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Make the Right Picks and Avoid Turnovers
Attitude Can Build a Winning Team Faster Than Talent Alone

By David W. Pearson, Ph.D.

The same problem confronts team owners and company directors – all too often, the most appealing rookie, the most compelling stats, the best resume and credentials, all end in nothing when it comes to playing on a team...

During the first round of the 1991 National Football League (NFL) Draft, quarterback Todd Marinovich was selected by the Oakland Raiders. On paper his stats were a reflection of his outstanding skills and college performances, but his moral turpitude was not something to be admired. As a professional football player, heroin, cocaine and marijuana possession charges made much greater headlines than any on the field performances. In 1993 the Raiders chose to cut their losses and released Marinovich.

Two years ago, former San Diego Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard traded three draft picks and two players to move up one spot and select Ryan Leaf to become the cornerstone of the franchise and on-the-field leader of the team. Even within a league known for it's extravagances this was a very high price to pay for a player who was benched after the first two games of his NFL career.

Later San Diego suspended Leaf for four games in 1999 for cursing Beathard in front of his teammates after failing to complete a workout routine. The comments made by coach Beathard in a subsequent newspaper interview could be paraphrased by many other coaches and, at one time or another, by most owners of companies:

“During my career, I have never seen a player that had so much talent do so little with it. He fooled us. He fooled a lot of teams. The NFL is a different environment than college. At each level, you have to prove yourself all over again. It just seems like his attitude was 'I had already proved myself in college. Why do I have to prove myself here?'"

It took injuries to Moses Moreno and Jim Harbaugh before the Chargers finally resorted to starting Leaf in the final six games of the 2000 season. At the conclusion of last season the Chargers cut Leaf, leaving the team with the inauspicious distinction of having made one of the poorest draft decisions in NFL history.

The solution is simple. Identify the core values of your greatest player, your high performers, your leaders, best team players, highest scorers, and match those characteristics with your draft picks.

What holds true for sports holds true for business. Match positive attitude with positive attitude and you’ll have a real team – players who support and inspire each other, are great role models, secular and community committed, ethically inspired and driven to excel. Ironically the same measurements could also be used for quicker identification of true “star” attitude that can otherwise be partially obscured. As a result, the best has not always been the first pick.

In 1984, The National Basketball Association's (NBA) Chicago Bulls franchise selected the number three pick of the NBA draft. This player went on, in terms of attitude and ability, to become one of the most celebrated athletes in the history of sports. Six-time NBA World Champion, two-time gold Olympiad, and much, much more. An icon not only for the Chicago Bulls but for the league as a whole, a benchmark of success for every athlete that follows him, Michael Jordan quite literally inspired millions – not just with his play, but also with his moral fiber.

Imagine all the qualities of behavior that create a player of this caliber - loyalty, drive, determination, team spirit, ethics and honor, the will to overcome and excel, eagerness to learn and the ability to teach and share - and you will be painting a picture of the ideal team member. These characteristics are found to a greater or lesser degree in all of us - they are measurable attitudes, for individuals in any walk of life. Sports is neither the rule nor the exception. The need to measure these traits applies equally well to sales, management, leadership and any team based situation. Whether as a basketball coach, sales manager, shift supervisor, or human resources director we all want winners, we all want to build a team of super stars but, for some reason we are all too easily sold on talent alone.

Even if not the real thing, we can all come much closer a team of MJ x 5, provided we remember to measure attitude as well as talent. Build on success, not on chance.

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Served in the U.S. Air Force as a jet fighter pilot, David Pearson is a noted behavioral scientist. David Pearson was a contributing author of the EEOC's Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures and also contributed to the Tower Amendment to Title VII.12. As a nationally recognized authority on employment practices and behavioral tendency profiling, Dr. Pearson has been quoted in publications from Newsweek to The Wall Street Journal.

Dr. Pearson has been retained as an expert witness for the successful defense of major companies including Adolph Coors, Frontier Airlines, the City and County of Denver, Detroit Edison, and Martin Marietta. David Pearson has earned a Master of Science and a Doctorate in Psychology. He has also received extensive legal training, and has considerable experience in statistics and research methodology. Today, Dr. Pearson continues to make valuable contributions to MindData's business -- including development of all new MindData products and contribution of frequent articles and insights to the MindData web site.

The opinions expressed in articles by this author do not necessarily represent the opinions of MindData. These articles are provided as a means of informing you of current events and opinions that impact employers and the workplace.

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