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Success and Leadership Principles We Can Learn From Baseball

success lessons from baseball

Lessons from the Great American Pass Time

My son and I just completed our annual trek to visit baseball stadiums across the country. We are on a journey to see a major league game in each of the 30 stadiums. This year we were at 24, 25and 26! With so much baseball on my mind, I thought this would be the perfect time to write about the many leadership/success lessons to be learned from the greatest sport in the world. (I’m not biased at all!) I have sourced excerpts from two different articles for the information.

Baseball and Leadership

Baseball is a game of resilience. Last night: 0 for 4. Hit into a double play, struck out, grounded out and hit to a fielder’s choice. Tomorrow, you have to dig back into the batter’s box and go after it again. Positions of leadership require the same resilience and short term memory. You may get beat up pretty good today. Customer complaint, union grievance, three people called in sick, budget cuts and useless meeting. Tomorrow, you dig back in and go after again.

Baseball is a game of adaptability. First time up the guy blasted an inside fastball 450 feet into the left field seats. Second time up, fast ball away, slider away and cutter down. When methods do not yield the desired results, baseball players adapt. Great leaders are also adaptable. When a coaching method does not provide fruit, they change the approach. When they are not connecting with a team member, they examine and modify their style. Great leaders are situational adapters based on the needs of team members and the need of the organization.

Baseball is a game of inherent unfairness. The offensive player stands alone against nine members of the opposition. The batter has no idea what is coming. Even with best effort and contact, the chances of success range from 25% to 35%. Leaders face the same long odds. Their highest objective is to achieve victory and results when they face of group of competing goals.

Baseball is a game that rewards the clever. As with adaptability, baseball games often hinge on the smallest and most ingenious plays. A pick-off at first base. A hit and run with two outs. A squeeze bunt. Leaders too will be rewarded for cleverness. Rather than simply replicating the results of predecessors or maintaining the status quo, the modern leader is required to seek different and creative methods and solutions.

Baseball is a beautiful when played well. The pivot at second base during a double play. A two hit shut-out. The towering magnificence of a three run, walk-off home run. Leadership is also a beautiful thing to behold when it is done well. All team members functioning within their roles like a symphony and the leader is the conductor. Minor adjustments are being made and the system is running on all cylinders. Performance is peak. Dysfunction is non-existent.
www.evancarmichael.com/Human-Resources/3485/Baseball-and-Leadership.html

Leadership lessons from the Baseball Field

Some would consider the 1971 Macon Ironmen High School Baseball team as the “Hoosiers” of high school baseball. The coach, Lynn Sweet, an English teacher with no baseball experience was the last resort for a group of players on the verge of having their program eliminated. The great thing about Coach Sweet is that he did not let his ego or those that scoffed at his unconventional coaching methods get in the way. He implemented a powerful combination of collaboration and authoritative leadership, which focused on the best result for the team and left individual egos on the bench.

Sweet had a special effect on all the kids. He threw batting practice and played pickup games with the boys; other times he let them run their own practices, watching from the bench, so they’d feel empowered by the independence.  He cultivated a teaching style which balanced discipline with collaboration and discussion, allowing all voices and talents to be seen and heard.

He believed that there’s a lot to be learned in defeat. And determined success by how much the kids enjoyed themselves, rather than just how much they won. He also fostered a sense of community and encouraged the boys to do things together outside of baseball, enabling them to build their relationships.

As a result of Coach Sweet’s leadership style, the baseball team of Macon High School went on to the 1971 Illinois State Championship. And even though he never measured success just by the number of games won, they beat many baseball teams. Teams from schools four times their size, with more resources, more experience and more exposure to competition. The one thing that Coach Sweet had over all of his competition was superior leadership. Through his balance between collaboration and authoritative leadership he was able to create a vision for the Macon baseball team that everyone else saw as impossible, including the players. But once he was able to have them experience success based on his unconventional coaching methods, the players started to buy into this impossible dream.

