Trip Randall on hiring and shaping team culture at Nike
Trip Randall is the former VP of Running at Nike and has held a number of positions with the brand over the last 20 years. In this episode, he shares how he navigated the iconic company’s scale, complexity, and reputation to make great hires.
Most recently, Trip led merchandising, marketing, sales, and operational efforts in the U.S. and Canada for Nike Running. His past roles at Nike include Director of Product Creation, Director of USA Performance Footwear, VP of Global Sales for Nike Kids, and VP and Global GM for nike.com. Trip is dedicated to building and leading effective teams and understands the value of a strong culture.
Listen to the podcast
Highlights from our conversation include:
- Nike’s evolving hiring landscape (7:03)
- Internal career paths and development at Nike (9:42)
- Trip’s approach to teams and culture (11:31)
- How people and business strategy inform each other (14:33)
- Why Nike Running rethought their people strategy (15:20)
- What Trip looked for in Nike candidates (18:20)
- The top three competencies for success at Nike (24:31)
- Trip’s advice for anyone aspiring to build their career at Nike (32:06)
- How hiring decisions were made in a consensus-driven organization (35:03)
- What Trip has learned from hiring successes and failures (36:38)
SHOW TRANSCRIPT – HOW I HIRE PODCAST WITH Trip Randall
Roy Notowitz: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to How I Hire, the podcast that taps directly into the best hiring advice and insights. I’m your host, Roy Notowitz, Founder of an executive recruiting and leadership consulting firm called Noto Group. My team and I have spent the last decade helping to build iconic consumer brands one hire at a time.
I’m excited to welcome Trip Randall to the show today. Trip was most recently the VP of Running at Nike, one of the brand’s largest business units, where he led merchandising, marketing, sales, and operational efforts in the U.S. and Canada. Over the last 20 years, Trip has held a variety of positions at Nike, including Director of Product Creation, Director of USA Performance Footwear, VP of Global Gales for Nike Kids, and VP and Global GM for nike.com. Before joining Nike, Trip was the Director of Marketing at Turner Broadcasting.
Today, we’ll hear about how Trip navigated the complexity, scale, and competitive landscape at Nike to make great hires. We’ll talk about how Nike’s process has evolved over the years while also keeping the core values at the forefront of hiring decisions. He’ll also share his advice for job seekers who are pursuing opportunities in the athletic industry.
Trip, thanks for joining me on the podcast.
Trip Randall: [00:01:21] Thank you for having me, Roy. I’m glad to be here.
Roy Notowitz: [00:01:23] Great. Well, let’s dive right in and talk about how your career has evolved and how you got to Nike and what happened once you got there.
Trip Randall: [00:01:32] My career path was described by one of my mentors as anything but a straight line, which the first time I heard it, I thought, “My gosh, is that a compliment? What’s he saying?”
I’ve been in a number of different areas of business, as well as a number of different functional areas. That’s kind of shaped who I am and how I work and what I love to do. But I came up really through [a] traditional advertising background in New York, leading account management on a number of different clients that sort of cut my teeth around some traditional marketing, like Disney and Champion Products, and General Motors, those types of things.
Roy Notowitz: [00:02:07] That’s a great place to start.
Trip Randall: [00:02:08] Absolutely. And it’s funny. I didn’t know then, but I look back now on how much I draw on that traditional training that I was, that I was receiving. I wasn’t being paid very much for it. I remember eating a lot of pizza, but other than that… Really over time, that led me to sports marketing you know, often how it happens, through a client, which ultimately led me to Nike.
I took a stop at Turner Sports in Atlanta for a bit and then amazingly, 23, 24 years ago, found my way to Nike. And that’s what really started an amazing journey for me at the brand. I think it’s somewhere between 12 or 13 different roles over my time at Nike. Came in through marketing and then worked in our earlier version of Nike’s direct to consumer unit, Nike Retail, and then moved through a series of roles after that in strategy and product and product creation.
And then in about 2012, I was looking to do something different. And I found myself leading what nike.com was at the time was nikestore.com. And that was a five-year role, basically building along with the team, the vision for e-commerce at Nike. And that kicked off, for me, a complete career shift. We were building the plane while we were flying it. So I was not only doing what I knew well about Nike, on how product worked and how the brand worked, but I was also learning digital. I was getting my MBA while in the middle of it.
Roy Notowitz: [00:03:33] And forging new ground for Nike. I mean, that was a huge thing for them.
Trip Randall: [00:03:37] It was, it was truly the inaugural, I would say, commercial e-commerce plan. And even eCommerce is a tricky term to a certain degree at Nike because it’s really molded together with brand. It’s not just transactional there. So it was always a combination of storytelling as well as transaction and how to, how to build those two together. The success has been well-documented there.
