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After Sunday’s BIG game the NFL season will be over until practices start up again in July. unnamedBut that’s only true for fans. During every off-season the coaches and general managers of the league’s 32 franchises face crucial decisions about what new player personnel they should acquire from the collegiate draft, free agency, and via trades with other teams.

The selection of the right players – adding the best “pieces to the puzzle” – just might mean the difference between a Super Bowl victory in February and a losing season that’s over in December.

Whether it’s an NFL team or a business, bringing in (and retaining) the right people is crucial to success. The following are some suggestions courtesy of Isaac Cheifetz, author of “Hiring Secrets of the NFL: How Your Company can Select Talent like a Champion”, Davies-Black Publishing.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct
Teams and organizations alike need to be on the lookout for the “team wreckers” that populate the sports and corporate worlds. The following are a few of them:

fs1* Self-centered superstars – Businesses and teams that tolerate “superstars” who are personally productive but organizationally disruptive rarely attain championship performance. Employing individuals with strong character values such as teamwork is important. The interview process, in which coaches and general managers seek revealing answers from their questions to potential draftees, has taken on increasing meaning in an age when erratic behavior, violence, and drug use is common among NFL players. Interviews have always been important in business, but in either case the key is to not draft (or hire) the person to begin with. No team or business can eliminate this risk, but with effective interviewing and background checks, one can at least minimize bringing in these team wreckers. If your corporate client already has a “superstar performer” on board, they should ask themselves: Is this individual, even if he or she brings in a lot of business, worth all the disruption and tension he/she brings in to the workplace? Chances are, “the tablespoons of honey [from sales] isn’t worth all the ladles of vinegar [all of the negativity they are poisoning the workplace with].”

* The morally challenged – Morally challenged individuals are likely to act on their worst instincts at some point. Even if they miraculously don’t negatively influence others, can they be watched all of the time? How much time and energy will that take? Organizations led by immoral leaders may succeed for a time, but in the long run it will be seriously damaged by unforeseen events. But it is very difficult to reform an unethical employee or manager later on. It’s preferable to establish an ethical business culture and demand that ethical standards be upheld from the beginning.

* The backstabber – Backstabbers are competent, but they love to subvert their peers. In a corporate setting a skilled backstabber can cut with the dexterity of a surgeon. A company can make its culture less hospitable to backstabbers by putting results above all else. This will provide less cover to individuals who compete politically. Backstabbers will then migrate to companies whose cultures are more receptive to their manipulative behaviors.

* The situation team wrecker – The situational team wrecker will act badly in a culture that is used to losing, but will be productive and loyal if transferred to a stable, winning organization. An example of this is Corey Dillon, whose moodiness as a star running back on a terrible Cincinnati Bengals team some years ago disappeared once he was traded to the New England Patriots, where he helped them win another Super Bowl. But beware: in business or in football, situational team wreckers should be presumed guilty until proven innocent. Even if they are well-intentioned, they are expressing themselves childishly and are not going to lead the organization from losing to winning. To succeed, they will require an already stable organization.

While using football as a metaphor for business has its limitations, to sum it up, it’s about how to build champions, and that’s true in football and in business.