Here we are with less than seventeen games left in the regular season, the Giants five and a half games behind the division leading Dodgers, a full game behind the wild card Mets, and only one game ahead of the wild card Cardinals who just took the last two games in a four game series to put additional pressure on the Giants (whom they have home field advantage over, having won the season’s series).
Desperate? I would say, and increasingly so, as the second half of the season has spelled more and more doom and gloom, with fans booing the closer, relief pitchers mocking the manager, and fans, if the Giants aren’t ahead by three runs going into the eighth inning, tense over the odds of a positive outcome.
So what is leadership / management doing? Desperately looking for a good sign. Yeah, we lost yesterday but look at Matt Cain coming back from injury and pitching a good ninth where he struck out two! And even though we lost Saturday, while being ahead going into the ninth, Suarez did a great job as starter only giving up one run. And oh yeah, Buster Posey hit a home run the day before as well (after not hitting one for almost two whole months!). Look at all the good signs!
The problem with Desperately Looking For A Good Sign is that we are so needy, so hungry, yes so desperate for something positive that we will cite ANY positive occurrence as a harbinger of the near future. Things are turning around! (Sound familiar at work?)
The strategy’s not working but if we just redouble our efforts (and our risks), stay the course, see the good things that are happening and minimize the negatives (let’s not rock the boat). Joe’s not responding to my feedback, but he listened for the first time (so what if it was our fourth discussion)! Suzie left and took a new job, but others are picking up for her and we needed to upgrade her position anyway (she was the fourth to leave in two months)! Customers are not renewing their subscriptions but we’re after a different clientele!
In other words, when we desperately look for a positive in a sea of negatives, we miss the overarching whole picture, we see good in superficialities that aren’t sustained over time, we even make up positives that don’t truly exist, and of course, we do nothing about the real and often times obvious (to all others), root causes of the issues. We not only abandon our good judgment, we neglect our responsibility as stewards of the enterprise or leaders of the team, which only accelerates the downward spiral.
When Romo reacted to being pulled in the eighth inning, and made faces to the cameras in the dugout, the Giants truly hit (another) bottom – not just in terms of the game or series, but in terms of trust and confidence (and respect) in management. There had been too many instances of desperately looking for good signs, leading to constant rationalization, denial, inaction, and yes, calling out trivial matters as good signs of an impending upturn in fortunes of the team.
Leadership denial and inaction, obfuscation, rationalization almost always leads to loss of confidence and loss of leadership credibility.
Look for (and accept) the facts. Be clinically objective in times of duress. Be courageous and make the tough decisions. Remember leadership is not a popularity contest or even a balancing of different stakeholder interests (its staying true to your mission and principles in times of adversity). Know (and be sensitive) that your decisions, behavior, symbolism are sending signals to your followers, whatever your intent. Confidence and credibility once lost, is very difficult to retrieve.
Not three in a row but one every other year over five years! Now that's sustainable dominant performance! A great lesson (again) in teamwork where no one person was singularly responsible for their third crown in five years, but where everyone played and contributed their part; where principles of selflessness, team sacrifice, focus, and contribute however to the cause you can prevailed!
Champions in business, like champions in sports are constantly changing, constantly tinkering, constantly adapting to the environment and the circumstances, experimenting, risking, learning, and institutionalizing that which works (for now). No "me" in "we", no "I" in "team".
Go Giants, wonderful teachers of life lessons!
As awful as war is and the current conditions around the world, there are ample lessons to be learned (and NOT) as to how world events are responded to:
ANTICIPATION: we all know that in every endeavor where there are multiple parties some known and some unknown), leaders need to be able to "look around the corner', see over the horizon, play out "what if's" to ready a response that aligns with one's vision and one's principles in a manner that leads to furtherance of one's goals and aspirations. A bad response to a predictable situation is "we don't have a strategy as yet"!
ALIGNING TACTICS WITH STRATEGY AND PRINCIPLES: clearly all things can not be predicted, especially in a world so turbulent as today's world, and that some things require immediate comment if not action. Yet having principles, standing for somethings consistently over time, allows one to react in the moment or speak in the moment - if not what will be done, but at least what principles we stand for that have been violated (which are then followed up with consistency in actions). This alignment allows us to be consistent, stand for things, be proud of what we stand for and how we hold ourselves accountable to those very things. Moreover, it provides our friends as well as enemies as well as those in between or those who go back and forth to anticipate our actions because we are CREDIBLE.
ACTIONS SPEAKING LOUDER THAN WORDS: please please please don't tell me again that "all options are on the table", or that "we are going to convene a meeting". These "meetings" should have been convened already (please see ANTICIPATION above).
SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE, UNDERSTAND THEIR PHILOSOPHY/WORLD VIEW: when they say "mother of all _______", don't take it literally or take it how we would mean it if we said it that way in our culture. Likewise, don't be preoccupied with individual responsibility or cupability just because we are preoccupied with it in our culture or our philosophy.
SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE: as they say, there is no "I" in "team"; when we leave the room, we send one message, we are convicted through robust conversation and due diligence, and principles, and, and, and to speak consistently about the matter no matter who is speaking in front of a multitude of microphones and cameras at the moment.
IN THE END ITS THE RESULTS THAT MATTER: No amount of blah blah blah, especially inconsistent, incoherent, unprincipled blah blah blah, winging it, reactive blah blah blah will win the day. What will win the day are the results, which are consistent over time, that fit the situation, that further our principles and what we stand for and our vision of the future.
With the baseball season now heading into the Playoffs, various leadership (style) lessons stand out:
- Trashing and calling out your star players in the media is a bad idea (talk about de-motivating, Bobby Valentine last year took what was a perennial playoff team, the Boston Redsox, down to the bottom of the league standings in 2012 with his constant haranguing of the players in public, creating a culture of fear and dissension): Lesson #1 – All you get when you have a climate of fear is attrition, superficial effort, and complacency (Respect and compassion, along with high standards and high support go a lot further)
- Speaking of the Redsox in 2012, ownership has a good share of the blame as they (read “board of directors” or investors), created the scenario by hiring the acidic-by-reputation Valentine to “straighten the team out and change the culture”: Lesson #2 – Changing a culture isn’t as easy as doing everything different from the way it was done before, as you literally “throw the baby out with the bath water” (Be selective and strategic about What you want to change, and conscientious about How you go about it, preserving the positive elements of the culture while changing the old, the resistant, or outdated)
- Finally, with the fired Terry Francona moving on to Cleveland, the Cleveland Indians made the playoffs for the first time in six years, leading as he did in Boston (for seven years and 2 championships) with humility, respect, and compassion: Lesson #3 Getting the best out of your people means giving them your best, and then getting out of the way (and out of the spotlight)
- Lesson #4: its not about the Leader (manager), its about the Team (employees): their motivation, their passion, their competency and support for one another in achieving the common goal.