Apr 02 2015

The Tools Of Success Include Teamwork

Many of us remember receiving our first, or even second, baseball glove. It got packed daily with our school books. It had a place of reverence in our bedrooms. For some of us, it was our most cherished possession.

Whether a child who plays Saturday little league, a teenager who is playing high school or college baseball, or a 20-something who is paid to play, each of us has had a distinct way to break in and maintain a baseball glove. Some players place their gloves in freezers while others fold it before sticking it under the mattress, or even under one of the legs of the bed. Other methods to break in a mitt to ensure that it literally fits like a glove include dunking it in water, placing it in the microwave, lathering it with shaving cream, soaking it with oil, beating it with a mallet, or placing a ball or two in it and then binding with twine.

For a baseball player, nothing is more personal than tailoring a glove to fit the hand. The process can take a few days, a few weeks, or even an entire season so that the glove is ready to use next year. It must feel right and it must hold its shape. The pocket must easily grasp and secure the ball while allowing the player, quickly and easily, to pull that ball from the glove.

The same attention to personal equipment also is common in the other sports. Quarterbacks like the footballs to be probably inflated, but let’s not go down that road. Hockey players fuss over their sticks, making sure the curves are at the right angles and the lengths suit their skating abilities. Lacrosse players, too, have specific requirements for their sticks. I should know!

At the office, many of us have adapted these sports equipment routines that have been with us since we first picked up a ball. Instead of a glove, or a stick, we now ensure that our computers are set up in a certain way, that our voice mail messages are professional and engaging, and that our smartphones contain everything we need to get through the day.

While all this attention to equipment is important, even more critical, whether on the field or in business, is the focus on teamwork. Without a team of talented people striving for the same goal, it really doesn’t matter how well any equipment serves our individual talents. Without teamwork, individual success will be much more difficult to achieve. Team, or company, success will be just about impossible.


Aug 16 2014

Diamond Shifts And Paradigm Shifts

Watching a baseball game has become a bit confusing. With some exceptions, the game has not changed for more than 150 years. But, now, I can’t always find the third baseman!

If you are having the same trouble, then you will need to adjust how you watch the game. Sometimes I have found the third baseman in shallow right field. The second baseman has moved, too. He frequently appears on the left side of the infield, closer to the shortstop, whom, by the way, has moved deeper into the hole on some batters.

This new infield alignment developed gradually over the last few years but it has exploded across the diamond this season. The strategy is based on statistical analysis of where batted balls are put into play. Now, players often are repositioned far from familiar territory. Shifting also is a little psychological game that opposing teams impose on batters—that game within a game competition.

Last season in Major League Baseball, 8,134 shifts were recorded when balls were hit into play. Already through mid-May, teams had shifted 3,213 times. If this keeps up, MLB will implement about 14,000 shifts this season. Many batters will see their season averages plummet 30 or 40 points.

While everyone is chatting about the effects of the infield shift, the concept really is not new. When looking back at baseball’s infancy and then its dead ball era and its golden years, the game’s historians found evidence that extreme shifts, at times, had been used by teams. Baseball artwork from the 1880s indicates that basemen stood on top of their respective bases. During more modern times, but still before many of us were fans, teams shifted drastically for Ted Williams.

“Shifting” travels farther back in time for business, occurring long before it became fashionable for a baseball player from Cincinnati to wear a red stocking. More recently, though, we have become accustomed to hearing about the latest version of the business plan in the form of the “paradigm shift.” That phrase is just a contemporary term for looking at something from a different angle, or obtaining new information to create a successful strategy. Put simply, it is no different than “thinking outside the box” or implementing best practices.

At the end of each day, whether we are involved in business or baseball, results often get summarized in quick recaps. Diamond shifts, paradigm shifts and other plans and strategies are not included in the box scores reserved to report just the wins and losses. So, should you decide to implement a “shift” or another plan from your business strategy that cuts against conventional thinking, be sure that it is well researched and strategically managed. When it is, you will enjoy reading your business box scores again on the following morning.

- Jim

Feb 01 2014

Maintaining Momentum For A Smooth Ride To Success

We often don’t really know much about someone until they are gone. That’s when we hear the remembrance stories that explain a life of shortcomings followed by successes, commitment and innovation. Like me, you probably never heard about Allen Rosenberg. I only learned about him recently from his published obituary.

Allen started as a coxswain during the 1950s and then he became a coach. His innovations in rowing technique helped produce Olympic and world champions.

At five feet and one inch in height, Allen never weighed much more than 100 pounds. He was described by fans as a half-pint in a world dominated by gallon jugs. But, this did not stop him from mentoring athletes who were twice his size and, during a couple of decades, spurring them to victory in international competitions with his intellect and shrewd motivational skills.

“I can’t possibly explain the difference between the silver and the gold,’ he once said to his rowers, “but if you win the silver, you’ll wake up the next morning and know that someone rowed a better race than you, and I don’t want you to go through life thinking of that.”

By profession, Allen Rosenberg was a lawyer and pharmacist. He relied on his learning skills to help transform rowing from pure brute strength into a blend of science and sport. He actually studied the ways to make a boat move, learning that there was more to it than simply using an oar and frantically pushing the water. He spoke more about lightness of hands, plus relaxing and balancing in the recovery part of the stroke. He concentrated on a long pull in the water, quiet and even. The less water disturbed, he figured, the faster the boat will travel.

Allen’s successes are numerous, including a 1964 gold medal as a U.S. Olympic coach in Tokyo. He even developed a successful rowing style, teaching rowers to fire their muscle groups in a rotation rather than all at one time. The technique became known as the Rosenberg style, and he often compared it to a group of men who attempted to move a boulder.

Rather than exhorting a great heave, Allen contended it was better to use muscle groups in sequence—first legs, then shoulders, backs and then arms—because the solution was not to budge the boulder but to keep it rolling as smoothly as possible.

That’s how I see things in business. It’s not the heavy lifting that is important. It is the Rosenberg technique that maintains momentum and ensures the ride to success remains smooth.