Though they did not win the State Championship, the experience for the coach and the players left a lasting leadership imprint for the rest of their lives. Coach Sweet is a great example for all of us. His actions exemplified those of a Conscious Leader™. Balancing collaboration with authoritative leadership in a purposeful and intentional manner, he allowed the individual talents to shine. Each player had the freedom to make mistakes and grow from their experiences. Furthermore, he made sure that the players were accountable to each other and played for the spirit of the team. Whether we are a coach, parent, CEO or manager it is our responsibility to understand our abilities and our team’s abilities and to create a compelling vision. True inspiration will lead the team to maximize their talent so the “team” can accomplish their vision.
info.farrleadership.com/bid/47190/Leadership-lessons-from-the-Baseball-Field

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“I know how I feel about baseball. That’s the easy part. But communicating with people is what’s important.” – Terry Francona

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Holding onto Christmas Joy

Focus on Joy

Focus on the things that bring you joy

To continue a tradition that I started last year here are some fun and/or sentimental Christmas quotes:

“I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars, and open a jar of it every month.”
– Harlan Miller

“There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.”  – Bill McKibben

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold; everything is softer and more beautiful.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas with a note on it saying, toys not included.”
– Bernard Manning.

“You know you’re getting old, when Santa starts looking younger. “ – Robert Paul

“The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.” – Johnny Carson

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
– Hamilton Wright Mab

“He who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree.”
– Sunshine Magazine

Holding onto Christmas Joy

We all have circumstances in life that have the potential to rob us of joy.  Whether it be personal, career, business, political, etc. we all face things that if allowed can shift our focus to things that will rob our joy. Princeton University did an extensive study in 2004 that showed that most joy comes from focusing on what you already have rather than what you lack.

I don’t know what circumstance you’re facing.  I have no idea, but I do know this.  You have a choice.  Is the situation going to rob you of joy?  Are you going to let it steal from you?  Consider Philippians 4:8 which says, “And, now, dear brothers and sisters one final thing, fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  I can be full of joy for this reason, because I can focus on what I have, rather than what I lack.  I can focus on a God who no matter what I go through, He will always be right there with me.

I heard a story a while back about a missionary who lived in China. The missionary heard about a village that was tormented by a gang of bandits.  The bandits went into the village and they burned everything. They burned, they beat up, they raped, and they ruined. It was an ugly, ugly scene.

The Missionary decided he wanted to go there and hope and pray with the people. When he arrived he found a little hymn book with some Christian songs in it, and he said it was all burned except for one line on one page.  And it said this… “Joy to the world.  The Lord has come.” He showed that to the pastor of that village, and the people of the village all began to sing the song together.

He said tears rolled down his face, because of this reason; he said, “I could not believe that these people would sing out, ‘Joy to the world.  The Lord has come.  Let earth receive her King.'”

He said, “Here it is.  They’ve been robbed, raped, some murdered, and yet they’re still in the middle of it saying ‘God, we’re not going to let the circumstances push us away.  We’re going to let the circumstances pull us closer to you.'”

Here’s my challenge to you is this; don’t sell your joy for anything.  Don’t let anything derail you from joy. Commit to hanging on to Christ; decide that you will not sell Him out for anything.  We’re all going to go through circumstances, it’s how you respond to it that makes all the difference.  Let every single circumstance push you closer to God.  Remember this… the Lord is my shepherd, and he’s not going to let you go.

Merry Christmas!

Until Next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  – Philippians 4:4

An Example of Encouragement

Tony Curtis encouragment

Tony Curtis was a great encourager

As leaders and as human beings I cannot stress enough the importance of encouraging the people in your life. Your words have the power to lift people up in a far greater capacity than you may may have ever imagined. They literally can breathe life. I encourage you to actively seek ways to encourage each person in your life. Your spouse, your kids, parents, friends, business partners,staff, the grocery clerk, the waiter, the guy who changes your tires, the flight attendant, they all crave encouragement. I am not talking about empty flattery, I am talking about true compliments and encouragement. What are you grateful for in that person? What do they do well? What do they do that makes your life better?  It may not always be easy to do with every person, but if you look deep enough you will always find something good to say.  Below is article by Jud Wilhite regarding the amazing lesson of encouragement he relieved from the late Tony Curtis. encourager

TONY CURTIS

Tony Curtis, the legendary actor, passed away in the Las Vegas area this week at 85. I only had a 15 minute snapshot of him, but it still inspires me to this day.

Two Christmases ago after a service, he came backstage to our green room at Central in Vegas. He wanted to see me. I came around the corner, and he grabbed my arm and pulled me down to him in is wheelchair. He told me two or three positive things that he loved about the message. He told me I had a great smile on the platform that put people at ease and helped them open their hearts. He told me I touched him, and he thanked me.

