Relative Age Effect

In news that will be no surprise to those born during the N Hemisphere Summer, young sports teams are comprised predominantly of those born in the Autumn.

This is due to the seasonal nature of the sporting calendar. Coinciding as it does, to run alongside the academic year of September to August.

Analysis by, of all combinations, 'a professor at the London School of Economics and a past head of talent ID at Athletic Bilboa FC', highlights that those born in this Autumnal first quarter outnumber those in the final one when it comes to being taken on from the age-groups into the professional game. By an astonishing five to one.

Around the same time, I discover that the current average length of tenure of a FTSE100 chief exec to be six years.

These facts brought to mind another sporting adage. From lauded mid-20th century revolutionary Hungarian football coach, Bela Guttmann. In essence, 'the third year is fatal'.

To put this in business context, I've enjoyed many a chat with certain longtime pals now sliding from one corner office to another for whom this holds true.

They steadfastly avoid a fourth year in any (ceo) role.

Your first year, you get to understand what's going on, setting the scene for your imminent changes that were a proviso on why you were placed in post.

Year two, you make the change happen.

Your third you see the fruits. Everyone hails you as the messiah.

You then quit whilst ahead - most likely headhunted - moving on to pastures more lush.

As an aside - although I rail against such type of 'leader' being less a business shaper, but more a politician - this intriguingly echoes Kurt Lewin's change cycle.

Unfreeze :: Change :: Refreeze

A rubric I admire.

Put all this together and I suggest you get another useful field for your bid analysis.

Namely length of tenure.

What is the 'relative age' of each player?

As determined by their duration in role, there will likely come a point in which racing to understand their new job will make way for then doing something different in it.

Where that line falls may shift between jobs.

Yet may it well be fair to hypothesise that someone in Year Four might be disinclined for an upheaval, when a tweak might only be tolerated?

Likewise, someone at the very outset of their new responsibilities will be consciously pausing on any immediate solution purchase.

I think back myself to the innumerous conversations I've had with those freshly perched on their highest ever rung on the greasy pole. Pitch rebuffed in the name of getting their head around what's going on. The funny thing is though, unless you align immediately at that instant to a specified condition-of-hire goal of theirs, any amount of 'three month call backs' are not prone to advance your cause.

If your flags for relative age are a choice of five, then you'll have; 0, 1, 2, 3 & 4. Where the last is practically 3+. Anything running into a 4th year and beyond.

If a track record exists, you can go through your recent sign-ups and deduce the values for your key client role. The one fundamental to ordering from you.

Where would they sit on this scale?

If a modal age emerges with significance, then you've a useful extra qualification parameter.

If calculating one is tricky then you've at least two choices.

One might be to simply ask a buyer where they think they are in terms of relative age in post.

What types of improvement do they feel best fit in with their current operating environment? A decent question in any circumstance. Also with a classic potential five-notch gauge curve; none, negligible, low, medium, high.

Another is to ponder whether '1s' are your prime movers. And if so, find these types ripe for making something happen and get on their team.

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