So that was an amazing experience. I then went and worked in our kids’ business. For two or three years in marketplace, primarily because of my digital experience. And then the last role most recently was leading our North America Running business unit as the GM there, amazing experience leading that team. And here I am on my, my inaugural podcast.
Roy Notowitz: [00:04:20] So when did you first start hiring and managing teams? And what are some of the things that you’ve learned over the years? Or what’s shaped your hiring philosophy?
Trip Randall: [00:04:30] Yeah. In the, in the truest sense, hiring and managing, I literally started in my second or third job, where all of a sudden I was kind of thrown out on a limb and, you know, had account executives reporting to me and needing to fill those.
But honestly, I think it begins way earlier than that, because whether there’s a paycheck involved or an actual business role, we’re picking teams and partners our whole life. And you’ll learn by trial early on, on, who’s got shared values. Who’s got ideas, who has your back, team dynamics, that kind of thing.
As I got into the actual workplace, it was eye opening for me. I remember the first few times really kind of getting to that table and, and realizing I didn’t really have a plan or a process, because I had nothing to fall back on, except that experience. And I would say over time, you know, I started to build a bit of a philosophy and I would say it was trial by fire.
There were some misses and there were some wins and I took a lot away from each of them. And I even fall on some of those things today, but it, it started early for me. And then as far as, you know, as you get to Nike. Yeah. My philosophy has changed quite a bit. I think the biggest thing around my hiring philosophy that’s evolved, you know, probably within the last 5 to 10 years, was just the notion of probably the risk that we have of picking a team and building a team that looks a little too much like me and thinks like me and this unconscious bias, which obviously is a very important and timely topic right now.
For me, it was an eye opener because I, in all honesty, felt like as I looked back on some of my hires, I had fallen into those traps. So I think that was probably the biggest shift for me within the last call it 5 to 10 years around my philosophy.
Roy Notowitz: [00:06:18] One of the things that’s kind of interesting about Nike, in particular, is the complexity, right? It’s huge. There’s a huge internal talent pool. There’s a ton of people externally that would love to work at Nike. And there’s this complexity of the matrix and overlapping roles and regular restructuring and changing priorities, you know, and, and it’s not as clear cut as a small to midsize company in terms of what roles exist, whether they’re being filled internally or externally. There’s opportunistic hiring that’s happening because people are flowing through all the time. Can you speak a little bit about the hiring landscape there and how maybe that’s evolved a little bit over the last two years since there’s been a greater awareness around some of these issues?
Trip Randall: [00:07:03] Yeah, I would say, the Nike that I grew up in was very, I think you just used the word, it was opportunistic at many times around hiring and, quite often, I was sort of picked, I was handpicked and it was called sort of the tap on the shoulder, you would call it at Nike. Like, “Hey, we want to talk to you about something.”
And while for sure, that created opportunity for me. I think that some of the shifts in the last couple years would indicate that, while that may have created opportunity for some, it may have missed the mark on creating opportunity for others just to put it simply. You know, and I think it was, it came from the right place in that people believed in certain individuals, they saw skills. They saw people behaving in certain climates, in certain settings, they saw results. They saw skills that were appropriate and we’re needed in this next role.
So people kind of self-identified to a certain degree, but it just wasn’t working anymore. And I think the biggest shift in the last couple years — and by the way, it’s a hard shift, in fact, did added, on some level, to that complexity that you referred to because the change I’m talking about would be that, you know, most, if not all roles are now posted. There’s very little, if any, really none, behind the scenes tapping on the shoulder, there may be a strategic role here and there at the senior level that is, you know, talent planned, where there’s not really a formal process so much, but for the most part, the roles that sometimes would come and be gone before folks might even know, really it doesn’t happen that way anymore.
And I think that’s creating a huge amount of opportunity for individuals to get, not only just even experience in the process, which by the way, like, it’s interesting, I’d gone years at Nike with jobs, but really, I hadn’t gone through a formal interview process. It gives people that experience. It gives them a chance to think about what they want to do. And then it also creates an opportunity for leadership to get in front of emerging leaders that might not have crossed their path otherwise. And look, that’s always combined with an internal process that identifies emerging leaders in next gen talent.
You have to combine those two, so it’s not completely run one sided, but it’s informed at times. But I think that’s been the biggest shift to allow everybody a chance at roles. And obviously you still go through the process of vetting and screening and so on, but that’s been the biggest shift, certainly within the last two, if not three years.
Roy Notowitz: [00:09:21] I know, also, over the last few years, there’s been more of a focus on the internal career path and helping individuals develop their internal resume. I think of the Nike resume, where it’s a one page thing. I’ve seen many of them. And it sort of helps tell their story and, and their strengths and helps them market themselves internally.
