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.
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.
Until next time,
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
Excerpt from In Search of Higher Ground
I am one who believes in the human spirit, and that everyone is loaded with potential and has the ability to accomplish great things. I believe in people’s abilities so much, that I have dedicated my life to helping individuals discover the possibilities that lie within each person. However, I must admit that over the years I have met many people that have pursued their personal Higher Ground, and have reached a level of success that many others would desire, but they are not happy. They have a business that’s thriving, financial security, and have many personal achievements, but their life still seems to be lacking. Why is that? Why is it that some people seem to have it all, but still seem to have nothing?
Probably because most people connect the word “success” with the word “money.” When you see someone who is financially independent, there is an automatic feeling that the person is successful. There are a lot of enjoyable things that money can buy, but success cannot be limited to these things. Success must include the things money cannot buy.
It has been said that money can:
1. Buy a bed, but not sleep,
2. Buy affection, but not love,
3. Buy company, but not friends,
4. Buy a wedding, but not a marriage, and
5. Buy a house, but not a home.
I was recently having lunch with a friend who shared with me some sad news regarding a mutual friend. We’ll call this friend of mine “Mike.” Mike has had a great level of success in many areas of his life. He was not born into a wealthy family, but decided at a young age that he was going to make something of himself. In his early 20s he began working for someone else on the weekends while running a small retail business. Over a few years, this business began to grow in such a way that he was able to quit his weekend job and devote himself entirely to his business. He worked hard, dedicated his time and efforts, and year after year it continued to pay off in great dividends.He expanded his small shop and began to build his own place. Soon he was operating his business from a 35,000 square foot shop in which he began to see his business hit a new level of success. Over time he diversified into multiple projects including real estate, and each project brought him success. Everything he touched turned to gold. Mike was an entrepreneur and an icon in the city in which he lived. The sad news that was shared with me at lunch was that Mike had been diagnosed with a disease, and his chance for survival slim. After being told this news from my friend, I drove back to my office and began to think about his life.
Death always causes you to think about life.
I asked myself, “Was Mike a success?” Then I realized, you can’t answer that question until you define success. So first I thought about his finances. Undoubtedly he is a success when it comes to money. He is a multimillionaire and has enjoyed all the things that life has to offer. Then I began to think about his personal life. He had one failed marriage and his current marriage is on the rocks. Mike seemed to have worked so hard to make a living that he had forgotten to make a life.
I began to also think about his children. Each of them have shared in their own personal struggles. Drug abuse, illegitimate children, a low standard of values and morals are all part of the story behind Mike’s children. I am not saying that Mike was a bad parent or that his children don’t love him. What I am saying is that, to a certain degree, Mike did not fulfill his parenting obligation by raising his children with a deep level of character. Regarding any spiritual awareness, there has been none in his life and nothing passed on to his children.
Then I thought about the disease that is taking over his body and I couldn’t help but wonder what words would be said at his funeral if he should die. I wondered about the legacy and heritage he will leave. Has there been anything done in his life that will outlast him?
Now that you have a clearer picture of Mike, what do you think? Does the word “money” make him successful?
Don’t get me wrong, money is a great thing and can be used for great purposes, but you cannot classify money as the means for success. You see, Mike had a dream. He wanted to create a successful business and make lots of money, and he did. However, one thing Mike forgot to do was to keep his feet on “solid ground” while reaching for Higher Ground. Mike had forgotten the golden rule behind the principle of Higher Ground. The rule is, “Higher Ground becomes Shaky Ground without the balance of Solid Ground.”
Consider the courageous people called tightrope walkers. They stand on a thin rope suspended high in the air, and they walk across from one side to the other. The key to the entire success of that tightrope walker is one word… “balance.” His entire life is dependent on his ability to keep things in balance. The same is true for anyone seeking Higher Ground. Their entire success is depending on this one word:… “balance.”
Imagine if you will a large wagon wheel that has various spokes coming out from the center. The ability to make a wheel roll properly lies in the balance. The strength and success of that wheel relies on the spokes being in balance. Let’s pretend now that your life is that wheel and the spokes in the wheel represents various areas in your life. These areas include personal, financial, relational, physical, emotional,professional, mental, and spiritual. The success of your life depends on your ability to be successful in each of these areas. In this chapter I want to break down the first four elements for you and provide some practical ideas that will help you raise the bar of excellence in each category.
The first spoke in your wheel is the spoke we call Personal. This is your character, this is who you are when no one is looking. It is the premise of your true success as a person, leader, worker, spouse, parent or friend.
Some people may think character doesn’t matter. If it’s only what you are when no one is looking, then who cares? It won’t affect my business, my family, my finances, nothing will be affected by character because it’s who I am when no one is looking. Nothing could be further from the truth! If character doesn’t matter, then tell it to the person who just found out their spouse is having a secret affair. Or tell it to the person who just discovered their accountant has been skimming from the top, or that their business partner has left the country with all their money. I promise you this, character matters to those people.
Remember, there are many things in life that others can take from you, a family, a fortune or even health, but character is the one thing that cannot be taken from you…only you can give it away.
The next spoke on your wagon wheel is Financial. Finances are a big part of our society and are often used as a measuring stick for where you’re at in life. Finances are not everything…but they are something. Your Higher Ground may not include finances. It may be to raise wonderful children, to learn a second language, to develop as a leader, or to be the founder of a non-profit organization. Whatever your personal Higher Ground is, you must include the powerful benefit of properly managing your finances. I strongly encourage you to discuss your Financial future with an expert. Develop a plan for your future, your retirement, college education, to pay off your home, and any other dream that requires finances. You might be saying, “But I don’t make a lot of money.” It doesn’t take as much as you think. Sit down with Financial planner and you will discover the power of budgeting your finances and consistently investing for your future.
We now arrive at the third spoke in the wheel that will help keep your life in balance, your relationships. All the personal success in the world doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have someone to share it with. Unfortunately, people pursue their personal Higher Ground at the cost of their relationships. Marriages lose their romance, children lose touch with their parents, and families become fragmented under the guidelines of success at any cost. We are a society who is in desperate need of turning our attention to the family. What good does it do to have all the money in the world if your marriage is failing, or to have a thriving and successful business at the price of becoming more of a guardian than a parent?
In the course of my life I have seen people speak with deep regret. Regret for not nurturing their marriage, regret for not spending enough time with their children and regret for not having enough people in their lives they call “friends.” Although relationships are only one spoke in your wheel of life, it is an important one. Keep your life in balance by keeping in mind what really matters!
Let me just say that I am by no means the expert on Physical condition, but I do try my best to stay in shape and eat right. I have got a long way to go, but I am working on it. One thing I will say is that exercising and eating right does affect your approach and perspective on life. It gives you more energy, boosts your self-confidence, and causes you to embrace and enjoy life at a higher level. Oddly enough I seem to get more done with less hours on the days I work out.
Until next time,
Quote of the Day:
“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children. To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others,
to leave this world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition. To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson