What Leaders Can Learn From The Cubs

Sara Gramata, Chicago (Business, http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20161023/OPINION/161029961)

Watching the Chicago Cubs pave their way to the World Series has been thrilling. Their success is based on solid management principles taught in B-schools every day. Here are a few of them:

1. Allow freedom within the framework. Manager Joe Maddon allows his coaches and players to evolve on their own timeline. When Anthony Rizzo’s bat lost its heat, it was an obvious drain to the rotation, but there weren’t the usual angry faces and curse words from the dugout. Similarly, employees need to have freedom to move, create and evolve within the rules of the organization. The Cubs didn’t stifle Rizzo like many clubhouses counting on their ace during playoffs. Good leaders like Maddon know Rizzo realizes what needs to happen.

2. Believe in and support your team. Even with the occasional loss, Maddon has noted it’s not best “to take a trip to Negative Town,” the natural path of human nature. Instead of pulling low performers, he pumps the lineup with struggling hitters, indicating he never believed they couldn’t pull out of it. And it paid off when these hitters all made a difference in the game later with homeruns or RBIs. When the Cubs skipper says he believes and supports his players, he also shows it too.

3. Hold everyone accountable. Another key lesson Maddon instills is holding everyone accountable, including himself. Maddon does this through the “Try Not to Suck,” motto. Humor is known to resonate higher with teams than if it’s not filled with obvious pressure like “Win Every Game.” The former is simple, yet profound enough that everyone can relate to, even my own kids use it for homework or sports.

4. Use emotional intelligence. An experienced and successful manager like Maddon emotional intelligent. When bringing a new player into the clubhouse, he’s careful to consider not only the player’s stats, but also his personality as well. For Maddon, emotional intelligence is in play both on and off the field. He knows when the team needs a break from the pressure and scrutiny and lightens the mood with zoo animals, dressing up in ’70s gear or pajama road trips. Good leaders know how to reenergize their team.

5. Gain respect before making big moves. Good management skills are not limited to the field either. Team owners the Ricketts brought promise to Chicago, but didn’t hastily change things with the ball club. They made subtle changes at first and once they gained the respect of the city and fans, then made bolder moves. With any new manager or coach, fans expect an overnight sensation to happen during the first or second season.

6. Create a readily understood strategy. The Ricketts family and Cubs President Theo Epstein took the time to assess the situation, create a strategy everyone can understand (Ricketts’ three founding principles are a) Be a good neighbor b) Preserve Wrigley c) Win the World Series), and then make necessary changes. As a result, Wrigley has become a better ballpark, the surrounding neighborhood will flourish for decades and now, after 71 years, the Cubs are in the World Series. The ultimate goal in business is to achieve more than just profits, but to help others as well—all of which the Cubs have successfully achieved.

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