As business managers, we don't like to admit it, but sometimes we have no choice but to hire an employee that isn't necessarily the most experienced or talented. In today's strong economy, good people are at a premium, and it's usually the bigger companies with the bigger wallets that are able to snap up the very best and brightest. Which means many smaller companies -- like yours and mine -- often wind up hiring people that couldn't get jobs at the Googles, Facebooks, or other big brands.
So does that mean a business that size can't succeed? Of course not. Just because you're not able to attract Stanford grads doesn't mean you can't profit. If you want the best example of this, just take a look at what Gabe Kapler's doing as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies, my hometown team, are not exactly laden with superstars. As I write this, the team is ranked 12th out of 15 National League teams in hitting, 9th in runs scored, and 11th in slugging percentage. The team's pitching stats aren't much better. Overall, the Phillies are in 8th place for runs allowed, ERA, and opponents' batting average. The team's top hitter, Odubel Herrera, is batting .280 which, is not even in the top 70 hitters in the league. Herrera also leads the team in home runs, with 15, but that's well behind the league leaders. Can you name three Phillies players? Maybe their only all-star, Aaron Nola? Nah, I didn't think so.
But these virtually unknown players are winning games! As I write this at more than half-way through the season, the Phillies are currently tied for first place in the NL East, and with the exception of a few elite teams, have just about as many wins as any other of the leading teams in baseball.
How is this possible?
For starters, Kapler is a big believer in metrics. He's invested in people and systems to track information so he can run his team with facts, not guesses. He changes the positions of his players based on every opposing batter and sometimes individual pitches. He changes relief pitchers frequently based on hitter matchups. He instructs his players to take pitches, steal bases and hit different directions, all based on the data about opposing players, pitchers, and game situations. No, he's not looking at margins by product line, employee productivity, return on capital, and profitability by job. Those are the metrics YOU should be looking at.
Even though he's managing the youngest team in baseball, Kapler treats his players like grownups. He lets them prepare, practice, and play the game the way they most feel comfortable. "Maybe somebody wants to hit without a helmet," he told MLB.com back in spring training. "He's a grownup and maybe that's how he stays healthy, that's how he's strong because mentally he's more prepared for the game now. I don't think there is anything hard and fast,black-and-white." He's big on avoiding surprises and communicates frequently with his all his players privately to make sure they know where they stand and what's going on. Are you treating your employees like grownups?
Kapler is constantly looking to fit his players into roles that ultimately benefit the team. He frequently sits players when they're not performing, sometimes plays infielders in the outfield or in unusual positions, bats pitchers higher in the lineup, and changes his batting order as often as my wife changes her shoes (OK, not that often, but pretty close). He doesn't believe in a bullpen with clearly defined rules, choosing to put any pitcher into the game based on the situation. Are you doing this with your people?
A manager can only do so much. Gabe Kapler can't go on the field and play. You can't do your people's jobs for them. But the secret to getting the most out of your people -- like Kapler is getting from his players -- is putting them in the best positions to succeed. You give them independence and respect their decisions to do their jobs the way they feel is best. You communicate with them and have their backs.
Somehow, Kapler has taken a bunch of (no offense, guys) average players and assembled them into a team that's winning games. It's his first year as an MLB manager, so yes it could just be beginner's luck. For all I know there's a meltdown coming in the not-too-distant future. But judging how he's led this team so far, Kapler -- like any great business leader -- has proven you can succeed, you can grow, you can profit, even when you're not working with all-star talent.