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Performance Development in the Ultimate Meritocracy

By Eric Schuster, Vice President,  Dayforce Product Management at Ceridian.

The National Football League is the ultimate meritocracy. Every week, each player gets a performance evaluation. Perform, and keep your job. Don’t perform, and you don’t have a roster spot for long. And for many reasons, no one’s performance gets more attention than the starting quarterback.

Let’s examine the story of how two extremely high-performing quarterbacks at their prior jobs (college quarterback) managed their new careers in the NFL and got very different results: Terrelle Pryor and Tim Tebow.

Different strokes

Pryor and Tebow were both quarterbacks that won lots of college games and conference championships, Tebow even winning a national championship and a Heisman Trophy. Both played a similar style of quarterback and raised questions about whether they could succeed in the NFL.

Both players entered into the NFL and bounced from team to team making minimal contributions before being released or traded. It was clear that neither was going to succeed as a professional quarterback. Therefore, both players were approached by their employer (coach) about switching positions.

In Terrelle Pryor’s switch to wide receiver, he took ownership of his development and worked with his peers to make the transition a success. His employer invested in him and he found a mentor that excelled in his new position. Pryor is now the leading wide receiver on his team and looks to be in-line for a new NFL-sized contract. Tebow on the other hand, is now out of football altogether and trying to make it in baseball with limited results.

A lesson for employers

Now, while professional football might not seem all that similar to the average business, it certainly is still a corporation. Coaches, managers and owners tend to run their operations like a business, and for good reason: The rewards of winning a championship, or even enabling a player to be successful individually and become a fan favorite, can drive massive benefits from a financial standpoint.

As a leader in your business, you’ve probably come across people in roles that just weren’t the right fit for them. You’ve watched them struggle and wondered what the right next move is for their careers. Do you release them, or coach them in a new position that will be a better fit?

Here are four lessons employers can take from Terrelle Pryor’s journey:

  • Identify and develop an employee’s strengths instead of correcting weaknesses.
  • Be flexible on how your employees can contribute to your company’s success.
  • Leaders create the environment for employees to grow their careers.
  • Employees that own their career will find a way to succeed.

Something else to keep in mind, is that Pryor’s teammates helped influence his decision to take another look at potentially changing positions. Cultivating this type of teamwork and communication within a team ,and without the manager having to always be the one pushing the conversation, is invaluable in the modern workplace.

Remember, giving up on an employee without first trying to re-align responsibilities with talents is an expensive mistake, and one that managers should never make. Instead, focus on setting staff members up for successful careers by finding the right role that will maximize their value.

Eric SchusterEric Schuster joined Ceridian in June 2005 where he has held a variety of leadership positions within Ceridian’s product management function.  Since July 2011, he has been responsible for the HR, Benefits, and Talent product management for Dayforce HCM product.

Prior to Ceridian, Eric was Director, Product Management for e-gate Solutions (a Gategourmet company) with responsibility for product management solutions globally. Eric previously held a number of positions with Delta Air Lines in their Supply Chain, InFlight Service, and Finance departments.

Eric has undergraduate degree from Syracuse University and a Master of Business Administration from Wake Forest University.

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