American Income Life – Lessons Learned from America’s Pastime
“The difference between the possible and the impossible lies in a person’s determination.” – Tommy Lasorda, LA Dodgers Manager
Leadership, at its core, is about motivating a team to perform at levels they never dreamed possible; creating the vision and leading your people to believe that they can do anything that they want to do. You see it in sports every day. The team that wins the championship isn’t necessarily as skilled as the others, but they are more driven to achieve. As we move deeper into the year, maybe your year isn’t going as planned, but it’s never too late to change direction and apply some basic principles that can change your agency.
As Scott has told us before, when you get to pick the evaluation period, you get to define whether success has occurred. Regardless of what transpired last week, last month, or last year you have a new opportunity to get a fresh start, a new beginning. Is it your time to change the culture in your organization, to regain the momentum that may be missing, to challenge yourself and your agency to achieve more?
There are many lessons to learn that apply to our business. Here are 9 timeless leadership lessons from America’s pastime. Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, you can benefit from applying the game’s most important lessons:
1) You can’t hit a home run unless you swing for the fences.
Do you and your agency share the right vision? Leaders must think big, and act big. You can’t accomplish huge things unless you go for it. Of course, in baseball, with two strikes, you should choke up, and just try to make contact – and in business, there is a time to slow down and reevaluate. But always start by thinking big.
2) The best players aren’t afraid to get their uniforms dirty.
Leaders must live by example, and that means demonstrating they can handle basic, menial tasks when necessary. As SGA and leader of your agency you must adopt the philosophy of Leading from the Front, bottom line lead by example. Have the attitude that if I have to take the garbage out sometimes – that’s okay. Sometimes getting your uniform dirty inspires others to work that much harder. Are you willing to do the little things that make big differences?
3) Measure everything that matters.
Billy Beane ushered in a new era in baseball as GM of the 2002 Oakland A’s. Made famous by the book and movie Moneyball, He showed that by measuring statistics that he could field a competitive team for less money than the other teams. Great leaders use all of the data, information, and analysis they can get their hands on to make smart, informed decisions. For instance, with Qlikview, the information and data is at your finger tips. Are you taking advantage of it? Do you share it with the managers in your agency?
4) It’s more about the team than about any one superstar.
The best leaders recognize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and while it’s great to have individual top talent – it’s the whole organization which must perform in order to succeed. You can’t just rely on that one top producer or just one cylinder when it comes to your management team. You must give opportunity through promotions and create a wide and strong foundation. Develop your key players into new managers.
5) Don’t go down looking.
With two strikes against you, you’ve got to swing the bat. Great leaders have strong convictions, and they don’t go down without a fight for what they believe in. Believe in your systems and processes. Create a positive environment and develop the culture that will allow you and your agency to thrive.
6) Keep your eye on the ball.
To succeed players must be laser focused on the ball coming at them at 80-100 miles per hour. In business, it’s also essential to stay focused. Great leaders know at any given moment what their top priorities are for the day, month, quarter, and year. The best leaders are focused all the time.
7) Pressure is on; recognize the problem and embrace the situation.
In the same way, great entrepreneurs realize that as long as they can solve an existing problem, they can build a successful organization. The first step is to identify the problem but then embrace the problem with an undeniable immediate sense of urgency.
8) Be ready for a curve ball – or a changeup.
Isaac Asimov said, “The only constant is change.” Great leaders are responsive and adaptable; they know that in order to succeed, they’ll have to have their organizations ready for anything and everything. Key players can knock a fastball out of the park but are also prepared for the unexpected.
9) Talent wins games, but team chemistry wins championships.
You can have the best players in the league and the smartest, most strategic manager and coaches – and that might even win a lot of games. But if the players don’t get along well – if the team doesn’t gel – if the entire group doesn’t have great chemistry – they won’t win a championship. Famed management expert and author Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The best leaders recognize that just as important as any vision or strategy is building a team that believes in each other and in the organization. Does your agency have the culture that you desire?