Archive for December, 2011

Leadership, in Basketball and in Business

Finals have ended, and my first CSUF MBA semester is complete.  I wanted to take a break from MBA-focused posts and write about one of my favorite pastimes – playing basketball.  But I am not going to focus on the fitness benefits of playing basketball, or the fact that it serves as a stress-release for me.  Instead, I often observe leadership traits (good and bad) while playing pickup games at the gym.  I firmly believe the following leadership lessons I witness provide valuable insights that can be applied to one’s career and life outside of the gym.

Do your job (Know your role).  An effective basketball team cannot succeed if every player wants to be the go-to scorer.  Otherwise, no one will play defense, rebound, or pass the ball to open teammates.  Each person needs to fulfill their role, based on the skills he brings to the court.  In my case, I know I can post-up on offense, rebound, and play defense against the opposing team’s best player.  I can fulfill those roles because of my natural traits (height, long arms) and skills (quick feet, soft shooting touch).  Effective leaders understand what traits and abilities they bring to the table, and understand the role they fill in an organization.  In the areas where they are lacking, they hire staff with complementary skills.  I know I am not a great ball handler, so I prefer to play with someone who can dribble and pass effectively.  Leaders must understand the role(s) they fill, and build a strong team that complements those areas of weakness.  Otherwise, their organization will never effectively achieve its goals.

Do the dirty work.  In basketball, dirty work includes fighting under the basket for rebounds, playing solid defense, and diving for loose balls.  Oftentimes, doing the dirty work can inspire your teammates to play harder.  They see how importantly their teammate values each possession and how badly he wants to win.  The same principles apply in the workplace.  Leaders must demonstrate the importance of doing the little things, which are instrumental to running an organization but often do not bring much recognition.  Leading by example is a great way for leaders to show how important those little things are and inspire their coworkers to value them.

Be positive.  This is one of the most important ways to effectively inspire teammates.  I notice that players respond better to support than they do to disapproval.  I have never seen anyone’s play improve after they were berated for making a mistake.  I have seen players respond positively to constructive criticism, though.  Leaders should utilize constructive criticism in a positive way to help encourage growth among their teammates.  A leader (or basketball player) who simply yells at a teammate when he or she makes a mistake is damaging that teammate’s confidence.  A leader’s constructive criticism demonstrates trust in the teammate’s potential.  A team that does not grow will never accomplish their goals, and the best leaders push their teammates to grow while remaining positive through the challenging growing pains.

I have played pickup basketball for years and seen a variety of leadership styles exhibited on the court: screaming, berating, pseudo-superstars; gracious, encouraging role players; and everything in between.  These leadership styles do not need to be relegated to just the basketball court, and effective basketball leadership can easily translate to the workplace.  It is the leader’s responsibility to provide a vision for the organization, and ensure each person utilizes the full potential of their abilities to achieve those results.  Demonstrating effective leadership can inspire teammates and coworkers to achieve more than they expected, and generate wins on the basketball court and success in the workplace.

Here are a couple of interesting articles I’ve read during the last couple of weeks:

“The Ten Biggest Lies of B-School” – This Yahoo article caused me to think twice about what I believe the CSUF MBA degree will do for me.  After reading it, I realized I will probably feel I can conquer any business problem I face but I will need to temper my enthusiasm and initially maintain a realistic perspective of my knowledge and abilities.

“Effective (and Non-Creepy) Ways to Stalk People on LinkedIn” – This article has great advice for getting in touch with prospective networking contacts.  I found the strategy to join groups your prospective target is in especially helpful.  Once you are in the same group(s), you can contact that individual without needing a premium LinkedIn account.

Valuable Resume Insight

Saddleback College in Mission Viejo recently released a great tool for Orange County college graduates and job seekers: the 2nd Annual Orange County Resume Survey.  I did not know there had been a 1st annual survey, but after reading the results I discovered there is some extremely valuable information in this report.  I provided some of the highlights below, but I recommend checking out the survey for yourself:

  • 88 firms responded to the survey, representing 40 industries throughout Orange County.  Some of the more prominent companies included UBS, Patriot Federal Credit Union, and State Farm Insurance.  I think a few additional well-know employers, such as Disney, Oakley, or one of the major accounting firms would make this survey even more valuable.  But Saddleback College cannot control who responds to the survey, so 88 participants is an impressive number.
  • 61% of firms receive up to 50 resumes for each open position they advertise.  This is less of a highlight and more my personal critique of poor word choice for this question.  By using the words “up to 50 resumes,” it’s impossible to tell whether respondents get 1 resume for each posting or they receive 30 or more resumes.  It makes this information a little ambiguous – I believe a better option is to offer respondents a range of choices (1-10 resumes per posting, 11-20 resumes, etc.) and they can choose the most accurate option.  In order for the survey to be as useful as possible, the information must be relayed clearly and directly or else job seekers won’t know how to utilize it.
  • Half the respondents report spending between 30 seconds and 1 minute reviewing each resume.  This is an extremely valuable piece of information.  It gives job seekers an idea of just how little time they have to appeal to the hiring manager reading the resume.  Therefore, resumes must be concise (1 page), direct, and highlight the skills the employer desires in a job candidate.  Your resume must pass that first, quick “eye test,” and if it does not contain information that will attract the hiring manager’s attention then it will be tossed out before you even get a chance to interview.
  • 96% of respondents consider the resume a job seeker’s “first interview.”  Pardon my cliché, but you only get one chance to make a first impression.  This information builds upon the previous point, and employers listed resume mistakes that will ruin that “first interview” immediately.  Hiring managers will toss out resumes containing spelling or grammar errors, and job seekers that cannot demonstrate how their skills address the employer’s needs will not be getting phone calls to schedule face-to-face interviews.
  • 86% of respondents label internships as a “must-have.”  This is especially true for recent graduates looking for a job.  Internships demonstrate work experience the employer may find valuable.  Plus, many firms have reduced training budgets during the difficult economy, and prefer candidates with relevant skills and knowledge that may require less training so that employee can start contributing right away once hired.
  • Respondents recommend posting resumes on the following sites: College/university career center, Monster.com, LinkedIn.com, and CareerBuilder.com.  This information serves as a helpful starting point for candidates looking for job postings.  I firmly believe one of the best ways to find a job is through networking, with family, friends, classmates, coworkers, and through social media.  But the conventional job applying strategies are valuable too, and these sites should serve as great starting points for job searches.

Saddleback College is providing a valuable tool to job seekers throughout Orange County.  With a few tweaks to some of the survey questions, I feel this is a fantastic inside-view of what hiring managers and employers expect from potential job candidates.  This information can help candidates craft an effective resume that makes a great first impression and helps them (with some hard work, too) earn an interview for their desired job!

Here’s an article that ties in nicely with this week’s post:

“Why You Should Job Hunt During the Holidays” – This article explains why the holiday season can be a great time to search for a job, and offers some helpful tips for making the most of your holiday job hunt.  Have you searched for jobs during the holiday season?  Where you successful during you holiday job hunt?

Also, on a personal note, I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend this past week.  I spent my holiday with family and played a pretty exciting flag football game with my friends.  We posted some videos of the game, so check them out if you’re interested!