This World Series has earned the stature of ‚ Instant Classic‚ and it has nothing to do with the fact that the Cubs are on the brink of winning their first World Series since 1908. OK, it has something to do with that fact! But what I am getting at here is that this series, the way it has played out combined with all the story lines involved, is one that will be talked about for years to come.
Last night as I was driving and listening to the 3rd inning of the game (complete side story that has to do with family pooch having splenectomy!) the Cubs announcers on 670 The Score were talking about their pre-game routine and how they always go to Joe Maddon’s office when they get to the ballpark before the game. Last night they arrived at his office about four hours before the first pitch, and as if on cue, Javier Baez was walking out of Joe’s office smiling ear to ear and laughing. Here is a guy who is swinging when the wind blows in this series because he is wound so tight and he is laughing before an elimination game. We have no idea what went on in that office, but we know this..it worked.
This got me to thinking about all the leadership lessons that have poured out of this series so I thought a quick, out of order, blog was called for so I could share my not-so-random top ten questions to ask ourselves as we attempt to Fly our own W!
- Are you putting your people in position to be successful or are you setting them up for failure? The managerial moves in this series have been so much fun to watch. Whether is has to do with the lineup, batting order adjustments, pitching changes or situational hitting.
- Are you empowering your people to use failure and to work through struggles? Addison Russel has struggled at the plate in this series and was batting below .200. Last night he hit a grand slam and finished the game with a World Series record-tying six RBI’s.
- Are you thinking outside the box just enough to cause your competition to re-think their strategy? In the bottom of the 6th inning Maddon decided to pinch hit for Ross which meant Lester was done for the night. This showed the Cubs hand that a pitching change was happening on the top of the 7th a bit sooner than you would have expected. When they showed the Indians dugout, Jon Smoltz immediately began to talk about what that meant for the Indians strategy.
- Are you holding true to your culture, values and processes when your back is against the wall and/or when you feel like you have some breathing room. After the Game 5 victory Joe Maddon told his team to wake up Monday morning, enjoy your day and take your kids trick or treating. Then we will go to Cleveland and take care of business. This is what he does and this is what he stands for which is why guys love playing for him. Joe Maddon is authentic and real.
- Do you want the ball in the critical situation? These pitchers are pros and are obviously incredible competitors and they want the ball. I love watching their reaction when they are being taken out of the game as they hate giving the ball up. That is not selfish, that is just the warrior mentality.
- Are you willing to accept the role given to you for the greater good of the organization? We have seen this time and again in this series whether it is guys being shuffled around in the batting order or pitchers going longer/shorter than usual.
- Do you have the ability to teach your people through challenging situations in the heat of the moment? In Game 4 Lackey was a train wreck on the mound mentally and you could tell that it had become a challenge for Contreras to catch him. In a telling shot in the dugout after a rough inning by Lackey you could see the Cubs staff talking with Contreras about managing the next inning with Lackey going back out there and it seemed to pay off.
- Are you present, in the moment and aware of the journey you are on? Joe Maddon has an answer for seemingly everything and has kept a level head despite the roller coaster ride of the playoffs. He talks about the journey and the process and he does not get too high or too low.
- Are you a voice that your organization needs and are you able to step up when the team needs you the most? There is no better example than David Ross. In addition to catching for Lester, keeping guys honest on the base path and mentoring the younger players Ross came up huge with the game winning RBI in game 4 on a sacrifice fly to left field. The other guys on the team seem to love talking about Grandpa Ross and what he means to the entire organization.
- Does your group really believe and trust each other regardless of the circumstances? No matter what happens tonight in Game 7 this team has been a joy to watch. They love to compete together and their trust in each other shows on the field and in the press conferences. When there is a huddle on the mound they listen to each other and have great body language for communication. They have each other’s back and that has gotten them thru some challenges and struggles. This team enjoys each other and the celebrate teammates small victories and milestones.
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Great stuff. I like the “true culture”. Too often people panic and switch their culture. Makes no sense, but often happens. If you put the time in to create and promote a culture then stick to it. If you come up with a quick culture for “lip service” then it tends to get switched in times of chaos.