The Fantasy Sports Approach to Building a Better Team

Last Updated Apr 1, 2011 11:04 AM EDT

With an estimated 30 million people worldwide playing fantasy sports, chances are good you or someone you know manages at least one fantasy team. (And if you don't play but know someone who does, chances are also good you're sick of hearing them talk about their fantasy teams.)

A real sport, like a fantasy sport, is all about producing results. So is a business. The players you draft and how you manage those players can make or break a fantasy team -- just like the people you hire and how you manage them will make or break your business.

That's why there are plenty of parallels between fantasy teams and business teams. See if you recognize any of these fantasy sports archetypes in your company:

  • The Albert Pujols. Year-in year-out monster stats producer. Lets his performance do the talking. Occasionally under-appreciated and even under-valued, at least until he's gone and you realize it takes two people to equal his production. Who is the Albert Pujols in your organization? Start recognizing and rewarding him now or he may soon be gone (just like the real Albert.)
  • The Jason Bay. Great fantasy producer in 2009, in 2010 only hit a handful of homers in 95 games before a concussion ended his season. If you drafted him in 2010 you paid way too much. Could be the just-hired, can't-miss salesperson better at selling himself than your products or the tech whiz whose resume reads like Egyptian hieroglyphics but with a daily output just as hard to decipher.
  • The Tom Brady. Top performer. Formal and informal leader. Despite questionable (at least from the guys' point of view) fashion sense and hairstyle choices, female employees love him. Company and industry MVP, model, actor, married to a supermodel... Never mind. There is no Tom Brady in your organization.
  • The Kobe Bryant. One of the top five players in the NBA, multiple championships to prove it, but generally not a top five fantasy producer. Sometimes stats alone don't indicate overall value; sometimes performance evaluations alone don't identify the most valuable employees.
  • The Eli Manning. Solid all around quarterback, should perform well for the foreseeable future, but needs a great team around him to perform at his best. (That's not a knock on Eli; most players -- and employees -- only thrive when surrounded by a great team.) An Eli Manning could be anyone in your organization who does a good but not great job.
  • The Scottie Pippen. An oldie but goodie. Michael Jordan might not have become His Airness without Scottie. Think John Stockton/Karl Malone, Steve Young/Jerry Rice, and a host of other great duos where the whole made the individual parts greater. Somewhere in your organization a Scottie Pippen is elevating a top performer, like a sales assistant supporting a sales superstar or a line supervisor making a department head look great.
  • The Shaq. Past his peak years, still capable of a decent performance on occasion, but draws way more accolades than deserved at this point in his career. You may still want to keep a Shaq around since veteran leadership is tough to come by.
  • The Terrell Owens. Occasionally still a great producer, but you often find yourself wondering why you keep him on your team. Could be the department manager who occasionally exceeds targets but also creates ongoing employee relations issues. At some point the hassles outweigh the benefits.
  • The Brett Favre. Employees publicly praise him but the hype no longer matches the results. Even so, his performance reviews are surprisingly positive and his compensation is significantly higher than others in the organization, causing widespread resentment and team morale problems. Managers aren't ready to deal with the situation head on, though, so it will fester until it finally blows up.
  • The Hanley Ramirez. Outstanding producer at a position difficult to fill. A Hanley is your tech guru, engineering whiz, or product development superstar. Find him, cherish him, hide him from other companies. Great hitting outfielders are relatively plentiful; great hitting shortstops a lot less so. Find a Hanley Ramirez and gain an instant competitive advantage.
The cool thing about lists like this is no analogy is right or wrong. Every opinion is valid (even mine.)

Feel free to chime in with your own fantasy sports comparisons; extra credit for creativity!

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Photo courtesy flickr user Keith Allison, CC 2.0
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    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.