Then the host/MC walked through for that weekend. He grabbed him and told him a couple very specific things that he liked. Then he turned to some volunteer band members and remembered specific things they had done during the service and praised them personally, legitimately, uniquely. THIS IS TONY FREAKING CURTIS. He’s made about a zillion movies like Some Like It Hot and Spartacus.

We only saw him for 15 minutes, and he had poured so much courage into each of us. He gave us life by his words. He never made it about him for one moment. It was all about loving and encouraging others. When he left, I prayed that God would make me more like that.

It is amazing the kind of impact you can have in 15 minutes when you make it about others and pouring into them. Find somebody to encourage today!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”  -Proverbs 16:24
“You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.”
-Jim Stovall

Encouraging Leadership

Encourage team

Encouragement provides the emotional fuel that enables people to hold longer, reach farther and dig deeper .

In a recent article Dan Reiland perfectly articulated  important role encouragement plays in the life of any true leader. I have found these principles true of any great leader I have ever been in contact with. It is one of the key qualities of a good leader, and so, I encourage you to be an encourager.

“51% of Leadership”

Encouragement provides the emotional fuel that enables people to hold longer, reach farther and dig deeper than previously believed possible. Encouragement is 51% of leadership. As a leader, your role is to lift people, to build them up and help them believe in themselves in a way greater than they have before. So let me ask you a question. Do others see you as an encourager?

Encouragement imparts courage. My call to ministry came from the highly encouraging leadership of Dr. Orval Butcher, then pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church located in a suburb of San Diego, CA. Pastor Butcher believed in me, perhaps more than I believed in myself at that time. I was a Criminal Justice Administration major in college, but God spoke to Pastor about a different plan for my life. I didn’t have enough faith or courage to hear God for myself in the early stages of my call. I knew I loved the church and invested huge amounts of time serving in the College Ministry but didn’t know if I wanted the “life of a pastor.” Pastor Butcher’s encouraging words made the difference and enabled me to hear God’s voice on my own.

Encouragement isn’t something that you do from a checklist of “things to do today.” It’s a way of life for a leader. Encouragement is not a soft expression from a weak leader. The toughest of leaders understand that it’s something core to sustained success. Essentially, encouragement comes from a deep love and belief in people and a desire to see them experience life in a better way.

• Leaders who are encouragers naturally draw people to them.

Let me raise the bar of definition for encouragement. As a leader in a local church, if you are an encourager, when you are in a public setting, people will naturally migrate to you. This is not about a charismatic personality. It doesn’t matter if five people seek you out or fifty-five people seek you out. The point is that people will physically move to you because you cause their life to be a little brighter. I’m not talking about people who want permission, an extension cord or keys to the offices, but people who just want to be around you!

Let’s be honest, life is wonderful but it’s difficult. Isn’t it? Got bills? How’s your health? Do you have kids? Nough said! Life is good, but it has plenty of challenges. Life will press people down, so anyone who consistently lifts people up (sincerely) gains the ability to influence—meaning to lead!

If you are a leader in a local church and people don’t migrate to you, there is a reason. You need to discover what it is. Ask someone you trust, who loves you, and will tell the truth. For now, start encouraging others. Do it sincerely and often.

• Leaders who are encouragers communicate with a positive bias.

John Maxwell is the most positive person I know. He has high faith in people and sees life for its potential over its problems. He’s not delusional. John does know that life can be difficult. He just refuses to get stuck there. We were in Israel (February 2010) and John’s knee had been bothering him as a result of knee surgery. Climbing all the hills and steps from Masada to Jerusalem was a challenge! But not for one moment did that deter him from great leadership on the trip, serving people, (including Baptizing dozens of people in the Jordan,) and creating fun all along the way. You just never hear John complain. That’s the way it is with an encouraging leader, they communicate with a positive bias.

I’m not talking about a syrupy salesman type who promises the moon and delivers little, but a leader who knows a smile and a “can do” attitude goes a long way in any endeavor. I’m sure you’ve met leaders who seem to want to tell you how much work they have to do, how tired they are and how hot it is outside! They are not encouragers. Perhaps you have a lot of work to do, you may be tired, and it may be scorching hot outside where you live, but people don’t want to hear that. They already experience that themselves! I’m not suggesting lack of authenticity. You need to be real. You need a few close friends who you can blow off some steam with. But in general, if you want to lead, you must communicate with a positive bias. People need hope!

