I’m a huge baseball fan, but even if you’re not me, you must have followed, or at least heard of, the history-making that was the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory. As if the 108-year drought and the Curse of the Billy Goat weren’t enough, they let themselves get down 1-3 in the World Series and then needed extra innings and a momentum-changing rain delay to catapult themselves into the history books. But what does any of this have to do with what we do at Magnet Consulting, you ask?

Well, we certainly don’t lay claim to having given the Chicago Cubs’ coach Joe Maddon his unique style of coaching, but what we want to focus on is how the Cubbies provide leadership lessons that are applicable for any organization. So what can Maddon and his boys teach us about leadership skills for success in organizations? It’s simple:

  1. Take a chance on—and invest in—young leaders. The Chicago Cubs weren’t afraid of having the under-40 Theo Epstein making decisions when they hired him in 2011. Change was needed and great leadership doesn’t always come with gray hair. The competencies needed in a leader can be found in any person who has them wired into their personality DNA and/or who has developed them before you noticed them. Characteristics like Inquisitiveness and Learning Agility can be identified to create a high-potential program. Once your candidates are identified, their value and careers can be catapulted through individual and team development—not just through “butts in seats training” but through business-practical leadership workshops with hands-on practice, leadership simulations, and individual coaching.
  2. Use data from sound assessments. In the business world it isn’t “neuroscouting” or grip strength that predict success in role, but rather, scientifically-developed skills tests, personality inventories, job simulations and behavior-based interviews. The Cubs don’t use their collective gut to know who is capable of what and neither should a good business leader. Too often, succession planning and even hiring takes the form of unstructured methods to capture a decision-makers’ “gut feel” on a person’s value to the organization. This simply isn’t necessary if an organization engages an organizational psychology firm to figure out which assessments fit their organization and then put those systems in place.
  3. Have an ace, but know that your bench-strength may be what wins it all for you.  Yes, the Cubs invested in Arrieta and Chapman, but in the end, sometimes your aces get tired and you have to have bench-strength to back them up. That means not just committing development resources to the few, but also having done your homework to build a full team. This starts with having put in place research-backed, job-relevant assessments (see above) but it doesn’t end there. Leadership skills for success can be developed and don’t need to be cost-prohibitive; so the development doesn’t need to be focused only on a handful of aces.
  4. Take risks and stick with them. I love aggressive base-running. In Game 7 it didn’t work out every time, but Maddon stuck with his plan and smart base-running made a difference. Give your people room to stretch to achieve better results, knowing sometimes they’ll be “thrown out” but most often, they will thrive with the empowerment to try.
  5. Rally after any mistakes. Game 7 was not the cleanest baseball I’ve ever seen—errors were made and players had “the yips” yet Maddon kept the mood as light as possible and that allowed his team to rebound and re-focus. They were still having fun. Fun at work doesn’t happen by accident. It comes from carefully building an organizational culture…taking the time to create a meaningful vision and mission and creating systems that reward behaviors that support your desired culture. It’s not just laminating some cool-sounding words and putting them on the wall.
  6. Don’t Wait 108 years to be a champion. No business has 108 years to wait to put these organizational practices in place. Business isn’t just about putting the right strategic plan in place; it’s about acquiring, developing, and motivating the team that will get you the results you need.

Magnet Consulting is a people engagement firm which helps organizations of all sizes build culture, assess and select team members, and develop teams and leaders. For more information, visit www.MagnetConsulting.com, email info@MagnetConsulting.com or call 1-844-MAGNET3. 

Sandy Fiaschetti, Ph.D., is an organizational psychologist who co-founded Magnet Consulting, a baseball aficionado, and a mom to five kids, one of whom is her favorite baseball player of all time.