Trip Randall: [00:09:42] I’m a big believer in that. I’m probably a disciple of that. If there’s something that I’ve spent just countless hours doing, because I love it. And also I think people would come to me based on seeing my career path and the different roles, and maybe trying to see if there’s some sort of secret sauce that they might decipher from a conversation, but I’m a big believer in that type of approach in terms of gathering who you are and what you’re all about and what your passions are, and also what you want to do.
It doesn’t have to be right. But what do you see for yourself, you know, one year out, two years out, three years out? And I think it helps people internally network and helps them more purposefully network, as opposed to just, you know, the shotgun blast out to, hey, you know, who, who’s out there and who could give me my next opportunity?
It has to be more targeted than that. But I think at the root of what you’re saying also is, it’s an amazing team. There’s so much talent for sure. You have to go out external at times to bring in specific skill sets. We all know that, but it’s so important that the internal team sees that there’s opportunity for them and that they get the support they need on that journey to get the experiences they need to be ready for that big opportunity when it comes. That’s always one of the more fun mentoring kind of roles that I think all leaders need to play and should play. And that I kind of dove into with full attention and passion because I just love doing it.
Roy Notowitz: [00:11:00] Yeah, like a lot of large companies, Nike’s famous for reorgs and making sure that the business is aligned with markets and consumers. As a result, you know, you’ve had the opportunity to assume responsibility for a variety of teams and business units as the company’s shifted strategies. And so when you come into a new team or a new situation, what has been your approach to gauging the capabilities of the team and the environment and the culture of that team?
Trip Randall: [00:11:31] I mean, I’ve done that a number of times. I would almost… while capabilities and culture come together for sure, but I also might approach each one slightly differently. Starting off, I would do my research and I start with the team. I spend a lot of time talking to the team, even in this most recent running role. I came in and I met with every single member of the team and asked the same questions to each one, like what’s working, what, what could be better? You know, how are you doing? You know, how are you feeling about what you’re doing and what’s happening in your day to day?
And, and you find amazing things and granted a team has to start to learn to trust a leader. So some are more open than others. Some are very open. It’s amazing what people will tell you, you know, when you ask. And then over time, you might even get some who are a little more reluctant to open up who’ll tell you a little bit more about what’s making the team tick, but I’ll talk to the team. I’ll talk to stakeholders. And I also will talk to leaders who led me to that role and ask them what they see. Which I think gives you sort of a general sense. And of course then, which is a little hard to do when you’re first coming into a job, you want to look at what consumers are saying and what customers, retailers, and other stakeholders are saying as well, because you want to understand how the team is perceived.
So from that you’re going to get a few things. You’ll get some capability assessment. You want to have a sense of urgency, but on capability it’s going to take some time to see the team in action, to understand really what, what exactly you’re dealing with and frankly, what they’re dealing with because the pressures and what you’re seeing may not just be simply a result of that person’s individual talent. There may be other forces at play that are creating some, you know, some behaviors and then culture.
Culture really does come back to that talking to the team. What’s working, what’s not? How are decisions being made? How is communication handled? And like I said, specifically, the person, how are they doing? And you know, if the answers are positive here, that’s great. But if there’s some answers that are a bit wobbly and you aren’t seeing a broad swath of individual team members, maybe, feeling valued, included challenged, you know, rewarded. And I don’t mean rewarded like dollar awarded, but acknowledged and empowered, then, then there’s work to do.
And I think by talking to that team and agreeing as a team, what are those areas that are most important to address? And it’s a select few usually. You might have a list that’s longer, but there’s a select few that’ll rise to the top. And then it’s committing to it. It’s making it visible. It’s saying it out loud. I always say, “Say it out loud,” because it makes everybody accountable and then it’s literally committing to it and driving it on a regular basis. No different than you’re driving a business strategy because it ultimately is a business strategy.
Roy Notowitz: [00:14:10] So when you talk about connecting people to the business strategy, so take, for example, coming into the Nike Running role where you really wanted to build off the heritage of running at Nike and get back to that core and in a new world, how did you do that? And what’d you mean by that? And then how did you get people aligned behind that strategy?
Trip Randall: [00:14:33] I strongly believe that a strong talent and people strategy is a business strategy in and of itself. You know, a team that’s humming on all key cultural elements that make up sort of a high performing unit, they can do simply anything they set their mind to, regardless if it’s a reset or if it’s taking a business to a new place or even creating something purely from scratch, you know, I believe they can do anything they want. I mean, and Running for a variety of reasons, we knew we needed to reset our strategy, how the consumer saw us, our product line and how we came to market and where, and essentially create a new Nike Running and central and paramount within that was the development of that team culture. It was as important as a new shoe, a new piece of apparel, a new experience on, on our app was that culture.
