What would it look like in business to have spring training? I believe there are five elements that if implemented well in business would create the same winning results it does in baseball. With full squad workouts beginning in Florida and Arizona this week, let’s take a look at what concepts from spring training can transfer over to business.
1. Promote Trying New Ideas
In spring training, some pitchers work on throwing new pitches while position players may find themselves playing elsewhere than where home normally is on the diamond. Why? The exhibition games don’t dictate what will happen when the games start to count. Even in the regular season, success can’t happen without failure. Being tolerant of failure and learning from failure are two different things.
Baseball’s way of acknowledging mistakes is by calling it what it is, an error. Even Gold Glove fielders don’t finish the season with a 1.000 fielding percentage. Within reason, what if more employees felt they had permission to fail knowing they wouldn’t be fired for making a single mistake?
Fear of failure holds back the entire team whether it is the individual, department, or company as a whole. Google is an example of leading innovation through empowering their employees to share feedback, new ideas and giving them the ability to take calculated risks. When you are trying to competing to be the best in technology thinking small is not part of the game plan. Regardless of the industry, we can all take away the valuable lesson of putting ourselves out there and trying something new.
2. Focus on Building Team Culture
Winning a World Series or becoming the top company in an industry doesn’t accidentally happen. Often an underlying factor that separates teams down the stretch is chemistry. Spring training affords the chance for returning players and new faces to get acclimated before the games actually count. It takes an entire team of 25 guys to win in baseball just as the efforts one or two people can’t make or break an entire team in business.
One of the most talented people I am privileged to know in the business world has shared with me the three reminders he walks through each morning. “Guard the culture” is one of foundational principles he built his company on. He also routinely uses Peter Drucker’s well known quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
It takes more than just talent to build a winning organization. As I wrote about last week, the Kansas City Royals made it to the World Series last year in large part because of great leadership. On paper, the Royals were not the second best team in baseball. However, they were a tight-knit group of guys that knew how to play as a team instead of individuals.
Imagine if more companies internally focused on the team dynamic of business. When the dog days of summer come around in baseball, some teams fade in the second half of the season while others finish strong. Paying a price to win is not going to go away in baseball or business. The cohesiveness of a team is what causes a team to thrive when challenges arise.
3. Allow Fans a Chance to Mingle with the Players
Businesses are becoming more humanized in large part because of social media. Brands are becoming something people are wanting to feel an emotional connection with.
What if more businesses saw their customers or clients the same way teams do with the fanatics that show up hours early to a game to tailgate and make their presence known when inside the stadium?
Companies that are willing to put in the extra work to engage their audience are creating a large gap in the standings ahead of their competitors who are sticking stricting to traditional ways of push marketing.
Saying thank you has never been more valuable with the rise of the social media. Whether it is in baseball or business, having a strong fan base is an integral piece of any great organization. Finding a way to build goodwill grows these roots deeper in addition to the possibility of have a multiplying effect through positive word of mouth.
Spring training gives fans access to players that demonstrates the same type of attention consumers want from the companies they do business with. Baseball players sign autographs as their way of showing appreciation to fans.
How can you find a way to acknowledge loyal fans of your brand?
(Photo Credit-Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)
4. Showcase the Entire Organization
Spring training is the only time all minor and major league players within each organization are centralized before scattering across the country. Big league camp serves as a competition to make the opening day roster as well as helping some of the minor league guys get a taste of what it is like to play at the next level.
Executives in any company are similar to the 25 man MLB roster from the standpoint that many know these names in the business circle. What about the sales force and everyone else behind the scenes making the company what it is?
Companies want to retain talent just as major league teams never want to see their best talent go elsewhere when becoming a free agent. I believe businesses need to value their employees like Southwest Airlines does from top to bottom from day one to create a desire to never want to leave.
Whether it is rewarding a player by sending them from minor league camp to big league camp or signing the franchise player to a long-term contract, respect can be equally shown despite the difference in titles whether it is baseball or business.
5. Uncover Hidden Talent
Interviews and resumes can only show so much just as hitting in the cage or throwing a bullpen can. Once the bright lights go on and the chalk is laid, a baseball team finds out what type of player is on their hands. Spring training gives the chance for overlooked guys on paper to display their ability to play despite what shortcomings may seem to be exist based on the measurable. Injuries and under performance are a guarantee over the next couple weeks which will lead to surprises on opening day rosters.
Once the season wraps up, there are questions to evaluate as the line in the sand is obvious for everyone from the front office to coaches to players. Did the team have a winning season? Did the team make the playoffs? Did the team win the World Series? What was a player’s batting average? There is no place for office politics in baseball because results or a lack there of speak for themselves.
As technology continues to develop, I believe analytics will become more and more valuable. I see businesses creating ways to incentivize employees to exceed expectations outside of increasing pay or being considered for a promotion. This type of system allows the cream of the crop to emerge on their own regardless of what school they went to or what companies they previously worked for.
An incentive based concept is already sweeping across the country through employee wellness plans to keep health costs down. Where else within business this type of idea could develop, only time will tell.
As opening day approaches, players and fans eagerly await the beginning of a new season. On the flip side, the business season is already almost two full months in. Whether you own a company or work for one, today is another chance to help your team put runs on the board.
Thanks for reading this far! The list doesn’t have to stop at five. I’d love to hear any ideas you have to expand the list or additional thoughts on what I wrote above.