Wondering what’s the connection between a baseball manager and a business? Well, frankly there is not much. But there are quite a few things a business manager can learn from a baseball manager.
Contrary to popular misconception, a baseball manager doesn’t just restrict himself to kicking dirt on the home plate, or munch on sunflower seeds instead of the much favored, though unpopular tobacco, whenever there is a dispute with the umpire’s decision. Delving a bit deeper, one realizes they don’t just lounge in their choice of seats while the game is in progress. Their responsibilities are actually similar to those a successful businessperson faces.
Trust your gut
Take for instance when Joe Girardi, manager New York Yankees, took a crucial decision that benched Alex Rodriguez, a third baseman and star in his own right. Girardi decided to bring in Raul Ibanez, who is almost past his prime, as a replacement during the 9 inning of a game. Girardi’s gamble paid off and Ibanez went on to not only hit a home run in that inning, but a second in the 12 inning as well. When asked about his decision, Girardi waved it off as a gut instinct he had.
While a businessperson has all the time and data to go through before taking a crucial decision, a baseball manager has only his horse sense or gut feeling to go by. Though understanding numbers is essential, you also need to pay respect to your instincts.
Make tough decisions and stick by them
When Terry Francona’s team faced the bleak prospect of elimination during the 2004 playoffs against the Yankees, the former Boston Red Sox manager had to take a crucial decision at short notice. Although Francona was aware that his decision could be ridiculed, he decided to retain Johnny Damon even though it was evident that Damon wasn’t performing too well. However, Damon played brilliantly, proved his worth, and was retained for the remainder of the series.
The lesson here is obvious; a decision is indeed a gamble, however, it is up to the managers to take the risk and experiment. This trial and error method ultimately pays off in the long run.
The season wasn’t great for Bruce Bochy, manager, San Francisco Giants, as he was plagued with misfortune. While the closing pitcher was down with an injury, a couple of top starting pitchers weren’t at their best. To top it all, his star outfielder failed a drug test and was suspended.
However, Bochy was not unruffled by the turn of events and focused on decisions about starting pitchers and changes in lineup, hoping that his team would make it after all. Thanks to the confidence he had in himself and his team members, the team came out successful, in spite of the odds stacked against them, and made it to the second World Series in a matter of 3 years.
The lesson one can learn from this is that the most carefully laid out plans in any business can always go haywire. It is up to the leaders to reassure their employees and take them along on the road to success, irrespective of whether they are facing adversity, or coasting through good times.
Be it a game or business, mental toughness, the ability to lead a team and decision making capabilities are absolute necessities. By examining some of the decisions that baseball managers have taken, business people can learn valuable lessons to help them manage their businesses more successfully.
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