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What Can Be Learned from America's Favorite Pastime

Want a guilt-free reason to focus on America’s favorite pastime instead of work? I am suggesting you pay close attention to the game of baseball because as executives and leaders, there are several important lessons to be taken from the game; all which translate to better teams and more wins. Let’s have some fun, implement these concepts in your workplace, and make “leading” America’s favorite pastime:

Don’t move the foul pole

In the game of baseball, the foul pole is stationary. It does not move left or right for each batter or team. The rules are the rules – if a ball goes outside of the foul pole, it’s a foul ball. All too often in business, leaders “move the foul pole” depending on the person or the situation. This, at best confuses their team and worse, infuriates them. Some examples of leaders moving the foul pole include allowing one person to not hit their KPIs, while holding others accountable to it. Or letting someone who is 99% of quota to be recognized as 100% along with all the others who actually are 100% or over. Communicate the rules of “your game” and apply consistent application of them!

Yesterday’s home run won’t win today’s game

Home runs don’t carry over to the next game. Every game is a new game. When it comes to our customers, we must continuously focus on delivering value. Teach your team that once a customer buys and pays you, you are even. They owe you nothing more, which means the game starts over. Every day your customer has choices and if something better comes along, your “yesterday home run” won’t matter. Make sure you are the something better that comes along and add value with every interaction!

Change the line up

In baseball, the lead-off hitter and the player batting clean-up are key positions in the line-up (the lead-off hitter is supposed to get on base and the clean-up hitter is supposed to bring them home). If that combination isn’t working from game to game, coaches change the line-up, moving the line-up around. Just because someone isn’t performing in their spot, doesn’t necessarily mean they are taken out of the game, they are often moved to a position that better utilizes their strengths and skills. In business, we often have that opportunity to look at the best place for the people on our team – to use their strengths, while improving their skills. Leaders owe it to their teams to find the best winning combination and put the right people in the right roles.

Go to the Bull Pen

Baseball teams have a lot of pitchers on the roster. Only one pitcher is in the game at a time, although approximately 50% of the team roster are pitchers. Coaches go to the bull pen for fresh arms and for competitive advantages based on the strengths of various pitchers; they have depth. Do you have depth in your team? All too often companies rely on “one pitcher”. For example, there is one person and only one person who handles certain key operations and there is no depth. What if you lose that person, that person gets maximized on time, or simply needs to take PTO? Do you have enough active depth for every critical position so you can scale your organization? Shape your roster for your competitive advantage.

Build a Farm Team

Farm teams are those teams in baseball that are not a part of the Major Leagues, but they are filled with players who are being trained for “the show” (those of you Bull Durham fans get that). Major League teams rely on their farm teams to support continuous success. It’s the next level of players that are being groomed, and trained to be ready. Every company needs to have an approach to succession planning. Invest in your ‘farm team’ and get them ready for “the show, the big leagues”. Find opportunities to get your high potential associates in “situation scrimmages” so they can begin to get the exposure and the experience of the role - before they actually need to be in the role.

The fans aren’t always with you

Players are traded, games are lost, losing streaks happen. Fans stop coming or they disagree with the General Manager or the coach. But the fact remains that coaches want to win, and tough decisions sometimes don’t make sense to the fans. It is usually because fans are not dealing with the same set of facts or insight. In business, strong leaders create a winning strategy and make these tough decisions based on facts and data and they do not worry about crowd appeal. They also do their best to communicate the strategy to gain understanding and support. The fans always come back when you’re winning and stay with you if they understand how you’ll get back to winning.


We have written a couple of Butler Street blogs on the critical importance of practice. There is no denying that muscle memory and practice is the difference maker. In the game of baseball, there is about 17 minutes of action in a 3-hour game, yet the average MLB player practices 42 hours in addition to the 6 games they play each week. And that is during the season, not even addressing Spring Training. Do the math in your organization, what is the amount practice time your teams are required to have each week in order to be ready for the game? Check out The Lost Art of Practice for what best-in-class organizations do in terms of practice,

Win Your Play

In baseball, every time a pitch is thrown, there is a play. Each player gets in ready position, and often, they’re not even in the play. But they’re ready. And they know what they need to do to win their play. Good coaches pay attention to ready positions and hold players accountable to them. Winning teams in business make sure everyone knows their play and is accountable to winning it. Business is a team sport, too. No one delivers a product or a service on their own and if everyone focuses on winning their play, they will win the day, the month and the year. Maybe even something akin to the World Series!

At Butler Street we help companies grow through implementing a series of reinforcing activities. Leadership Development and Sales Management workshops are designed to create winning teams and winning seasons. If you're interested in implementing these lessons and more, contact us.

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