Posted on February 27, 2018 in Consulting

I confess.  Spring is my favorite time of year because I am obsessed with little league baseball. My son surpassed my athletic talents when he turned five, and I live vicariously through him. From our years together on the field, I have learned three wise lessons that translate to the workplace: (1) think team; (2) play your position; and (3) no crying in baseball.

Think Team

Success on the baseball field is a team effort, which requires individual sacrifices for the team’s success.  Consider an analogy that every parent-coach can appreciate: we would like our kid to be the superstar, but every kid likes to win.  I love – and that is the correct descriptive verb – helping my son’s teammates improve their batting.  Sure, my ego may take a hit when I successfully help another kid perform better at the plate and move ahead of my son in the batting order. But there are no Ws for individuals in baseball; only a team wins.

The same is true in the workplace.  An intelligent boss should mentor employees by teaching them everything he or she knows. Such mentorship will ensure that the company’s customers and clients are provided the highest degree of service, which helps the business succeed in the long run. Yet such mentorship is often a frightening thought for a lot of managers who worry that employees might outperform them. As a result, too often bosses restrict their employees’ access to information and clients in order to stay at the top. The consequence of selfish behavior, however, is that the business and its customers both suffer.

I challenge everyone to pursue the power of the team rather than personal gain.

Play your Position

Everyone on a baseball team has a roll to play.  When the kids are little, they think being sent to the outfield is punishment.  But as they get older, they grasp that the ball can go anywhere at any time and that everyone has a job to perform.   Individual skill sets and inherent talents matter too.  It took me some time to understand why left handers (who cannot pitch) need to play first base or the outfield.  My son is a scrappy (read short) second baseman who should not be expected to play first base where height is a benefit.

The translation to the workplace is obvious.  Let individuals play their best position based on their inherent talents.  Challenging workers to perform tasks not best suited for their skill set makes little sense.  It can only result in frustration, resentment, and eventual departure.   The same goes for employee evaluations.  Why evaluate employees on broad criteria that picks at a person’s known weaknesses?   Give employees the opportunity to experience wins by playing their best position.

No Crying

There is, of course, a fair bit of crying in little league baseball.  It fades over time, but emotions can run rampant.  I have found that the most emotional players are often the most talented athletes.  With zero psychiatric training, my rationale is simplistic but accurate: they expect to always perform great and are frustrated by any lack of perfection.  When the higher performers lose control, they drag down the team.

We see this so often at work.  The type “A” boss can frustrate quickly with adversity.  Personally, I try very hard to emulate the traits of my calm and confident law partners who seem unfazed with adversity.  The best bosses control their emotions and are slow to react so as to ensure that their response is collected and respectful.

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