Over the past couple of years I have been involved within my community as a volunteer little league coach. It is a labor of love, because I get just as much satisfaction out of coaching and teaching the game of baseball as my players get out of playing. I coach in the Junior Division, which includes thirteen and fourteen year olds, so I am catching these guys right at the intersection of their youth and young adulthood. They are still young enough to be kids but old enough to start taking on the responsibilities of young men.
This year I was selected to assemble and coach the league’s summer All-Star team. Although I have been a part of All-Star teams in the past, I had never been the head manager. For those who are not familiar with little league baseball, there is a great deal of community politics involved, and with an All-Star team it is ten-fold. Parents take the selection (or lack thereof) of their kids to the team very seriously. While it is not normal and does not happen on every team, sometimes parents can take it a little too far. There is definitely an art to dealing with the parents, because all parents’ expectations are different. Some just want their kid to have fun, while others want the game of baseball taught correctly, and then you have the “win at all cost” parents. There are degrees in between but it makes running a team, especially an All-Star team, more challenging.
As I put my team together, I thought about how similar assembling my little league All-Star team was to structuring a successful business team. There were a wide range of roles I needed filled and every role was vital to the success of our team. Another similarity was that the players I sought mirrored the type of production I was looking to achieve. In managing a business team, you recruit individuals who can produce the type of results you seek. Here are a couple of other similarities:
You need more than one ace – All good pitching staffs have an ace, but all great pitching staffs have two or three. Your best pitcher can’t take the ball every start and your guy next in line must be able to be just as effective as the guy before him. The same goes for successful businesses. An outstanding CEO or President is a must in order to have an effective business. To take that leap from successful to highly successful, the CEO or President needs to have one or two other key figures within the organization that can step up.
A wide range of talent is must – On the baseball diamond, just like in business, it is necessary to have talented individuals who perform consistently in different areas. In a typical baseball lineup you want players who are good at getting on base, players who hit for average, players who hit for power, and even just players who put the ball in play. What you are trying to build is a lineup that produces runs on a consistent basis. The same can be said for your business team. You need the big hitters in business development who hit home runs, the marketing team that consistently promote your product and image, and the operations department that supports the revenue part of the business. These are just a few examples, but each requires talent up and down the lineup and up and down your organization.
Never discount the impact of role players – Not everyone on the team can be the most talented or produce every game. One of my former coaches preached that as a team we were only as strong as our weakest link. I know it is a cliché, but I believe it holds true in every team sport and every business. Role-players perform a vital role during each game and over the course of the season. A relief pitcher who comes in with the bases loaded and one out and gets out of the jam is every bit important to the success of the team as your ace. His role is much smaller and less visible, but he is still an integral part of the team. The same goes for your business. Having productive role players who get the job done day in and day out will be just as important to the success of your team. Most importantly, these people should be valued and not taken for granted.
Putting together a team is a challenge and putting together a successful team is an even bigger challenge. There are many success stories out there to follow and even more failures to learn from. As for the success of my All-Star team, only the summer will tell.
January 22, 2013 AT 3:37 PM CST
Great article with exceptional wisdom.