Hiring an NFL Head Coach for Your Company

@JennyVrentas has an interesting MMQB piece up with a behind-the-scenes look at the hiring process for NFL head coaches. It's a great read for hiring managers and candidates seeking an executive-level or leadership job.

I just tweeted out a mini-essay on my takeaways, but here they are for posterity:

Takeaway #1: As hire As, Bs hire Cs. Evaluate potential leaders on how they build their teams, not just what they have done

The longest block of time in most interviews is spent going over the candidate’s prospective staff. Coaching positions are in flux at this time of year, and you’re not always able to get the assistant you want, so candidates have to present a depth chart—three or four deep—of their top choices at every position from the coordinators to the position coaches. Be prepared to defend your choices if the team doesn’t like them. One owner, for example, vetoed a candidate’s third choice for a coordinator during their first interview.

Discussing specific people isn't practical for most jobs, but talking about profiles and people you have hired - or wanted to hire - is. Hiring managers and candidates should spend time talking about how they will build a great team and what they will do when it isn't working. If you hire a specialist for a leadership position based solely on what they specialize in you're probably going to end up with the wrong person.

Takeaway #2: Have a plan + flexibility to adapt. Cannot apply a system or template rigidly-must account for ability to execute

But what is the coach’s plan for making it work with players the team is committed to financially, such as a disgruntled star who’s earning more than the coach, or a regressing quarterback? Adam Gase won over the Dolphins by explaining his philosophy that coaching a quarterback can’t be one-size-fits all, backed by his experience blending different offensive systems and styles to best suit the spectrum of QBs he’s coached: Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler and now Ryan Tannehill.

Having a discussion about "best practices" can be valuable both for understanding the depth at which a candidate understands what they have done in the past AND how those best/leading practices should be applied or disposed of. If someone has always done something the same way and it's worked every time that still doesn't mean it will work for your company. Make sure they will give careful consideration to how to appropriately adjust their favorite methods and processes to match your strategy and, most importantly, your culture. 

Takeaway #3: #changemanagement is an integral part of every job. You need to hire well and then get them to work well together

Here’s how one candidate answered the adversity question: He cited a time when his team traded for a player whom he soon realized had trouble learning, to the point where it had affected his playing time with his previous team. The coach spent $600 an hour to meet with a sports and performance psychologist, learning how to become a better teacher to a slow learner. The player went on to have a career-best season under his new coach.

Change management isn't a formula - it's a sensibility. If a candidate has a good sense for how to manage change in the organization in both directions, the odds are they will be able to execute.

Takeaway #4: Ask for input. Somebody has been in a similiar position somewhere before. Their advice isn't available on Google

Charley Casserly is frequently hired as a consultant for coaching searches. Implied in he article is how many candidates are hired, fired, and interviewed every year. You can't look up what happens in those rooms and, thought you can read articles like this to give you a flavor, it doesn't replace the nuance a smart person in the room will be able to articulate.

Hiring managers should talk to people who have made similar hires and learn the most valuable pieces of information they have pulled out of interviews. Bring in a consultant if you don't have a lot of this experience or if you feel you need a different point of view. 

Candidates should talk to people who have been on these types of interviews and have landed these jobs. Talk about the process; talk about the conversation.

Hiring is hard. Making big career changes is hard. A good hiring process is a good conversation. And unlike the NFL, if you don't find the right person you can just keep looking.

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