elitefts™ Sunday Edition

Human Resources

I don’t know who made up the rules for hiring and grading performance, but I’d like to give them a nice kick in the glute ham raise. I’ve tried not to be too harsh on this function throughout my career (they do control my paycheck after all), but there are two significant areas where I feel the discipline known as HR has failed.

The first failure dictates the most important aspect of an entity’s existence—hiring. I continue to be baffled by companies repeatedly hiring based on titles rather than rolodexes. I believe the conversation goes something like this:

CEO: “We need someone to lead our Rotating Danglers Division. Who do you think we should target?”

HR: “You want someone with at least 10 years of experience leading large organizations, preferably at a Fortune 100 company and with an MBA from a top 20 program.”

CEO: “What about industry experience?”

HR: “Meh. It’s more important that we know they have functioned at a comparable organization level somewhere else, preferably somewhere bigger.”

WRONG! I’ve seen this play out over and over and over. For some reason, companies are obsessed with hiring someone with "VP" on his resume in order to fill a VP spot. The higher up the title ladder you go, the less people seem to be concerned with one's knowledge of the business. I get this on the surface. However, if the new hire in question is truly a high-performing individual, then why are they on the job market in the first place? Sure, there are the occasional exceptions—like people wanting to relocate to a specific area or acquisitions causing firings. Yet, most of the time I’d say that the VPs on the market are the VPs that were passed over for promotions, or who were not seen as valuable enough to do what was necessary to stay on the payroll. So, if I’m settling for what is available, then I might as well get a skill set that is useful.

What I want to hire is a rolodex. When I see business performing well relative to market, then there is usually a leader at the helm who knows the industry inside and out. I want a captain who can pick up the phone and have that call answered—whether he is talking to customers or suppliers. I want a captain who knows how aggressively the top five competitors will react in a market downturn because back in 1986 when he or she was cutting teeth in sales, they went head to head against the now-leaders of those competitors in daily battles for business. Who can get the business out of a jam when the plant catches on fire and no shipments are coming or going? This is who I want. Oftentimes it is someone who is already in the organization, but who has just never been viewed as a leader. I can coach leaders. I can’t replicate rolodexes.

The second falter in the art of resourcing humans is that once we get them hired, we are awful at grading them. The performance review process is the standard method of achieving this task. The problem is that it is a contrived process with known outcomes before it begins.

Red Social Man on Target and Magnifying Glass


First, you have the supervisor biases. People are not all that smart across the population. Whenever you have a population of managers grading a population of employees, there will be poor decisions and biases. Mr. Smithers kisses the boss’s brown eye all year while being a vacuous tomb of empty ideas and having tons of style but no substance. Meanwhile, Mr. Simpson is a smart, tough worker who is a clear threat to leapfrog the boss at some point. I’ll let you guess who gets the higher rating.

Then, there is the dance of the rating itself. Let’s say that everyone is rated on a scale of one to ten, with one meaning you’re fired and ten meaning you walk on water. When it comes time for raises, the boss is pressured to stay within the allocated budget for pay increases. Meanwhile, each employee is trying to maximize his or her own raise.

Virtually all employees end up rating themselves above average. Not only do they want a higher raise, but also no on wants to admit he is mediocre or worse. The boss then has to start talking everyone down so that the department averages a five. Regardless of how that group performed relative to others, everyone has to average to a five. Although the group could have a dozen superstars and have kicked ass all year, that's no matter. On average, they are a 5. Meanwhile, another department down the hall has barely shown up to work and there is not a single outperformer in the group. Want to guess what their average employee rating is? Yep, a five. So the superstars are artificially downgraded while the gaggles of idiots are upgraded to the magic five. How’s that for motivation?

The ranking dance is stupid. Performance reviews should not be an annual discreet event. They should be based on continual feedback, and compensation should be driven by the value of the individual to the entire organization—not force-ranked to a team. However, sometimes you just have to work with the system you are given. If you are a leader, then fight for what you believe to be right and have the data to back it up. Hopefully the powers that be will listen and do what it right.

Unless, of course, this causes my bonus to suffer. Then I’m calling HR to complain.


Since my last article, I competed in a multi-ply meet and produced lackluster results.

  • Squat: I hit my opener of 720 pounds, but I fell forward on my second attempt. I then cut high on my third attempt.
  • Bench: These were the strangest lifts of my life. My lower body went completely numb during the descent on my first two attempts, and my right leg was kicking uncontrollably for about five to ten seconds after racking the bar both times. I thought I was going to require a trip to the hospital for nerve damage. I then changed bench shirts for my third attempt and got three whites with 700 pounds. Everything seemed fine after the flight concluded, so I carried on with the meet.
  • Deadlift: I got my first two attempts, but I could not lock out the final try of the day. I ended with 610 pounds for a 10-pound PR in the lift.

The 2,030-pound total was a far cry from what I was expecting, but it accurately reflected my abilities and preparation. I did not train the squat deep enough throughout the cycle, and it showed. This was disappointing because I did video almost every work set of the training cycle and thought that I was hitting where I needed to be. However, I was wrong. Honestly, after the bench scare, I was relieved to not have bombed and to not have ended up in an ambulance.

After the meet, a month or so was spent doing random bodybuilding-type training to recover. Switching from bands, chains, and max effort work was a nice break for my central nervous system. But then it happened...I was benching and heard/felt a rip in my left shoulder. One MRI later and I found out that I had a full tear of the supraspinatus, a partial tear of the subscapularis, subluxation of the biceps tendon, and a SLAP tear. In other words, my rotator cuff is FUBAR and requires surgery.

The surgery will be my first and is scheduled in a month—just shy of my 42nd birthday. The following six months or so will be a slow and steady slog of rehab and physical therapy. But with a full complement of supplements by my side, I intend to fully heal, regain a respectable bloat, compete in 2014, and hit PRs. I’ll update the path and progress in future articles. Thanks for reading.