As the Super Bowl looms over the weekend, our thoughts turn toward the challenge of personnel management. Most of us are periodically involved in hiring decisions: for some, it's a major responsibility, for others, an occasional task. Some applicants come across as a perfect match (and turn into a bust) while others are nervous and unimpressive, yet turn into the perfect employee. For all the psychological profiling, background checks and careful reading of the resume, it's never an exact science.
Case and point: Tom Brady, the quarterback for the New England Patriots. He was chosen by the Patriots in the sixth round of the draft, the 199th player selected. The physical skills he demonstrated at the "combine" were modest, to say the least. Quite a few quarterbacks were chosen ahead of him. Yet he has risen to the pinnacle of his sport, mentioned in the same breath with the legendary Unitas, Montana and Bradshaw.
This raises some fundamental questions about hiring: how do you distinguish among applicants? How do you ferret out the intangibles that separate a good candidate from a great one? How can you eliminate the candidate who sounds good but lacks passion and identify the one who really wants the job?
In an article in the Boston Globe, John Powers dissects the qualities that made Brady special from the moment he showed up in training camp:
"Nobody expects anything of you," Brady says. "You just show up and you're trying to make the team. You're trying to bring your playbook to the meetings and not forget it in the room. When you're a first-round pick, everybody's counting on you to come in and save the franchise." No one had any notion that Brady was special; unlike Eli Manning, his New York Giant counterpart with an impeccable bloodline and the burden of a number one selection in the draft, Brady was able to develop outside of the limelight.
Early on coach Bill Belichick noticed Brady's knack for command and control. "You could really see some of Tom's leadership taking over at that point, even though it was with other rookies. You could see him handle the team, handle the call, getting people lined up and making sure everybody knew what to do." Brady, the consummate team player, made everyone around him better.
Nobody in the locker room worked harder or studied more diligently, then or now, than Brady. He was driven, he later acknowledged, by the insecurity of the perennial backup, the kid who couldn't play on a winless high school freshman team, who began Michigan as a seventh-stringer. "You don't forget where you came from," Brady once said. "The scars that you have from those days are deep scars."
Good Managers are Hard to Find
As we watch the game this Sunday, it will be fascinating to see the two outstanding quarterbacks carry out their management roles. They represent the full hiring spectrum: the cannot miss, high profile number one versus the after-thought, the long-shot (who is no longer either). Regardless of the outcome, athletic scouts and personnel managers of businesses across the world will share a common thought: how do you find the real deals in leadership? How do you master the art of hiring?