Roy Notowitz: [00:15:18] So what’d that look like?
Trip Randall: [00:15:20] One, we’d all aligned on the values that we wanted to drive toward and align and prioritize as a team. And, and, and I think there’d be some things in there you would not be surprised by around trust and having each other’s back and, and those types of things. But in a deeper way, as we looked at running, and as we got more into this reset, we actually also realized that the Nike Running consumer wasn’t only the stereotypical Nike Running consumer that might come to mind over the years, that there was a new runner that was emerging, particularly in our key cities, that was more diverse and had different values and was looking for different things from the Nike running brand, some of which was just, “help me get moving.” It wasn’t like, “help me win a gold medal or, you know, put me on a treadmill with a, with a VO2 max, you know, inhaler in my mouth.”
Like it wasn’t this intimidating place. It was, “help me just be better.” And when we looked at that consumer, we had started realizing that our team didn’t necessarily reflect that consumer as much as we wanted it to. And that was a bit of a miss. And I think that’s part and parcel something that Nike was facing and continues to face and work on overall. So we had been starting that work to decide how were we going to more closely align to this, this emerging consumer so that we could authentically and with true purpose and connection address their needs and solve the problems.
Maybe ones that I didn’t even know they had yet, but help them as runners just get better. So in a, in a way that people strategy not only extended from the culture within our team, but it literally found its way into the very strategy of the business, which was pretty exciting.
Roy Notowitz: [00:16:53] So, did you diversify your team internally or externally? Or how did you try to mirror the customer more?
Trip Randall: [00:17:00] Yeah, that work was beginning. I mean, I think it started at home with the immediate team and just identifying opportunities to diversify the leadership team. And then we also realized that it wasn’t going to be that easy. And I think some of that was predicated on just years of being sort of an understanding of the running business and who is interested in and in and around the Nike Running business. And we found we didn’t necessarily even have the right spider legs out into the marketplace to, to find the right team. But we also had that team and members of the team elsewhere at Nike who maybe didn’t think that they had a home at Nike Running.
So we were starting those discussions to say, “Hey, you know, consider Nike Running. You might consider other businesses, but what about this business? And that work was just getting going. It’s a two, three year plus strategy to get that movement, to be honest with you, I think the hardest part and possibly the most important part was the realization that it needed to happen. So that work was just getting underway.
Roy Notowitz: [00:17:56] Nike is a competitive company to get into. You know, so many people have a strong, emotional connection to the brand and to sport and dream about working there. When I was a recruiter there, people used to call me, and that would be the first thing they’d say. And so how did you parse through all those impressive resumes and know what’s legit and what’s not?
Trip Randall: [00:18:18] Yeah, there really is truth to that. Hiring happens depending on the role, can happen different ways and the, the path of application and where resumes end up and go can be different. But there were a few where, where a lot of those resumes ended up on my desk and I was shocked. I remembered really early in my Nike time, hiring a marketing manager and somebody brought me sort of this folder of applicants.
I thought maybe I’d gotten the applicants for every job on the floor or the building. I was like, is this possible? I could not believe my eyes. And then on top of that, the quality, as you mentioned, I was just astounded and it was actually intimidating because I thought, how am I going to weed through this?
And again, it was trial and error. I had to learn sometimes the hard way, but also learn over time. And now things I would say I look for, I look for firsts, you know, or “never been done befores.” You can’t hold people always to that standard, but there’s something about. People that have been part of teams that really pushed into new places where they had to move a culture, they had to move a strategy. They had to change a business model.
I’m very interested in people that have had that experience. Because one thing you always hear from people who have been part of those teams, they often refer back to them as sometimes the most rewarding times, but the ones they learned the most about, and that might be one that didn’t even work. Quite frankly, sometimes the ones that don’t work are ones you learn from the most, in, in all honesty, particularly at Nike.
I’m a big believer in looking for interests and signs of passion and commitment to something. I tend to be someone who will grab a resume. And even if it’s a first interview, the first question I ask isn’t necessarily about the last job they had. The first question might be about a passion or some crazy thing they’ve got on their resume or something that showed an overtime commitment to something because I just personally believe that shows a certain commitment/discipline toward something. I believe that’s important.
Listen, I also look at layout and simplicity. We all know that a verbose and crazy multi page resume can be challenging, but I also think, if this is sort of the mall map to someone’s communication style or their brain, who you might hire, let’s be sure it reflects a fit. You know, I think it’s important because particularly in the culture at Nike, to connect it directly back to the land in which they might come and, and walk their days, you’ve got to keep things simple. You’ve got to communicate clearly. So if you can’t do it there, it would tell me something.
