“Playing Out of Position”

In 1993 at the peak of his career, three-time NBA finals MVP Michael Jordon left the Chicago Bulls and joined the Birmingham Barons, a minor league baseball team.

As a basketball player, he dominated. But, as a baseball player, he is barely a footnote. Why? He gave the same effort and dedication to both sports. But in one, he excelled and the other he failed. What made the difference?

Michael Jordon is a classic example of how an enormously talented person can fail when they are out of position. Jordon was a world-class basketball player because that sport matched best his physical attributes, desire and experience. He grew up playing against older players and received excellent coaching at all three developmental levels of high school, college and the pros.

A 2012 Gallup study indicated that only fifty percent of all U.S. workers maximize their strengths every day on the job. Probably less in the nonprofit sector. It further showed that hundreds of thousands of others would be more effective if placed in another position in the same company.

Maximizing the gifts, talents and strengths of your team begins with understanding “who” they are. It’s not looking at their resume that describes their educational preparation, work experience and cherry-picked endorsements.

Who a person is, is the person within the package. Their performance is coming out of that package. Don’t wait for Christmas to open the package and find they are playing out of position.

Playing people in the right position increases their energy, team morale, task engagement, and productivity while reducing their frustration and reducing staff turnover, a goal of every leader. Many times, solving your performance expectations is directly related to getting the right person in the position.

After five decades of building teams and developing leaders in both profit and nonprofit organizations, I can guarantee you there are no ideal team members. But there is an ideal position that helps every team member play their best game. It is your job as their leader to help them find it.

Playing people out of position never gets better with age. Make the changes sooner rather than later. Everyone is happier!