How do you find talent?

I serve as the owner for two teams very important to me: Consulting Within Reach and Bambino and Buck.

 
The latter is the name of my fantasy baseball team. Bambino was the nickname of Babe Ruth and Buck stands for Buck O'Neil, a wonderful Negro League player.  For the uninitiated, fantasy baseball is a game where individual "owners" construct an imaginary team comprised of real major league baseball players.
 
In fantasy baseball, how well your team does is dependent on how well your lineup does in real life in certain statistical categories.  If you owned Barry Bonds a few years ago, then your team got the credit for 73 home runs.  If you own him today, well, the scoring categories don't include "number of grand jury indictments."
 
My wife sometimes complains about how much time I spend on this hobby.  Hobby?  "It's professional development!" I tell her, "The lessons I'm learning are invaluable!"
 
I'm only half kidding. In fact, there are some valuable lessons there for any leader of a social enterprise.  If you are trying to build the right staff team around your cause, it's worth considering two basic tenets of building a winning fantasy baseball team.
 
1. Excellence, not versatility
 
Some of the same reasons why I love fantasy baseball are the very same reasons why I love to lead CWR. Both endeavors require you to think strategically about how to assemble diverse individuals into one team.  In fantasy baseball, the different scoring categories require you to construct a lineup with a proper balance of power hitting, speed, pitching, and other diverse skills.

 

Note that you need a lineup of super diverse talents, not necessarily one person with diverse talents.  It's wonderful when you can find an excellent program manager, who is also a world class fundraiser, who can also master Quickbooks, and make a great quiche on the side.  But those folks are rare.
 
More often than not, trying for it all in one person means you get someone who is just mediocre at all of the skills
 
So, hire for excellence at your most core needs and think about how to fill out the rest of your lineup.  Outsourcing, volunteers, sharing with other organizations are all strategies to try along these lines - and ones this column will undoubtedly discuss in the future.
 
2. Assembling a deep bench 
 
In baseball, players go down.  We forget that the same happens in nonprofits.  Your staff will relocate, get pregnant and want to stay at home, be hired away by the competition, or get sick.
 
In my experience, the talent level at these organizations is generally quite high at the Executive Director and other senior posts.  But the drop off can be quite steep as you move down the organizational chart.  Thus, when a senior leader retires, takes another job, or falls ill, the organization can really suffer.  And even without any sudden departure, organizational effectiveness is still curtailed because the overall talent is too thin.
 
You need to be always thinking about developing the next layer of leaders, even if you're a small team.  Even if you don't have a staff opoening, talent spotting for the future should be a constant activity.
 
The fact that you lack financial resources should not necessarily prevent you from constructing the roster you need to achieve your mission.  If you have a compelling cause, you are already richer than many, many corporations out there.
 
What are you doing to fill out your lineup?

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