A reader asks:
Jeff, when I turn on the radio or TV, or pick up a newspaper or magazine, sports broadcasters and even business journalists are talking about the remarkable transformation of your beloved Chicago Cubs. How’d they do it and what lessons can be learned?
Whoa! Intriguing question!
Every April, family, friends and clients ask me “How will the Cubs do this year?” Seven months ago, I confidently exclaimed, “They’ll be better, a few games over 500. About 85 victories and 77 losses.” I was wrong. Big time! Yet never have I been happier, to drastically miss-the-mark.
The Cubs finished the 2015 season 97 – 65. That’s 32 games or wins above 500! They headed to baseball’s postseason. Shocking! Surprising! Exhilarating!
They then defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card game. And then whupped their arch rival, the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Divisional series. And then came the New York Mets and the National League Championship series. Ouch! The Cubs were swept 4 – 0.
So how do I now feel about this year’s Cubbies season? It’s interesting how overachieving creates new expectations. For years, decades, ummm, even centuries, Cub Nation has declared, “Wait ‘til next year!” It really wasn’t a confident, prophetic prediction. Instead, it was more akin to a resigned consolation. An acceptance of prolonged defeat and mediocrity. Until…
We Cub fans started to wonder, imagine, dream…could “this” year be “THE” year? Nope! Yet once you shake away the disappointment and heartbreak, you realize there are SO MANY positive things that happened this year for the Chicago Cubs and their fans, that they teach you valuable lessons about life and business. For example:
• youth is a great thing, it represents talent and potential, yet it’ll always get beat by successful execution / Lesson: It’s not what you know or can do, it’s what you do DO!
• little things really do matter; one play, one pitch, one inch / Lesson: Pay attention to the details, they’re likely to be the difference in your life, personally and professionally.
• leadership starts at the top, from the moment he was hired as the new Cubs manager, Joe Maddon set the stage for positive possibilities and a new mindset of optimistic expectations (When I shared a flight to Tampa with Maddon in January, I simply said to him, “Joe, welcome. We’re thrilled you’re here!” At the time, I and others couldn’t predict, how thrilled we’d be!) / Lesson: Choose your leaders wisely. Culture starts at the top. Whether it’s who’s heading your company, a division, a department or a committee, the right leader better be in place. While they may or maynot help you “win the prize” this year, they’ll sure increase your probability for victory. And along the way, drive lots of other successful results and outcomes.
• baseball’s regular season is a grind, 162 games over 6+ months, it’s easy to lose focus, especially with long travel, injuries and slumps which is why the Cubs relied upon Maddon’s motivational mastery…with music, magic or other motivational mayhem to keep players interested and performing / Lesson: Know what drives your team. Individually and collectively. And that only happens, when you know your people. Their hopes, dreams, desires and motivators. Build and strengthen relationships. Let others know you care.
• unorthodox, unconventional and unexpected work, some think Joe Maddon is crazy, he might be, yet that also makes him a brilliant baseball strategist, i.e., batting the pitcher 8th vs. 9th, having players play multiple positions, executing back-to-back, run-producing safety squeeze bunts, etc. / Lesson: Forget about the naysayers and critics. Do what you think is right. Rely upon your knowledge, experience, metrics, statistics, eyes, ears and gut. Then decide. Confidently. Then execute or get the heck out of the way, and let your team execute. Your results will infom the world.
• control what you can control: Maddon would stress, “Forget about yesterday, don’t worry about tomorrow. Focus on today.” / Lesson: Be in charge, every day, of your attitude, choices and actions.
For you and the Cubs, may next year, be “the” year, to attain new levels of success. Live and work, like a champion!