You tried hard to avoid him. You took stairs instead of the elevators. You ate lunch in the back seat of your car. And, even sneaked into the office through the loading dock; but, your boss tracked you down anyway. “Where have you been, Adams?”, he huffed, “I’ve been looking all over for you. You’re taking over the department softball team for your predecessor, Nelson?and I don’t want a repeat of last year’s nonsense! If you don’t bring me a championship this year, I see a long term assignment in the Northern North Dakota office in your future!” While your mouth was mumbling “Yes, sir. You can count on me,” your brain was screaming, “Idiot, you’ll never get that set of corporate misfits to win anything. You better start packing your parka and woolen underwear and get ready for some long, hard winters.” Still mumbling, you retreated to your office, closed the door quietly and reminisced about last season. After a few minutes, the silent weeping started. You remembered how the last coach, Nelson, tried his best. Even so, halfway through the year, Nelson broke down and ran off the field screaming, “Aya! I just can’t take anymore!” and disappeared into the tall grass. Although the rumor mill had Nelson stealing food from the cafeteria and living in a vacant dumpster in the rear parking lot, no one ever really saw him again. “What can I do to get out of this mess?” you wondered. “What went wrong with Nelson’s approach?” He screened resumes. He and two managers interviewed players. He even called references! All the applicants looked good in the interviews, but they disintegrated when the competition started!” “Dull, the pitcher could never quite understand the new league rules. The equipment manager, Rongway was disorganized. Once, he sent the entire team north to play at Impressive Industries while the equipment went 100 miles south. Camshaft, the first base person, could throw and catch like a champ, but couldn’t get along with other team members. Marble, the catcher, always wanted to take charge. Swifty, the team promoter had a well-deserved reputation for saying it wasn’t her job and blaming Camshaft. Bureau, the shortstop, came on strong the first three games, hit a few runs, and then seemed to lose all interest in the team. She spent the last game in the outfield polishing her nails. I’m doomed!” You went home early, unscrewed the aluminum cap from a fresh bottle of cheap wine, turned on ‘The Allegory Channel’, and settled into a funk that was growing deeper by the minute. “I’ve really got to start buying wine with real corks”, you thought, “Corks have class. I wonder if North Dakota wine has corks?” The last thing you remember was a faint metallic taste in your mouth and a test pattern burned onto your retinas. As the morning light refracted through the fishbowl in the window, images from one of last night’s programs kept nagging at your wine-soaked awareness. How did it go? How did it go? Oh, Yes? A fox and a snake were trapped on an island in the middle of a rising river. The fox looked remarkably like Nelson and the snake was wearing a softball uniform. Weird! So, the uniformed snake says to Nelson, I mean the fox, “I would be eternally grateful if you will carry me on your back across the river, otherwise, I will surely drown.” The fox looked at the snake. “Yeah. Right. I put you on my back, you bite me, and I die. I’ve seen you bite other animals, before?.you must think I’m stupid!” The snake replied, “I understand your concern (the snake had just attended a communications workshop), but all God’s creatures deserve a second chance. Even the lowliest of us have some value. You are noble and wise (the snake also knew how to “schmooze”). Please carry me across the river.” The fox was impressed, allowed the snake to crawl on his back and started to swim. About halfway, in the deepest part, the snake bit the fox on the neck. As the venom flowed through the fox’s veins, he hollered, “You traitor! You bit me! Now we both drown. Fool! Why did you do it?” As their heads went under water, the uniformed snake replied, “I can’t help myself. It’s my nature.” With a heavy head, you pondered the allegory thoughtfully and concluded, “That’s the last bottle of cheap white wine I drink. After today, it’s the good stuff for me. Real corks. Real cork pieces in the wineglass. Yessiree. Nothing but the good stuff after today! Oh, Yeah! Right, The dream. I wonder what it meant. That fox was sure dumb to give the snake a ride. Anybody ought to know behaviors are hard to change. A snake acts like a snake and that’s that! Wait a minute! The snake was wearing a softball uniform and the fox looked like good old Nelson! Maybe there is a lesson in here somewhere.” “Lets see, if I can figure this out (man, this kind of thinking hurts my head).Ummm. My dream seems to be telling me that, while interview information “seems” accurate, it should be combined with actually seeing a person’s natural strength’s and weaknesses. The snake said he was friendly, and he did impress the fox, but his past behavior indicated potential problems. I wonder if I can use that information when I select my players this year. Ummm. I think I’m onto another brainstorm. Let’s see. First things first. I have to start by figuring out what makes a good softball player. YES!” “I’ll start by making a list of the skills I need! Lists are good. Lists give me focus. Now, where to start. Let’s see. I think I’ll look at what worked last year and what didn’t. Dull couldn’t learn. Rongway couldn’t organize. Swifty couldn’t accept responsibility. Camshaft had no interpersonal skills. Marble was too aggressive. And, Bureau wasn’t motivated. Now let’s think about the other players. Ummm. Ummm. Ummm. Yes, it seems like their problems all fall into the same four areas: thinking, planning, interacting, and motivation. That’s it!! When I build my team, I’ll just look for people who can learn and solve problems, plan and organize activities, interact effectively with others, and get turned on by the game. Well, pat me on the back! I’ll have to watch more TV. Oh Oh, Here’s a problem. How in the world can I get honest information from people who apply for the team? Everyone wants to play, and they will lie to get time off to practice.” “Let’s see. Maybe I could ask each candidate about his or her experience. That’s good. If I pretend I’m a detective and use the right questions, the ones that reduce “fibbing,” I could, at least, learn more about their past performance. If they did well in the past, they might be able to perform in the future! That’s a start! But wait a minute, what if they still fib? Hmmm. I know, I’ll ask them to show me!” “I could ask them to demonstrate what they could do. You know, something that required planning or recommending solutions to problems. That would get at thinking and planning. And, it would help confirm the information I heard in the interview. Great going, Adams! Now, how might I get information about their interactional skills? What if I asked each person to role-play with a fan, coach another player, resolve a team problem, or sell some tickets. YES! That’s it!! Adams, you sly dog, North Dakota is getting further and further away! If a candidate flubs the role-play, they will probably fail the team. Now, what about that motivational thing? Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. You can get it! I got it!” “I’ll also build a special test based on softball attitudes. I’ll read some books and build a list of items. I’ll ask Charlene to help me build a scoring key. Her department has a really good team. I’ll ask each player to take my little test, Charlene can rate their performance in different areas, and I’ll use my trusty old Commodore 64 to study the numbers and learn which items influence performance. I’m cooking now! Everyone who applies for my team gets the “Adams’ Softball Motivation Test.” I compare their scores with the scores of good softball players. If they “fit” my profile, I’m golden!” “Ok, one more time. Got to get this down right unless I want to learn how to dance with wolves. First, I use special questions and techniques to probe each applicant’s softball history. Next, I give them exercises to solve and role-plays to perform. Then, they take the “Adams’ Test.” Finally, if all the scores look good, I have a winner! Adams, pack your swim trunks! You’re about to be promoted to the Maui Office.” After the last game of the season: “Adams, I don’t know how you did it. The team was outstanding! Measuring those four areas was pure brilliance! Where did you get your ideas? ‘Took us right through the championships like a hot knife through margarine! And, using Charlene’s team as your test standard! Brilliant! Your people looked just like her best players! Say, I’ve got an idea, why don’t you plan on coming to my house for dinner this Saturday. My daughter, Seborrhea, will be there and we just might have time to talk about your future. By the way, have you ever met Don Ho?”
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