At this year’s Pittsburgh Pirates spring training in Bradenton, Fla., I was asked to lead motivational leadership sessions for the baseball players and management. The invitation came after Manager Clint Hurdle read my latest book, “Leaders Open Doors.”
But what I didn’t realize was that I would learn as much about leadership from the Pirates in our two days together as I would offer to the players and coaches.
Here are some lessons and essential takeaways from Pirate City for leaders of all organizations:
Cultivate the farm
The term “bench strength” comes from baseball. Over the long haul, teams that consistently win pay as much attention to the next generation of players as the big stars.
One goal of the Pirates coaches is to turn boys into men. More than a few players are teenagers away from home for the first time. Character building is as much an emphasis as playing ball. Players are even taught to wear their baseball caps straight.
In any organization, actively building leadership skills among your next generation of leaders will deepen the overall bench strength.
The simplest definition of leadership is “to stay out in front.” To be in the lead, you’ve got to be leading.
A lot of coaching time is devoted to helping players learn to be leaders. The Pirates bring in outside leadership experts, journal their thoughts on leadership and have a “leadership counsel” of players who are voted on by peers for their leadership potential.
Thinking about leadership isn’t enough. It’s something you do. You need to provide real opportunities for people to lead and take charge.
Own your own accountability
Few things are as damaging to a team than a lack of individual accountability. As one locker room poster stated, “You either did or didn’t, who cares why or why not?”
Each morning, team members who feel they’ve let the team down in some way voluntarily fess up and put a dollar into a penalty jug. When enough money accrues, it’s donated to a worthy cause. Self-accountability is the best way to promote team accountability.
By creating an environment that encourages people to “own” their performance and mistakes, you embody accountability as a core value.
Provide bursts of motivation
Energy management is critical to performance. Players don’t need to be keyed-up for the entire game lest they fizzle out. Rather, they need to flip the motivation button to “on” instantaneously as needed.
Coaches provide motivational pep talks in short five to 10-minute bursts, not drawn out speeches or lectures. You can use that in your organization. Fire people up with one or two quick motivational messages, not every quote you’ve ever heard.
At the end of the season, only one team wins. The winning team is an outlier. Winning isn’t normal and requires an abnormal level of preparation, practice and hard work. Champions sacrifice the comforts normal people seek.
Get everyone striving for excellence by asking each person to improve performance by one tenth of 1 percent every day. It’s the best way to outperform average. ●
Bill Treasurer is the Founder and Chief Encouragement Officer at Giant Leap Consulting. Bill is the author of “Leaders Open Doors,” which focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity; “Courage Goes to Work,” a best-selling book that introduces the concept of courage-building; and “Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace.” He has led workshops for NASA, Accenture, CNN, PNC Bank, SPANX, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and more.
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