As the smell of freshly-mowed grass reaches these parts of the upper Midwest, my thoughts often turn to baseball. Baseball. Seems like a sport that should have gone the way of the passenger pigeon. How can a sport that’s as slow as the spring thaw still draw millions of fans to the stands? My humble opinion is that much of the success of baseball is due, in part, to the methodical approach and strategy of the leader of the ball clubs – the manager. Before the first pitch is even a wisp of a thought in a the pitcher’s mind, the manager has prepared a plan for his team to follow and he’s most likely played out multiple scenarios in his head so he can be prepared for all nine innings. One of the best to ever manage a team was Tony La Russa. Mr. La Russa retired in 2011, but not until he had brought my hometown St. Louis Cardinals another World Championship trophy. And so, in honor of Mr. La Russa and our nation’s favorite past time, I’d like to share with you some tips that work for managing baseball clubs as well as managing business teams:
You can only take advantage of what you have
Play to your strengths and manage your strategy around those strengths. Take an honest look at the people representing your organization. What are they best at? Write it down. Where can they use improvement? Write it down. Study it. Plan around their strengths, but also have a pathway to address improvements that are needed.
Put people in the best position to compete
Establish a solid relationship with each member of your team. Get to know their strengths and weaknesses and set them up for success. They’ll come to work each day knowing they are supported and that their success is at the top of your list.
Know when to give players the hook
If someone on your team is consistently underperforming or not bringing their A game, make the move earlier rather than later. Chances are the first time you have a question about an individual’s performance won’t be the last. So pay attention, and give the issue the time it deserves so you can make the decision whether to continue with that player.
If you need too many meetings, your club is in trouble
Mr. La Russa believed there were few times throughout a season when meetings were needed, but if you need too many of these, you’ve got people not paying attention or you’re not getting through to your team.
Those devilish details
Make notes about your game. Your players. Your successes. Your failures. Review them often enough to remind you of changes you’d like to make.
And finally, the three things every manager should remind themselves of each day:
Preparation and process. OK, so that’s only two.The third? Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Repetition is key to making your team as effective as possible. Heck, each of these could be its own blog post, but that’s for a different time and maybe another baseball season.