Are they Jordan, or Messi?
What two sporting greats can teach us about struggling recent hires
If you have a recent hire that's struggling, stop and ask: is this more like Messi or Jordan?
FC Barcelona is one of the best athletic teams of all time, and a perennial favorite among European clubs. It's a team that the best of the best would dream of playing for. Barça also has a very unique style of play that some of the best players in the world take several seasons to adjust to.
A great example of this can be seen in the documentary "Take the ball, pass the ball" which goes behind the scenes of the club between 2008-2012, when it dominated the sport and fielded some of the best teams in the history of the game.
Leaders often wonder, "why are the people I hired not performing at the level I expected? Why are they showing up at a 45, when I was expecting a 95?"
We believe we can get to our desired future faster with them than without them. That's why got them on our team, right?
What's easily overlooked in hiring is the power of **context**. But it's difficult to know how to properly attribute someone's performance: are they truly, incredibly talented in their domain? How much of their results was due the team they were with? What was luck?
You may have hired a top player and they are adjusting to a new team and way of operating. This does takes time. Lionel Messi‚ one of the greatest players ever—almost didn't make it through this adjustment period.
Or, you may have hired someone who really only knew how to perform in a certain context and with a certain kind of support around them. This is very common in the case of hiring a big company exec into a startup, where the former-BigCo person has to essentially learn their sport all over again. This is like when Michael Jordan switched from basketball to baseball.
Stick with it if you may have a Messi transitioning to a new club. And change your expectations if you're asking someone to fundamentally switch sports.