It is said that baseball is America’s favorite pastime, but with 24/7 Miley Cyrus twerking updates, the drama of political football in the nation’s capital and growing concerns over whether leopard print really is a neutral, it can be difficult to focus on a game that often takes four hours to complete.
But as the World Series takes center stage in October, it’s a good time to think about what we can learn from the team leadership that has managed to harness the talents – and egos – of employees who play a game for a living.
Some leadership lessons to consider:
- Don’t dwell on what you’ve lost. The Boston Red Sox in 2011 became late-night comedy fodder when it was revealed players were eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse while their teammates struggled on the field. Former manager Terry Francona could not motivate his team and was distracted by problems at home. Resentment simmered among management and the team. But when new manager John Farrell came aboard, he put that behind the team by instilling confidence in what could be done. “He let us know since day one that he got our back,” says Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.
- Be ready to make adjustments. The St. Louis Cardinals were plagued by injuries before the season even got underway, losing veteran players like Jason Motte and Chris Carpenter. But Manager Mike Matheny asked fresh recruits to step up, and they did in a big way. The young pitching staff was rotated in and out of different scenarios until the right fit began to emerge. Seasoned players and Matheny quietly lent their support to young players, which meant that adjustments were immediately embraced instead of being rejected.
- Let co-leaders take the field. Matheny and Farrell rely on battle-tested veterans to get them through tough times. Players like Yadier Molina and Mike Napoli have been in the World Series before, and help non-experienced players stay focused on winning one game at a time. Getting too caught up in the “what ifs” can derail any organization and bring on jitters that keep a team unfocused. Both team managers rely on leadership from within the ranks.
- Don’t forget the fun. For us diehard baseball fans, a loss can seem devastating. The end of the world. We can hardly get out of bed the next morning. But if you listen to Matheny and Farrell, they constantly talk about “fun.” It’s fun to play. It’s fun to be part of a team. It’s fun to watch the players do their thing. It’s fun to see the fans. That attitude filters throughout the teams, and you hear players talk about how much fun it is to participate in the World Series. They embrace the moment, and those memories will be what carry the teams forward, win or lose. Too many leaders forget that there’s a lot of fun in the process of leading and in creating a team that appreciates coming to work every day.