What the world's most successful sprint coach can teach companies about recruitment

A few years back when doing the research for my book "The Gold Mine Effect" I travelled to Kingston, Jamaica to meet Stephen Francis, the world's most successful sprint coach over the past 15 years.

Stephen Francis, the founder of MVP Track & Field Club, has excelled a finding and developing talent that most other people have overlooked. As he told me: ‘I love to work with people who are hungry for a second chance.

I love to prove that people made a mistake. That other stuff bores me. I stay clear of those I call “can’t miss” athletes as a mat- ter of principle. Instead I look for those with the greatest development potential.”

According to Stephen Francis, one of the great misconceptions about talent identification arises from our conviction that current high performance automatically equals a great potential and that current average performance equals low potential. Current performance can certainly be a good indicator of potential but this is not always the case.

What is important to him is not performance in itself, but what caused it and the story that lies behind it. Because of this, one of the key areas Francis looks at when trying to assess talent is training history. This is based on the idea that if you know an athlete’s past, you’ll have a greater chance of evaluating the possibilities for future.

Looking beyond the obvious result is a key principle when spotting talent in a business environment too. Don’t judge potential using numbers alone. Dig below the surface to learn how the numbers were achieved or what stood in the way that might have prevented them from being better. Was a manager successful more because of favourable market conditions than because they were a competent decision-maker? Did a sales person deliver good numbers because he had an amazing product that sold itself or because he systematically worked on building a strong pipeline?

As Stephen Francis puts it: ‘It’s not about the performance – it’s about the story behind the performance.‘