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Leadership Lessons – Excuses

Believe it or not, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last week. It didn’t take long – just 108 years. Their 7-mile victory parade was Friday. More than 5 million people lined the route. Even the Chicago River was dyed blue for the parade.

5 million people. The population of Chicago is 2.7 million. The city of Los Angeles has around 4 million residents.  Only the New York City is larger in population than the throng in Chicago last Friday. Let’s make this even clearer. This was the largest gathering of people, ever, in the history of the United States, according to ESPN.  It is the seventh largest gathering of people in the history of the world.

My favorite picture from the parade is that of Cubs’ Manager, Joe Maddon, wearing his “We did not suck” t-shirt.  (Of course I already ordered mine on Amazon Prime.)

How did all of this happen? Leadership!

I think of leadership as this baseball season concludes and I think of five of Maddon’s motivational sayings for his team:

  • Try Not to Suck
  • Embrace the Target
  • Do Simple Better
  • The Process is Fearless
  • Never Let the Pressure Exceed the Pleasure

Let’s examine each one of these as it pertains to our day-to-day lives and leadership:

Try Not to Suck

Doesn’t this really apply to what we would love to say to our employees as they leave the shop every morning? How frustrating is it when we get customer complaint calls? They call because they think our employee sucks. It might be workmanship. It might be communication or lack of it. It might be how the appointment is handled.

Embrace the Target

What are your targets for the day? For the month? For each employee? Do you have them? If so, does your employee know them? I’ve found that sharing a company’s target is crucial for success – especially as it applies to leadership and running a business. Leaders know exactly where they are going as does everyone on their team. Let’s put it in baseball terms. What if the coach wanted to get to the World Series and the players just wanted to win the first playoff series? What is success for the players would be total failure for the coach. Why? Not everyone embraced the same target.

Do Simple Better

I think of Cubs’ fan Steve Bartman who got blamed for the Cubs loss to the Florida Marlins in the 2003 National League Championship Series. Bartman did what any fan would do. When a foul ball went into the stands he tried to catch it. Also trying to catch it, however, was Moises Alou, Cubs left fielder. The Cubs were leading when this happened.  Five more outs and they would be in the 2003 World Series. When neither Bartman nor Alou caught the ball, Bartman was pelted with beer and other items. Security had to escort him from the stadium. Things got worse. He had death threats because of the incident and people have blamed him for the Cubs struggle for over a decade.

The person that was never blamed was the Cubs shortstop, Alex Gonzalez, who booted a potential double play ball that would have ended the inning. Instead the Marlins went on to score 8 runs that inning and beat the Cubs in game 6. The next night the Marlins won, again, and advanced to the World Series where they beat the Yankees.

Do simple better. Gonzalez didn’t. It was he, not Bartman, who should go down in infamy for the game. What about your business? Are your people doing simple better – or finding excuses for the mistakes they make?

The Process is Fearless

What is your process? Think about this when it comes to training. I think the team with the best fearless process are the Navy Seals. They train both the minds and their bodies so everything that they do comes naturally – without thinking about it.

Let’s look at how you do safety training.

There was a point in my life where I had to think about if I was putting on a seat belt when I got into a car (I’m old enough to have owned a car when the seat belt didn’t “click”). Today, it is second nature. What processes do you have that drives safety? The cost of your workman’s comp insurance will answer that question.

Never Let the Pressure Exceed the Pleasure

This one is tough for many of us as leaders. Goodness knows that we have pressure-filled days. As I get older, however, I am getting better at enjoying the pleasure part.

Case in point that might really hit home.

Have you ever gone on vacation and you were not really there mentally to enjoy it? Have you taken your wife/husband out for a romantic dinner and checked your e-mails all evening? Do your kids think you are part of their lives or that you work all the time?

I’ve been guilty of all of the above – this is why Maddon’s words of wisdom grab me by the throat.

Five simple statements said by a man, just four months and five days older than me, who could run for mayor in Chicago Tuesday and win. He’s not a politician – he is having too much fun winning his first World Series.  And, I have to believe the pleasure is just beginning.  It is really fun being a Cubs fan now!

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