Does the name Ken Herock ring a bell?

How about the names of Super Bowl Champion Quarterback Brett Favre (Super Bowl XXXI), Steve Young (Super Bowls XXIII, XXIV, and XXIX), or Doug Williams (Super Bowl XXII)?

Make the connection yet? Probably not. Even in the context of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, Herock is still an unknown. But he’s the guy that drafted Favre, Young, and Williams. A behind-the-scenes operator, Herock’s job as a scout is to evaluate fresh prospects for NFL teams and to make recommendations on who and when – or if – to draft them. These are big, potentially multi-billion dollar decisions.

Taking a Chance
Turns out that Herock was the only person who believed in Tim Tebow during the spring of 2010. I remember watching Tebow’s last game as a Florida Gator and talking with my wife about how the game commentators were mercilessly critiquing Tebow’s performance, his mechanics and his decision-making. It wasn’t positive. In fact, the underlying tone was that there was no way Tebow would make it as an NFL Quarterback. There was speculation he wouldn’t even be drafted. And if you believe Tebow’s latest FRS commercial, it’s a miracle he got a shot at all.

Herock alone disagreed and he had the guts to say so. And while Josh McDaniels (the Bronco’s Head Coach at the time) will likely get the credit for ultimately taking a risk on Tebow and selecting him with the Bronco’s first pick, Herock was there first with the courage to roll the dice on a talent he knew would be successful. The Tim Tebow story is being written still and there is plenty of time for it to fall apart and considered a failure. But for now, Tebow led the Denver Broncos to a Divisional Champions and more-than-one-and-done postseason appearance. They were hopelessly out of contention before Tebow took the reins. And I don’t have the time to figure out how much money Tebow made the NFL and the Broncos organization in merchandise and higher ticket sales.

What’s This Got to Do With Recruiting?
Most selection teams are comprised of more people than necessary. There’s the hiring manager, her boss, a few key co-workers and maybe even some direct reports. Seven or eight or more people in all. And we fail from the start by looking for consensus. If the hiring manager – Josh McDaniels in Tebow’s case – would have listened to his boss, his co-workers, the rest of the industry, countless talking heads and Tebow’s future teammates and done the safe thing, Tebow and all that goes along with his miraculous season would have never happened. Yet Herock knew and had the courage to speak. McDaniel’s knew and had the courage to act.

Sometimes as leaders we are put in a difficult place when recruiting for our teams and organizations. We know who we need while the rest of the organization tells us who they would hire. If we are lucky, sometimes they are the same. Most times they aren’t. Sadly, the majority of leaders do the safe thing and continue the recruiting effort in perpetuity until consensus is reached, all the while wishing they’d possessed the courage to hire who they knew was the right person and – if ultimately wrong – accept and deal with the consequences. So much pressure to gain approval, to follow the herd and not take a risk.

Is a Camel is a Horse Designed by Committee?
Now I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t solicit feedback from our colleagues. We should and it’s an essential part of the selection process. However, we should be aware that they form their opinions about candidates through different lenses, filters, perspectives and biases. Ultimately, the person is your responsibility – not theirs.

The search committee selects a candidate.

Sometimes the risk is worth it. Leadership is about being out front, particularly on issues that are unpopular or unknown. When the time comes, will you have the courage to hire the right person for you and your organization even if it’s unpopular? To take a stand and make a “McDaniels-esq” decision? Or will you cave under the pressure of group think and settle for consensus because it’s safer?

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