Sports General Managers: Lessons about Staffing

Joseph Stubblebine
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If you follow baseball or any other sport, you know the right general manager can make or break an athletic team. A good manager excels at managing staff members and follows basic staffing tips when dealing with players and owners. As a human resources professional, you can learn a lot by reviewing the moves of sports general managers throughout history. Avoiding their mistakes will help you hire better employees for your company.

If you are trying to fill a managerial opening, make sure the person you hire has the ability to develop employees and put their talents to good use. Tommy Ivan of the Chicago Black Hawks is a great example of a general manager who was not able to do this. He traded Phil Esposito to the Boston Bruins in 1967, but Esposito turned out to be one of the most talented players in the league. Had Ivan been the right manager for the team, he would have recognized Esposito's skills and worked to develop them. Following basic staffing tips when developing job descriptions and performing other human resources tasks will help you hire employees with the right skills and abilities.

Following proven staffing tips can also help you avoid hiring someone who blames others for team problems instead of accepting responsibility. After the Calgary Flames won the 1989 Stanley Cup, general manager Doug Risebrough traded Doug Gilmour to Calgary's rival team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. This trade proved to be a bad move for Risebrough, especially when he revealed he had not seen all of the players he received in the trade. He tried to blame the team scout, but as the general manager, he should have taken responsibility for the failed deal.

Many companies allow department managers to interview candidates or participate in the hiring process in some way. If you hire a new manager, you must hire someone who understands basic staffing tips and can use them to make the right hiring decisions. Matt Millen, general manager of the Detroit Lions, was finally fired from the team after making a series of serious hiring blunders. Jonah Keri of ESPN said Millen's picks got worse each year, leaving "gaping holes" on the field. If you hire a manager who does not follow accepted staffing tips when choosing employees, you may not be able to build the right team. Conducting regular performance evaluations can also help you eliminate confusion about what is expected of employees.

You can learn valuable lessons by reviewing the mistakes of the most well-known sports managers in athletic history. These managers are a good example of what to avoid when you are hiring employees who will be responsible for managing staff members. Reviewing basic staffing tips and modifying them for your particular situation is a good way to avoid major hiring mistakes.

(Photo courtesy of surachai /


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