You also mentioned, so, you know, there’s impressive brand pedigrees for sure. Love, love to see the names that we all know, those names, you know, change every five years now. But I also really want to look for someone who can really demonstrate that track record of measurable and consistent success. And on some level, while I understand that some of those key brands are going to give them sort of a certain sort of experience that you might not get elsewhere, what I don’t want to do is be blinded by that.
If someone has been able to take a brand I’ve never heard of and a product that is not maybe one that was in my consideration set that they’re marketing or selling, but they show an ability to move a team forward on that vision. You have to give that credibility and hopefully they can tell that story because the last thing I’d say is I do look for those stories. I look for those projects, those teams, those roles that are just unique. And I’ll specifically usually poke at those and what the learnings were on those, those moments or those journeys. Because like I said, sometimes they go South. Sometimes they work and they become things that vault you to your next opportunity. But those are probably the things that I lean on most when I look at that huge stack of resumes or emails in my inbox these days.
Roy Notowitz: [00:21:42] Have you had the experience where you have somebody with, you know, an impressive educational background or a brand experience background, and then they come in and they just aren’t really what you thought just based on the resume?
Trip Randall: [00:21:55] Yeah. As an Ivy-leaguer personally, you know, I will say it’s something I carry with me. It’s it’s, it’s funny you bring that up because it’s something… I don’t often mention it at all because in a lot of ways I find it can actually be a detractor in an odd way, because I think it can spur thinking along those lines. So, while I don’t discount it at all because something led to that experience and something led to a team and it’s an application as a resume that lead someone to believe that somebody had something to offer a highly selective, you know, institution.
There’s gotta be something there, but it’s not just that I would lean more toward the latter, which is, one thing about Nike is if, if you were to expose all the backgrounds of Nike, where people went to school, who didn’t go to school, who dropped out and went on to do something else, you will find within the ranks and the leadership at Nike, every shape and size, you’ll find Harvard, Stanford MBAs, and the like, and you will also find folks who didn’t go to college, and you’ll find dropouts who didn’t graduate who have gone on to senior leader positions, which ultimately tells me, and I think we’re all learning this and I, and honestly more now than ever Nike, actually, has a, an area of the talent acquisition zone that’s even focused on the non degreed, which is an amazing evolution of the hiring process. I mean, I heard that. I just, it was just mind boggling to me in one fell swoop how many, just, norms that just demolished, you know?
Roy Notowitz: [00:23:24] Yeah. No, I think people are moving away and it really depends on the individual.
Trip Randall: [00:23:28] It does. It really does get back to: these are a series of data points and input. It really then comes back to how do you approach challenges? How do you approach opportunities? And that’s the real hiring challenge, is in this courting that takes place over a series of days, weeks, maybe months, depending on the process, you would probably know better than anybody, Roy. Is, how do you really dig under the hood and understand if there’s a story to be told that you can weave across all those data points?
That’s the learning as the hiring manager that takes place over time and that you’ll learn and it’s hard. There’s no question, particularly to understand how people are going to perform under certain stresses, those inputs on where they went to school are merely data points at that point.
Roy Notowitz: [00:24:10] Yeah. In your opinion, and based on your experience, what are the top three competencies that are essential for someone to succeed at Nike? I know the values are really strong, but if you were to take more of a broad stroke, Nike in general, which I know is, is kind of hard, but what are those top three competencies that you think are absolutely essential for success there?
Trip Randall: [00:24:31] I mean, I start with teamwork. It’s in my DNA. I truly believe in the power of the team over the lone wolf approach. And I will always dig on examples of teamwork. And again, you know, times when it worked, times when it didn’t, times when you faced individuals on those teams that really didn’t want to necessarily see it the way the rest of the team was seeing it and how’d you manage through those and it’s very important. And also teams, I use this word carefully, teams above, from a hierarchical perspective, and then the team possibly the reporting team. So I think teamwork is critical. Nike has a maxim: win as a team. It was founded on a principle of team and, and there’s on top of quotes from our founder around the power of the team over the individual and that we do our best work. So I believe teamwork is super important.
Another one, which might not just be Nike, I’m sure it’s not, I maybe have lost some objectivity over 23, 24 years, but the ability to influence. Communicating ideas simply and effectively, and with passion, and that truly inspire people and move people, maybe move rooms of people toward a vision is very important. It’s a company of ideas. It’s a very visual company and brand, and the power of the idea, if it’s properly, communicated, can truly move mountains. So I do think that’s important. And I say that with an understanding that that’s going to be more important in some roles than others.
