Steve Smith, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Member

Steve Smith, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Member

Steve Smith from The Starr Conspiracy, returns to the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board with his article on Three Talent Lessons From General Surgery. The Starr Conspiracy has worked with more than 300 clients around the globe in the human capital space, including some of the industry’s biggest and best-known brands.

Full Bio…

Three Talent Lessons From General Surgery

By Steven Wade Smith

I’m not an HR guy. I’m a communicator who has spent a lot of his career working with HR people. One of the things I’ve learned about HR: You guys are put in a position to say “no” a lot. I feel for you. It isn’t fun.

That’s part of the reason I love my job. I’m in marketing. I have an expense account. I buy people lots of drinks and expensive meals. I get to say “yes” a lot. People love me. I’m fun.

Of course, there is a downside to all that. When I buy drinks and nice meals for people, I partake in drinks and nice meals, too. I’m talking lots. You might not believe it, but saying “yes” has a price tag that goes way beyond falsifying your expense report.

I know what you’re thinking. Sounds rough, buddy. Take a hike. But rough it is. I found that out firsthand, when I found myself in an emergency room, staring up at the ceiling with a pain in my gut that felt like a stick of dynamite had just gone off.

Turns out I’d melted my gall bladder, a not-entirely essential internal organ. Think appendix, except bigger and with a much lower Klout score. Hey, gall bladder surgery is the No. 1 general surgery in the U.S., according to the guy who vacuumed mine out. Who knew? Sounds like a certain organ needs a better publicist.

So, anyway, destroying your gall bladder has something to do with martinis, thick steaks and nice cigars. Guess who’s saying “no” now? There are a lot of my clients who will literally be choking back tears as they read this paragraph. There, there. Let me get you a hot cup of tea and a bowl of oatmeal.

To make up for the cocktails and filet Oscar that I won’t be buying you, I’m here to offer a little free knowledge, accumulated during my convalescence. You know what I’ve learned?

Lesson No. 1: Succession planning isn’t just for senior executives

Yeah, I own a company, but I actually do real work, too. So when I suddenly found myself in the hospital, my business partners and my copywriters had to pick up the slack immediately. Succession planning and management at all levels of your organization matters. I’ve written a lot about this over the years, but it has a whole new meaning now.

I got lucky. I’ve got a team of highly capable, flexible copywriters who were able to keep things on my content team running smoothly. I have great business partners who were able to pick up the slack in operations and business development. Through an accident of good hiring, I made myself entirely replaceable.

Can you say the same thing? Would your team or your company be able to function without you or any other key employee? Don’t wait to find out, like I did. You might not be so lucky.

Lesson No. 2: Your employees should be focused on quality

I’m not a newcomer to the healthcare system. I have years of experience consulting for a major hospital system and a company that manages emergency health services. My respect and admiration for the people in healthcare have always been immense. It’s difficult work to consistently deliver with skill, compassion and excellence.

After a week at Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth, my esteem for healthcare providers has only increased. Everyone from doctors and nurses to the techs and the transport and housekeeping employees was focused on patient satisfaction, safety and clinical excellence. I know that’s not an accident. I knew I would receive a survey from Press Ganey a few days after I went home – and I did. I gave the hospital great marks.

Is your company as relentless about the pursuit of quality? Do you hire people who are oriented toward that end? Do you have the training and development to help them learn and grow? Can you measure and improve individual and organizational performance.

If you work in an HR or L&D function, your work has a direct impact on quality. How is your work improving the overall quality of your organization?

Lesson No. 3: The best résumé isn’t always the best hire

One of the happy accidents of a convalescence that extended into October was that I found myself with plenty of time to watch the baseball playoffs. I’m ecstatic that my Texas Rangers are heading back to the World Series. After a generation of futility, the past two years have been gratifying to watch.

What I love about this team is its ability to put egos in check and perform for the good of the club, if not for the benefit of individual stats. Who needs an ace starting pitcher like Cliff Lee? The Rangers became only the second team to win a best-of-seven series without getting a win from its starters. This team isn’t just a collection of superstars. There’s lots of homegrown talent. Some guys were brought on board by savvy trades. Then there are some retreads and rejects who are overachieving or finally getting a chance to shine. Mr. Boomstick, Nelson Cruz, the MVP of the American League Championship Series, was once a castoff – a player who literally no other team wanted. These guys actually seem to like one another and to have great chemistry. The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Take a look at your talent acquisition processes. Are you simply hiring the candidate with the best-looking résumé without any consideration for team chemistry? Do you have a Nelson Cruz in your organization – the superstar waiting to happen? There is an opportunity today to take advantage of other companies’ hiring and firing mistakes. What are you doing about it?

The Final Cut

Saying “no” sucks. Saying “yes” is a lot more fun. If you want to say “yes” to something, do it in ways that help you build a better company. That’s all any CEO wants out of a company’s people functions, anyway. The three things I mentioned are only a start. If you have other ideas, let’s talk about them over drinks. I’m buying. Is carrot juice OK with you?


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