s talent get missed?

So, how did this Asian-American, Ivy League-educated point guard fall through the cracks? No one really has a good explanation.

I can assume being the only Ivy League-educated, Asian-American in the NBA didn’t help him get noticed for the simple fact that wouldn’t get you noticed in the NBA. He didn’t have Duke, UConn or North Carolina on his resume, the NBA doesn’t care that he’s smart, and few Asians (under 7 feet tall) actually ever get looked at for their basketball talent. He was a plow horse hidden in a stable full of race horses.

While this type of thing doesn’t happen in the NBA, it does happen in your organizations all the time!

The majority of HR pros just don’t have the background and scouting ability professional sports teams have in tracking potential talent. We give it our best shot, instituting Employee Development Programs, Succession Programs, etc. But our reality is that we still have a very long way to go to be truly effective. So, how can you ensure you don’t have a Jeremy Lin sitting on your bench that you aren’t utilizing, or worse yet, that you allow your competition to have?

3 traits you find in “hidden” talent

Look for some of these traits on your staff:

  1. Smarts – There is a common saying in athletics: you can’t “coach” size, meaning no matter how good of coach you are, it is still very hard to overcome a team with superior size and athletic ability. Smarts is the same way in business. You can hustle your way out of a lot of situations in business, but eventually “Smarts” will get you!
  2. Desire — Give me someone with a desire to be the best and I’ll take them a long way. Too many of our employees have the components to be great but lack the true desire to be great. It doesn’t matter if you’re an engineer, accountant, software developer, or teacher – little or no desire will kill your talent every time.
  3. Love – You’ve got to Love what you do, Love your organization and Love your team. Those people are set up for success because there is no place else they would rather be, and they’ll fight to keep themselves in that position.

Just because you have one or two of these doesn’t make you great, or even good – you need a lot of all three. Too often, HR pros hang on to people way to long because “they work so hard” but lack core talent (smarts), or “they have more talent than anyone else on team” but lack the desire to do the job anymore.

Stop that! You have too many good people sitting on the bench and waiting for their opportunity like Jeremy Lin. Open up your mind, really look for the combination of talent, desire and those who want to be with you – and put them into the starting lineup! You won’t be sorry.

Tim Sackett will speak on What Your CEO Wished HR Would Do at the TLNT Transform conference in Austin, TX Feb. 26-28, 2012. Click here for more information on attending this event. 

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is Executive Vice President of HRU Technical Resources , a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community – so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him at sackett.tim@HRU-Tech.com .