But I honestly believe at almost any function in the company, there are moments where you’ve got to be able to get your idea over the line. More often than not, you’re telling it to two to three to four, maybe five or six stakeholders. And then sometimes, this comes with some frustration, possibly going back and having to retell that story time and again, Maybe it didn’t land, or maybe there’s a nonbeliever and you’ve got to go back and try and bring them along. So it’s, it’s a culture that rewards that staying power and that ability to influence.
The last one, I’d say was one of my favorite competencies that we used to talk about a lot. And over time, I think it was less talked about, but it was one called flexibility for ambiguity. And I think honestly, if there’s one thing that all of us need a little of right now more than ever is flexibility for ambiguity. But the ability to not be thrown by the unknown. In Nike, that ambiguity can happen even in the best and most clarifying of experiences or visions. There’s always going to be that. So you gotta be ready for it. I’ve seen too many people get thrown by this notion of always wanting to know exactly what’s next. And it’s just not always going to come dressed to the party that way.
Roy Notowitz: [00:27:02] So Nike has a lot of strong values like performance and authenticity and commitment and teamwork and innovation. You know, how do you assess values alignment when assessing candidates?
Trip Randall: [00:27:15] The Nike maxims, you know, people may know of. And you know, it began years ago in the seventies and then turned into 11 maxims and then recently got carved down a bit more focused to about five. And those were, I believe, serve athletes, create the future of sport, be on the offense always, do the right thing, and win as a team. And within those were some sub values that would basically be the guiding principles of the company. And they come from the heritage of the company. They’re not just made up. And you might call it, “Kool-Aid,” call it what you want. But those of us who live those maxims every day took them super seriously.
I would say two things. One, you grow a personal gut-feel. On being able to try to read, particularly in the hiring process, like who does and doesn’t exhibit the potential to believe in and live those principles. And I don’t mean in a crazy kind of way, and they might not have to have it all developed, but you really start to get a read for who might struggle.
Hopefully the vetting process would weed out folks that maybe might trip up on things like do the right thing and integrity, but things like be on the offense always, being able to truly read somebody as you’re going through the hiring process, who can tell you about times when they pushed to a new place and they did so with urgency and they did so in a creative way that’s never been thought of before. That shows a fit.
And at least, while you can’t guarantee it — there are no guarantees — it at least sets you in a place where you’re willing to take that risk and try to bring that candidate in. And then take accountability for helping them succeed. But I do believe some of that has to be, Roy, vetted early on. Some of the more, I would call them basic or fundamental values, but those very true Nike values around listening to the consumer, being on the offense, being of and about sport.
Those are ones you really have to, in the assessment process, look for those examples and look for, look for success there, and look for a passion there. It’s not just telling that story, but are you passionate about it? It’s amazing, the number of people that have come to me at Nike and said, I was thinking about this the other day, we’ve all met that kid on the playground who said, “Hey, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
And I was like, “I want to be a fireman.” And you look at some kid and he’s like, “I want to be a pediatric cardiologist focused on the right ventricle.” And you’re like, “How do you know that? We’re like eight, you know?” But you’ll find people that come to Nike who have said, “I’ve always wanted to be here. And I knew it from the start.” And they even show you a journey and a path that put them in experiences that brought them to that.
Now, look, not everybody needs to come that way, but it’s important for candidates to know that that those folks are out there that show that demonstrated path. And you can take that to anything that is a passion. What are you setting yourself up for? Like truly, what’s next for you and what are you doing to create that opportunity? And I’ve always been amazed at the people who’ve literally wanted to be at the brand, you know, since they can remember, it’s kind of fun.
Roy Notowitz: [00:30:01] Yeah. I think, you know, taking the company from where it was in the early days to, you know, call it a hundred million or a few hundred million to almost 50 billion, that’s been a foundational element of their success, is, how do you, you know, maintain an authentic culture that’s really deep and true to the principles that made the company successful in the first place as it grows to such huge scale? And I think that’s what it is.
Trip Randall: [00:30:29] It is. And Roy, it’s hard. All of this is hard, but that might be one of the hardest things to do. You know, often, it’s probably overused kind of the analogy of the infant to the adolescent to the unruly teenager to the young adult, that a company can go through these stages. Even Nike continues to move along that spectrum. So there’s no question. For me, the answer is simple to your question, is, the leadership and those who have been given the responsibility to lead these teams have got to model that behavior from the top.
At every step of the way. And as we all know, it’s a transparent world, that you can never underestimate the teams. You have to understand the teams and the people see everything and they see all behaviors and they see what’s rewarded and what’s not. It’s not good enough to simply put out a point of view on teamwork and the framework through which people should live, but you have to model that behavior.