• Leaders who are encouragers are quick to invest generously in others.

I love telling this story about one of my mentors and encouragers – Keith Drury. He’s a professor in the Ministry Department at Indiana Wesleyan University. They call him Coach D! When I was a skinny kid with lots of dark brown hair, (My how things change), Keith demonstrated such generosity that marked my life for good. I was young and clueless in ministry and Keith was pouring leadership into a group of us young guys. I didn’t have any money and he knew there was a cool leadership conference I needed to attend. After our meeting, he handed me a book to read and stuffed it in my briefcase. When I later opened it, I found two one hundred dollar bills stapled inside with a note that said, basically, I believe in you, and see you at the conference!! I was blown away, that’s a lot of money but back then, it was a ton of money! More than the money was Keith’s investment of time and encouragement in me. The investment has dividends even to this day!

• Leaders who are encouragers know the value of spiritual encouragement.

Jump into the book of Acts with me. 19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Acts 11:19-24

Barnabas is a spiritual encourager. He intentionally looked for “evidence” of grace and encouraged the people about their spiritual progress, and to remain committed in their faith. Perhaps it goes without saying, but encouraging people in their faith is at the very epicenter of your role as a spiritual leader. Your main job is not to grow a church, it is to grow people. When this happens your church moves forward and the Kingdom advances!

• Leaders who are encouragers are grateful for what they have.

As a leader, I find that I am often not satisfied with “where we are” but I am consistently content with “what I have.” This is more than semantics for me. I don’t think it’s generally in the nature of a leader to be satisfied. Leaders are progress oriented. Yet, we must be content with what we have in the moment or gratitude is lost in the process. And gratitude is an essential attribute of leaders who are encouragers.

If you, as a leader, focus on what you don’t have, it will be very difficult for you to encourage others toward who they are to become. I call this competing leadership energy. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you can’t pour your energy into what others need because those others become part of the solution to get you what you want. When you are grateful for what you have, you naturally are freer to encourage others. Bottom line, you can’t encourage if you are not an encouraged person yourself.

Take all this in knowing that leaders, even the best of the encouragers, occasionally have a bad day. That’s normal. But a leader will do whatever it takes, to get through it and over it, and get back in the game. That’s my encouragement to you. You will have an occasional difficult day, but it’s all worth it. Get some counsel from a friend, shake it off, remember your calling and keep on going.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Correction does much, but encouragement does more.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe


Lessons from Geese

Geese are a Great Example of Teanwork

Geese are a Great Example of Teamwork

One of my favorite lessons in the subject of teamwork comes from one of God’s creations…Geese.  If you’ve ever looked up in the sky and spotted a flock of geese you will notice that they fly in a “V” formation.  What you may not know is why.  God created these geese to fly in this pattern for a specific reason.  Here are the reasons for the flight patterns of geese and the lessons of teamwork we can learn from them.

LESSONS FROM GEESE

FACT #1 – As each Goose flaps its wings it creates an uplift for the birds that follow and by flying in the “V” formation the whole flock can add 71% greater flying range then if each bird flew alone.

TEAM LESSON – The team going in a common direction will travel quicker and higher on the thrust of one another.

FACT #2 – When a goose falls out of formation it immediately begins to slow down and recognizing this, it moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

TEAM LESSON – Each team member must recognize its need for each other and be willing to give and accept help when needed.

FACT #3 – When the lead goose tires, it rotates back in the formation and another goose flies in the point position.

TEAM LESSON – The team is interdependent on each others skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents and other resources.

FACT #4 – The Geese that fly in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

TEAM LESSON – Make sure when you HONK that it’s encouraging to others.  Otherwise keep your BEEK shut.

FACT #5 – When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and they fall down to help and protect it.  They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again.  Then they launch out with another formation or catch up with the other flock.

TEAM LESSON – Team members will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when they are strong.

Work hard at developing the types of teams that fly like geese.  If you do, your organization will begin soaring to new heights.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“We don’t work for each other; we work with each other.”

Stanley C. Gault