Friday, October 16, 2015

Managing Your Team - Tips from Joe

Baseball season is coming to it's climax with the World Series just a few weeks away.  So much of the excitement this year is around the Cubs.  We all know the long legend of the Cubs, 108 years since last winning the series.  This year the team has finally built a potential winner with the skills of owner Tom Ricketts and GM/Money Ball wizard Theo Epstein.  They built a team of very young players that many felt were a year or two away from being contenders.  Lodged in a division with the two best records ahead of them with Saint Louis and Pittsburgh, they overcame it all and are now the top pick in Vegas to win it all.

While the players on the field make the plays and swing the bats, a big key is the coaching in the dugout.  Joe Madden manages the Cubs in a unique way and this is the real reason the Cubs are contenders.  This group is a real TEAM.  You see nearly everyone contributing with solid pitching performances, clutch hits, towering home runs, and strong defensive plays on the field.  It's not built on big egos or just a few individuals - it's the whole team.

The line up is very fluid with many players roaming all over the field on defense and the line up changes all the time with many unique twists.  In the game you never know when Joe will change the strategy to small ball or get very aggressive.  The other key is that he strongly believes that having fun, keeping it loose and celebrating are key elements on his team.   The PJ party after the no-hitter on the way back from LA, the petting zoo at practice, and many other fun time are all part of the party legend.

Joe is also very skilled with the press.  We are close to Chicago and get to see the press conferences, the are honest, relaxed and usually entertaining - the press loves him.

As programmers, operations managers and market managers we all have talent managing challenges.  What can we learn from Joe?   Here are 3 observation from a fan who's watched a lot of  Cubs games:

1. - Keep it Positive and Loose - Joe is always calm and positive around his team.  It's not about pulling a player aside and yelling at him.  This is a relaxed and comfortable team and there is a big reason why that works.  If the team is tight, fearful and full of pressure what happens when the pressure of the game ramps up?  What happens when the bases are loaded and you need a clutch double play with a team that's already at 10 on the tension meter - ERRORS.  If you keep it positive and loose you are a lot stronger when the pressure pushes the whole team.  A great example was when the press brought up the Billy Goat curse - Joe's response " I don't vibrate on that frequency."

2. Celebrate - Joe also keeps the tension away with team parties and celebrations at key times.  He preaches that every win is celebrated for 24 hours or till the next game.  Sometimes it's a big party and other times it might be more subtle but every win is special.  Let out the emotion and keep it loose.

3. Balancing Art and Science - Theo Epstein is legendary for his stat team of geeks.  He wrote the book on tracking every piece of data he could collect on the game and analyzing it.  The movie Money Ball is all about his number crunching systems, that have changed a game that's filled with legends and myths.  Joe is very keen on the numbers and you see many moves he makes because he has key data.  Watch him constantly looking at a stat guide he has the geek team prepare for every game in the dugout.

But, Joe doesn't live completely by the numbers.  He knows that a lot of the great performances in the game go beyond the numbers.  The human emotion plays a huge factor and there are not a lot of data points that you can run that will predict that magical game winning performance that comes out of the blue.  Sometimes you have to go with the gut and Joe uses his gut a lot.  He is always balancing his gut and the geek teams numbers.

Hopefully the Cubs will go all the way and you'll have the chance to see lots of games.  Watch Joe and the team - there are lessons for all of us to learn.  We also manage a tight knit group of talented people on air, in sales, and behind the scenes in our stations.  Getting all of them to perform at their peak is a constant goal.