Have You Overlooked the Jeremy Lin on Your Team?

Posted on February 27, 2012.

Try as I might, I can no longer resist the obvious message that "Linsanity" brings to the workplace.  We’ve all been stupefied when really talented people get overlooked for promotions. The situation is made worse when someone truly incompetent or just unlikable gets the job instead.  How many times have you overlooked someone because of built in prejudices?  

 I’m not talking about race or gender bias. Maybe you look at someone from an Ivy school as more talented and worthy than a public school graduate. Maybe you favor people from your alma mater or if you’ve hired someone right out of college, they’re always  “too young” even in when they hit their 30s and 40s. How many times do we pigeonhole people without giving them a chance?

At least once in my career, I was lucky enough to take notice of a “Jeremy Lin”. After taking over a new region, one of my first responsibilities was to promote a market manager to replace a recent departure.  Our friendly HR partners provided me with a list of internal candidates that they took the liberty of ranking.  At the very bottom of the list was Chuck.  I was told, “ Chuck isn’t really a viable candidate, but he’s a solid performer and we owe him the courtesy of an interview”. How many times have you heard that?

So I started at the top of the list. Some were not interested in relocating; others were very interested but failed to articulate their strategy for the market.  Chuck was my last interview and he came in and wowed me. He had a strong sense of the market, what the team needed, what he would do his first 30, 60, 90 days on the job. All this from someone who wasn’t a serious candidate. You know the end of this story. I gave Chuck the job against my own bosses’ objections.  The number of people that called to thank me was overwhelming.  People that knew Chuck and had worked with him for years were thrilled that someone had finally taken notice of his innate leadership skills and talent.  Needless to say, he’s done a terrific job and did I mention he coaches his kid’s basketball team?