I love baseball! To me, it is the only true sport. I started playing baseball when I was 3 or 4 years old and played in college, then softball for over 30 years after that. I coached teams for my kids and others. Now, as you can see from the photo, I remain a St. Louis Cardinals fan and collect baseball memorabilia. So, it seems only fitting to declare this “Baseball Week at The Porch”. Several items this week will explore the link between baseball, compliance, and leadership. (I always like to say that everything in life can be explained either by baseball or Country and Western music, but we’ll stick to baseball this week.) Today, we look at teamwork.
Baseball is considered a team sport. All members of the team win or lose together. Even if you, as an individual, hit four home runs and your team loses, you are still a loser. However, developing high-level individual skills is also important. So, how does teamwork in baseball link with teamwork? I’m glad you asked:
- For a team to function at a high level, each individual member must do his/her job – My 7-year old grandson plays on a tee-ball team. It is funny to watch kids that age play baseball. When someone hits the ball, everyone on the field tends to migrate to the ball. And, as a result, chaos ensues. High-performing teams hold individual members accountable for performing at a high level. It is imperative that we focus on our part of the team’s job first, rather than worry how a teammate might have muffed that last ground ball. So, performing well as an individual is a key precursor to performing well as a team.
- The individuals on the very best teams, support each other member… win or lose – Supporting your teammates does NOT mean doing the job a teammate should be doing. The first baseman on a baseball team cannot shift to shortstop and leave his responsibilities unattended. But, he can encourage his teammates whether or not they success as individuals. Support, encouragement, and, when needed, providing advice based on your experience or abilities can assist a teammate. Ridicule, scorn, and expressing frustration at teammates will not result in improvement.
- The best teams develop their own methods of communication that helps drive success – Major league baseball teams have intricate methods for communicating. Catchers and pitchers communicate through signals. Infielders provide signals to the outfielders. Coaches provide words or signals from the dugout. Coaches inform batters through signals. And, the ultimate communication tool is the scoreboard – that always provides a live indicator of performance. Great teams do the same thing. Individual members develop communication means to inform others. Supervisors communicate events, schedules, etc. Dashboards provide real-time performance results. All of these work together to help members modify performance and action to yield the best possible result.
- High-performing teams plan and prepare well – The very best major league teams invest heavily in reviewing videotapes, statistics, and trends for opponents. This can provide an edge when the difference between success and failure is razor thin. It is not enough to simply show up ten minutes before the game and expect to perform at your best. For our teams, planning and preparation are equally important. As someone once said, “Plan the work and work the plan.” Good advice!
- The proper use of metrics can drive improved performance for the best teams – Just like high-level baseball teams monitor key metrics and trends, it is important that we monitor and understand the drivers that impact our performance. Knowing the “score” can help us determine if changes are needed or if we need to modify our behaviors.
- Continuous improvement drives the best teams – No high-level, high-performing (these are different, you know) baseball team feels that the status quo is acceptable. The best continue to practice, continue to assess, and continue to improve. Teams that don’t improve, can expect to see a decline in performance, especially when compared to their competition.
- Successful teams celebrate success – Have you seen how excited teams get when they win the World Series? That is a celebration! In the same way, we need to take the time to recognize excellent performance and celebrate those wins we get. For example, do we frequently celebrate our best yet cycle time performance? How about a week without an Exception in an area? How about when we complete a particularly difficult project? Sometimes, these celebrations can motivate the team to an even better performance the next time.
So, how does your team stack up to these seven criteria? Is there an item on the list that could benefit your team if done better? What can you do, as an individual, to help your team improve or perform better? Taking the time to even read this has been wasted unless you see a nugget here that you will act upon to better your team or yourself.
Have a “top ten” day!