Kacy Donlon: Play ball! Featured

8:01pm EDT July 31, 2011
Kacy Donlon: Play ball!

While the lyrics from the band Damn Yankees mark baseball season as “six months out of every year,” around my house, baseball is a year-round fascination. Some find it a slow-paced game that takes too long, but for those in the know, it’s a metaphor for life, especially the workplace.

You need a solid team.

Although it seems counter intuitive to not want 100 percent superstars in your organization, you must know that such an environment does not work. For one, it’s simply not cost-effective. Second, there is need for support behind the real movers in your organization. In your typical baseball lineup, you have your hitters with power in the middle and usually your players with speed at the front. Then you often have weaker hitters lower in the order or perhaps your pitcher who is called on to lay down a bunt. Each spot in the order has a purpose and plays a key role in producing runs. Likewise, each and every person in your organization has a role in the success of your business.

You want team players.

In baseball, there is more than just batting average. As a team player, you get points for sacrifice bunts and flies — moving other runners around even though you’re out. You even get credit for runs batted in, again even if it’s not you scoring. It’s the same in the workplace. We all strive to hit it out of the park, but on a day in, day out basis it’s just not going to happen. So we have to promote an environment where we work hard to do the best we can but realize that sometimes our best efforts are for the good of the organization, not just our own personal aggrandizement.

In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays should not have won the American League East. They had no stars. The team’s payroll was dwarfed by just one or two of the New York Yankees players’ salaries. But, Tampa Bay had a dynamic, unconventional manager with a bunch of players who loved the game. No one told them they couldn’t win. That’s the atmosphere that businesses should strive for — a team dynamic with no hot shots and plenty of people who are willing to take one for the team.

You want people who can contribute.

Baseball is also a sport for anyone. Although not everyone will be Hank Aaron or Lou Gehrig, for every one of these stars there are everyday players who shine. There are players who endure (Jim Thome), players who rise from obscurity (Troy Tulowitzki), and players who rise from the ashes (Carl Pavano). Every season, 750 players are on opening day rosters with the hope of being the player of their childhood dreams. Sometimes those players will be All-Stars, and sometimes in one of the 162 games that season, that player will have the walk-off hit to take home the victory for the team. Similarly, all employees should be encouraged to dream big and contribute to the overall success of the company. Every game and every workday is a new opportunity to make a name for yourself.

Look to your veterans.

Finally, in baseball, organizations look to veterans to be leaders and mentors, especially to the rookies on their teams. Whether in the role of players, coaches, or instructors, these veterans are looked to for leadership in the clubhouse, offering cohesion, wisdom and sometimes a needed pat on the back or a stern look. In our places of employment, we should strive to be good stewards of the talent available to us at all levels. Leadership is not limited to those people with titles or the highest salaries. We are all called to step up to the plate and take our best shot.

Katherine C. “Kacy” Donlon is a founding member of Wiand Guerra King PL. She has practiced in the area of commercial litigation for the past 15 years, concentrating on the defense of businesses and individuals involved in the securities and financial services industries. She also has experience in a broad spectrum of commercial litigation matters, including employment disputes, class actions, business torts and contract disputes. Reach her at kdonlon@wiandlaw.com.