Just as Spring training gives rookies an opportunity to show their stuff and ultimately shine their light, so too does being on their first big project give newer employees a chance at sharing the limelight. And that’s just one of many comparisons between baseball and business.
Recently, Fast Company interviewed baseball columnist Jeff Angus The interview primarily discussed baseball metaphors that run through business speak. It’s a short interview, but quite interesting, and you can read it here.
I agree with Angus about mentoring raw talent. Like a good sports manager or owner, smart business decision-makers have a knack for hiring young talent and training them to focus on their capabilities. I also agree with his comment that, “…there are plenty of opportunities to get people up to speed before you have to count on them for game-day results.” At Shamrock we may start our rookies out on smaller projects, and then provide them with the opportunity to pitch a big one when they’ve proven they can handle it.
However, I disagree with Angus when he makes the argument that business is much slower to react to the need for change than baseball. Angus says, “Baseball is a perfect example of making yourself over on a regular basis. Every off-season, they debrief, reassess, start a new cycle, bring up young players, try people in new positions.” From my perspective, businesses that survive do the same thing, or they lose. Real contenders, whether on the field or in the office, want to win. In business, long-term planning used to be 3-5 years; now it’s 1-3 because of change and technology. As with baseball, our lifeblood is young talent, but our backbone is the seasoned professionals who know how to nurture that talent.
One major difference between baseball and business is that baseball team owner can’t be fired, since they own the team. This is a fatal sports team flaw that well-run businesses don’t have to live with. A company “owner” (in this case, the CEO) can get fired — by the company’s board, its owners or a takeover by senior management — if he’s not doing his job. Often, a bad team owner can do long-term damage to a team. The owner may fire the manager, but the problem still exists if the owner is the core problem. (Thankfully, the Cleveland Indians finally have a world-series caliber manager and an owner who will provide money to bring in good people with world-series experience.)
ONE FINAL THOUGHT… Unlike years ago, baseball — and its players — are a business today. Like a business, if they’re not managed well, they will fail. Our dilemma, as business people, is that we can’t say, “Oh, well, there’s always next year.”