And I think that’s where the great successes at Nike have been seen. If you go back to the winning teams and the places that have truly broken through and just created new ground, and in some ways, written those chapters at Nike that, you know, frankly, people do write books about. It usually goes back to a team that was modeling that kind of behavior and team, teamwork from the top. And you’ll hear the teams talk passionately about that. They will often talk more passionately about that experience than the actual business experience and result. They will talk about what they took away from that. So I think no matter how big you are, it’s a nonnegotiable.
Roy Notowitz: [00:31:50] Yeah. So when you’re evaluating a candidate coming in from another organization, perhaps, or even somebody who’s maybe moving up through the ranks, how do you know if they would be successful at navigating the matrix, you know, and the scale at Nike?
Trip Randall: [00:32:06] Yeah, the magic question. You know, the, the Nike matrix is a, is a storied, much written about sort of enigma. Listen, it’s, it’s a mandate. In order to build your career, if you wanted to come to Nike for a few years and be successful, you’re going to have to be able to work within that, that matrix. And I use an analogy that’s kind of a mix between like NASA and SpaceX meets Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
There are certain types of personalities. We all have them. And Nike’s full of them, to be honest with you. Type A’s and folks who’ve had great success who are hard charging, who are looking to get ahead and looking to stand out and make their mark. Right? It’s, it’s awesome that way it’s like everywhere you look. But with that can come sort of different angles of trajectory. And I sometimes use the analogy of, of a satellite or a rocket coming back to earth. Having gone to the moon, but now coming back.
The angle of entry has to be just right to come into the atmosphere, because if you come in too steep, examples like: you’re just too aggressive. You’re you’re, you’re not listening. You’re pushing your agenda and not listening to the rest of the team. You’re a lone wolf. You’re kind of just charging ahead. Sometimes that angle can be too steep and those, those rockets burn up on entry, I don’t care how good the heat shield is, it’s not going to work.
The other end of the spectrum, is sort of this notion of too shallow. And I’ve seen people who come in, who sit back, they wait for Nike to come to them. They wait for complete consensus, which can end up becoming vanilla, which ends up being sometimes nothing. So you have to learn to find that balance. And if you come into shallow and sit back, you can skip off the atmosphere and just continue off into space, never to be seen again. So it’s back to the three bears you’re looking for: it’s not too warm. It’s not too cold. It’s just right. It’s not too steep. It’s not too shallow.
So you want to have someone who you can see has been able to, you know, they’ve got to have had roles that have pushed them. Possibly either created a scenario where they might be tempted to go too steep or tempted even back off. And how did they handle it? And it doesn’t mean the answer can’t be, “Hey, I learned by being too shallow.” That’s okay. But the awareness to understand that there are those different angles, to me, is a place I always came back to because frankly, I saw it being one of the things that, if I looked at the list of names that have people that left quite often, there was a thread there. So I would often look at that. It’s easier to see in practice and course correct than to predict ahead in an interview process, I will say, but that’s where you get to those, “So what would you do if…” and “What did you do in those types of scenarios?”
Roy Notowitz: [00:34:31] That’s a fantastic analogy and something that will stick with me.
Trip Randall: [00:34:35] Yeah. It’s served me well. And like I said, you can’t always predict it and it’s, it’s sometimes harder to assess, but it at least gives you that framework to start to question and poke. And in the interview process, it helps a lot.
Roy Notowitz: [00:34:49] Let’s talk about the process a bit, generally speaking, what was the process that you used and who did you involve in that process and what tools did you use to get the alignment and hiring decisions in such a collaborative and consensus driven environment?
Trip Randall: [00:35:03] Yeah. I mean, it’s role dependent. As far as who’s involved for me, the immediate team, who’s the team that’s going to report to that individual? A few folks from the hierarchy above as well as, possibly at times, meeting a few folks from the team. And then I’m always a believer in a few trusted advisors from what I would call the periphery.
Maybe they’re not directly connected to the business, but they are also there possibly to help assess. And frankly, I played this role on a lot of interview panels and processes as a, a little bit what we just talked about it a little bit of a trusted Nike fit advisor to say, hey, you know, poke at maybe what success might look like or how predictive we can be around success there.
So that’s usually the team, of course, we have an internal talent acquisition team, if it’s an external hire. And then you have the leaders, you know, at Nike while it’s sometimes a mystery to folks on the outside. Most everybody reports directly to their function. So the hiring manager tends to come directly from the function, but that person would also have other reports.
They would have other managers, maybe dotted line reporting structure that would be involved as well. So I’ve had people come in and look at me and say, could you please explain this to me? So it’s often led through the function. And that function keeps a very strong list of bench and talent, as well as that very close management and alignment on the internal team: who’s ready for that next role? Who needs more development? Who needs a different experience? Maybe even a lateral move before they get to a promotion and so on.
