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Play Ball! What Makes a Great Team in Baseball and in Business

My favorite time of year is the beginning of baseball season and living just 3 short miles from Wrigley Field has made me a die-hard Cubs fan. While I don’t expect the Cubs to win the pennant, I do hope and expect a good and consistent showing throughout the season.


Like sports teams, not every company will have a banner year, year-over-year. In many cases, there are planned rebuilding years to re-calibrate talent, product, resources and leadership. But the key is to keep moving forward, regardless of your current state.

I like to look at success of any organization using the pillars of people, process, and technology. Each grouping needs to work well by itself in order to function well with the other pillars.  Let’s take a look at ‘people ‘as they are the most valued resource of the pillars.





Players/ Farm Teams

Employees/ Recruiting



The Management/Leadership sets the tone for the current climate, as well as lays a vision for what is to come. They also need to plan for items that are unexpected.

What I like about baseball is while the each game ends in a win or loss. You know exactly where you stand and the metrics of your season are common reported stats. This information allows you to make adjustments to target a different result. Anywhere from the batting lineup to relief pitchers, DL, etc. , the game of baseball is all about small adjustments.

But what about business? What metrics do you manage to and how do you adjust? There is a ‘stay the course’ leadership mentality to allow you to commit to a program to sort of the kinks and bugs but there should also be an exit strategy to know when there is a tipping point of obvious failure.

Players, much like your employees provide the executable function.  You train them, coach them, and set them up for optimal success.  And in some cases, the really good ones develop a following.  Your players  (employees or sports) are often viewed as “A” players and “B” players.  In business your “A” players are high functioning, high results folks. They also have a shelf life.  Always having “A” players in your organization only works if you keep the pipeline of talent moving.  What are your recruiting strategies for new talent? What about new talent at each stage of a career path? Most companies focus on new college grads or executive searches but the real talent and premier development happens between these two extremes.  Keep your “A” players happy, keep your pipeline open, and make sure you spend time coaching and nurturing the group in the middle who have already made the team. This team and lineup that will keep your metrics steady.

What if you aren’t keeping close tabs on metrics or making critical adjustments before you hit the tipping point?  Your fans and customers will be sure to let you know.

Sometimes it takes a bold and impassioned action to ‘shake’ people out having a negative experience.  My favorite all-time manager of the Cubs is Lou Pinniella, Pinniella, different that his predecessor Dusty Baker, was a fan favorite.  Fans took great pleasure in being down in a late inning and hoping for a “Lou moment” where he would get angered by an out at home and have an explosive moment on the plate. It almost always ended with his ejection and almost always, it was exactly the type of motivation the players and fans needed to push through for a win.

In the end Baker had a better record than Piniella but the experience for fans, without a doubt, would go to Piniella.  The point is, even if you’re not in first place, your leadership can’t lose their passion for the game.   Ideally you don’t have to have an explosive moment to get people fired up, but every once in a while, it sure helps!

What great ‘people’ moments do you embrace with your team?

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