I’ve been a Cubs fan for as long as I can remember. Growing up in a small coal mining town in Southern Illinois, it’s something you were born into – you cheered for the Cubs or the Cardinals. Rooting for the Cubs for over 40 years, I learned a lot about disappointment, but I also learned the importance of teamwork. It’s a lesson I brought with me to my years of coaching my son’s little league team and then ultimately translated from the field to my role running Starkey. If you have a winning mindset and the right team with the right attitudes, you are limitless.
Building the Team
Every person plays a different role. When building a team, you are not looking for the same skill set from each player. A manager’s job is to assemble the separate parts of the team so that they play best together. Leaders must take that same bird’s eye view. What does the team need? How is each player helping the team succeed? If everyone executes their role, we move forward as a team.
Developing the Team
Every person brings unique skills and talents to the team. A leader should help each person develop those specific talents. A pitching coach isn’t going to be helpful to a shortstop. Good leaders lead each member of their team differently, helping each develop their skills and address their weaknesses. A one-size-fits-all-approach to leadership does not work in baseball or in business.
Rally Around a Purpose
This is easier in baseball than in business. In baseball, the goal is always to be playing in October. In business, every company starts with a purpose, and they either grow with it or away from it. A leader’s job is to clearly communicate that purpose and then rally their team around that central goal. Effective leaders set small goals to accomplish the big ones and to keep the team motivated. Over the course of 162 games, while their eye is always on the World Series, teams set goals along the way: Win each series, lead at the All-Star Break, win the division and head to the World Championship series. Once your team is rallied around one purpose, invite them to be active in setting the team’s short-term goals. This creates more buy-in from each member of the team because they feel part of accomplishing a bigger purpose. Be sure to celebrate every milestone the team hits along the way.
Pinch Hit When You Need To
I love the concept of the utility player – someone who can help out wherever and whenever their team needs. Servant leadership is about doing what is necessary to help the team. No task is too small for a leader.
As Jack Brickhouse once said, “Any team can have a bad century.” After back-to-back World Championships in 1907 and 1908, it took the Cubs 108 years to win another World Series. But amid the highs and the lows, the true fans never lost faith in the team; every Opening Day, fans would proudly proclaim, “This is our year!” This eternal optimism is something I love about baseball and business. While your team is going to fail, failure is okay. As a leader, create an environment where people aren’t afraid to fail. Being afraid of failure means being afraid of trying new things, of innovating and of pushing yourself further than you thought possible. Fail, learn from it and move on as a team.
“It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let’s play two.” Mr. Cub himself, Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks, used to say this all the time. It’s a good reminder that no matter how many times you fail, how many obstacles may stand in your way, at the end of the day, you get to play the game with a team you respect. Not everyone gets that chance.