From Baseball to Business: Leaders and Leadership Win the Day

As Anthony Rizzo pockets the final out in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series to rush the mound and celebrate the Chicago Cubs’ first pennant in over a century, players and fans alike recognize the gravity of such a feat.  In 108 years the Cubs struggled mightily to realize a World Series, but what changed?  Simply, Theo Epstein.

Theo Epstein, rated in Fortune Magazine as one of“The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” in 2017, did the impossible.  He turned a sorry and depressed organization into a lean, forward-thinking, and competitive franchise.  He transformed his dugout and clubhouse with a meticulous pursuit to be the best; using analytics and a new type of philosophy on hitting and pitching, similar to his technique used in Boston (they won two World Series breaking a 86-year-old drought).  In Boston he used a “data-driven analysis that helped teams identify and accumulate players with little-noticed but crucial strengths” (Fortune Magazine-April 2017, Erika Fry, Matt Heimer).

But after a late season collapse in Boston, Theo Epstein learned a crucial lesson: the limitation of cold analytics.  Currently in Chicago, the President of baseball operations has three major lessons to teach the rest of the MLB and the business world alike.  How did one man change the fate of a franchise and a city? Epstein accomplished a seemingly impossible task by hiring for character, seeing the limitation in data alone, and fostering connections.

Hiring for character is different than signing the number one prospect or a valedictorian. Character is who we are when no one is watching.  Whether that’s taking an extra hour at the batting cages to hone a better swing or reviewing notecards before a big presentation.  Epstein believes that character is how a player or employee responds to adversity.  If a top player cannot get himself out of a slump or your top saleswoman is in her head because of a sales drought, it is what these individuals do afterwards that cements their value to the team they belong.

Analytics have a limitation if everyone in your field is deploying a similar technique.  If you do not have an analytical edge, then a company must see data driven pursuits as just another piece.  Seeing the limit to data, perhaps allows it to strengthen.

Epstein’s last insight is to foster connections.  With the Cubs’ core players Epstein held a strong bond with each of them for over a year.  This translates to all business because “people don’t like working in isolation” (Theo Epstein).

At ManagInc, we are striving to bring home a pennant of our own to the property management and corporate social responsibility fields.  We cannot do it without hiring for and working with character, acknowledging the limitations to data alone, and fostering connections with our partners, customers, and employees.