Roy Notowitz: [00:36:29] Let’s talk a little bit about what insights you’ve gained from hiring successes and failures if you reflect upon what you wish you knew 10, 15 years ago, as it relates to hiring.
Trip Randall: [00:36:38] Oh, gosh, you’re going to need another podcast for what I wish I did 10, 15 years ago. Can we extend? Yeah. My number one at the top of that list was be clear on the brief for sure. I would say another one is… which sometimes sounds counterintuitive and I can, I can almost hear people going, “Oh, this is what leads to problems.” But I do believe in trusting gut, you know, I believe that, in the roles I was in and where I was personally for me and with the teams I was on, that, by the time I came to hiring someone, my gut was pretty close to the role, to the needs of the team, to the, to the, to the role this would play on a team of different personalities. And then just the gut feel you get as you’re working through with a candidate.
So I would say, trust your gut. Interestingly enough. My third one would be, don’t get too close to your gut. And I go back to everything from unconscious bias. Don’t hire you, don’t hire yourself, verify your findings, do all the work to almost prove your gut true. Do everything you can to poke it at your gut instinct. I believe this is the absolute right candidate. Go out and almost try to prove yourself that you’re wrong. And if you can’t seem to find any evidence to the contrary, then go with your gut. I’m a believer in that.
I’d also say, and this is one that for me, you know, listen, we’re all so damn busy. We want that job filled. And we’ve all known people, or either been that person who, when a job is open for a certain amount of time, you’re doing the job. Someone else is doing the job. It creates other stresses that might bring you to a position to cut corners or, or go faster than you should. And I would say open the aperture, take the time to look beyond some of those usual sources, even if the pressure is on to move more quickly, look beyond those playing fields.
It doesn’t mean you can’t look in some of the traditional industries or brands or segments or categories, but give yourself a chance. You know, I, I do honestly believe that it really comes down to the DNA and the makeup of the person more so than what they were previously marketing or selling. I really believe that the rock stars rise to the top, which I guess would be my last one is believe in people. The process doesn’t end when the offer is accepted and the onboarding honeymoon period is over. You still brought that individual in. You need to be held accountable to help them and not rush to judgment if they have a slip. Be super authentic and clear with them and upfront and manage them with the courage to tell them and what you see and when you see it, the good and the bad, or the opportunities, you’re part of that agreement.
So learn from them, learn from their successes, but don’t sit by and watch a fire burn. You’ve got to take personal accountability so that you can not only take that to your next hire, but that they also will pass that on. I think people truly… you know, we’re, we’re all creatures that way we remember, and they will pass that on as they hire.
Roy Notowitz: [00:39:19] That’s a huge and insightful piece of advice, because I think there’s going to be bumps in the road when somebody is coming into a new organization, no matter how great a fit they are or how much you’ve interviewed them. There’s so much to learn and people to build relationships with. And inevitably, it’s not going to go well, always. So what’s next for you? What, what are you excited about in your future?
Trip Randall: [00:39:38] Yeah. You know, right now I’m taking time to be with my family, which is great. You know, Nike is a very busy and is a very fulfilling place in a lot of ways. And I was always an “all in.” Sometimes too much. So I’m being with my family in full for the first time in a while, which has just been awesome. But I’m also getting out there and looking at a few options and I would say, you’ve heard it through this podcast and this discussion, you know, I love leading teams. I just get completely juiced by it. You know, I’d say at the heart of it is the next home for me is culture is the most important thing. A place that’s deeply committed to people and a commitment to prioritizing the team in their quest for whatever it is they’re trying to get after. Because that to me is where it all begins and ends.
Someone I work with pretty closely, he always says, you know, like, we spend more time with the folks we work with than we do with our families at some times. So it’s super important.
Roy Notowitz: [00:40:24] Yeah. You know, I’m connected to a lot of folks at Nike and people just speak so highly of you, and I’m really excited to see what’s next for you and it’s been so great having the opportunity to get to know you better. And then also just to hear about your leadership and how you hire. And there’s been some really great nuggets of information in here that will be extremely valuable for people, for the audience to be able to apply in their own situation. So I can’t thank you enough for being on the podcast and it’s been great.
Trip Randall: [00:40:55] Well, I am honored and humbled to be, even thought of, to join some of the names that… I’ve listened down the list of, of some of these and I’m humbled to be part of that team. And I appreciate you. And I’ve watched what you’ve built with Noto Group over the years, whether you knew it or not, and I just appreciated watching your business and your passion grow. So I appreciate you including me and I hope somebody takes a little something away from something that was said today and pays it forward.
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This podcast was produced by Anna McClain. To learn more about her great work, visit AOMcClain.com.