Another Talent Management Lesson From Reality TV – Really Lesser-Known Reality TV

Paul Hebert Change, Driving Productivity, Paul Hebert, Total Rewards

Realityreject No not American Idol.  No not Big Brother.  No not the Surreal Life (although there are some real cautionary tales in that hot mess of humanity.)  Nope – not Top Chef either.

I’m talking Top Shot.

Whaaaaaaaat?  I hear you saying.


Top Shot is a History channel reality show hosted by 3-time Survivor show contestant Colby Donaldson.  The show features two teams of eight people competing in various types of shooting challenges with the last remaining contestant getting a $100,000 grand prize and the title of “Top Shot.”

The characters aren’t as interesting or off-the-wall as in most of the other popular reality shows – in fact they’re a bit boring really.  But I have a TV addiction with a perchance for reality shows (where else can you see human behavior in their full, unedited, unscripted glory -sarcasm intended.) My addiction provides me some nuggets of learning and insight and keeps you from having to bear the full weight of that responsibility.

And below is one AHA! nugget for all of us managers and HR pros to ponder…

“People don’t rise to challenges, they fall back on training and habit when under pressure.”

Palma That was uttered by Peter Palma – a plumber by trade.  But Peter also graduated second in his class at the Marine Corps Sniper School, served in Fallujah, collects historic and practical weapons of all kind, makes potato guns out of PVC pipe and is a mascot of a roller derby team. (Did I say these guys were a bit boring?)

That quote is so “anti” everything most of us believe it just has to be true.  Not only that, as Peter tells the group, it is something that he learned in Marine sniper school.  I’m guessing when the Marines teach you something about how you’ll perform under pressure it’s based on historical data (who got killed and who didn’t) mucho training and ultimately, about achieving a mission or objective.  The Marines don’t mess around with feel-good incentives and recognition – they jump right to the heart of the matter (as do our other Armed Forces – I respect and thank you ALL!)

Train for Pressure

Thinking about this over the weekend I came away with these conclusions:

  • Most managers believe people rise to the challenge.  And they’re probably wrong 99% of the time.
  • We Don’t Train for Pressure – we train for what to do under “normal” conditions.
  • Most managers don’t consider training as a key component of outstanding performance as much as they consider the “intangibles.”
  • And the most important thing… Most employees are currently operating under stress.  From the economy to the speed of change that many businesses contend with on a daily basis – there is no “normal” – only rapid and unexpected change.

What Should We Train For?

So what do your employees fall back on, now that the “normal” is stress, and their training doesn’t reflect that reality?

From an HR perspective I’d be looking for the skill sets that are needed for performance in an environment that is stress-laden.  Instead of designing or buying training programs for what “used to be normal” you should be looking at training programs that teach people how to work under stress.

Programs that teach people how to prioritize.

Programs that teach people how to make better decisions with less information – not programs that teach people how to make decision when they have “perfect” information (can anyone say MBA case studies?)

HR should be helping managers (and managers – you need to help HR) determine the training needed so employees don’t have to “step up” to perform – but fall back into habits and training.