Despite being an avid baseball fan, I’ve always struggled to understand the value of the relief pitcher, a.k.a. the closer. To me, when someone is succeeding, you keep them in and you let them control the win. Makes sense right?
When I brought this topic up with my colleague, he disagreed, and pointed out a few things I hadn’t considered. And also how they equally apply in the work environment.
Firstly he reminded me that if a starting pitcher gets pulled while having a strong lead, then they can proudly take ownership of knowing they completed their job. It’s the starter’s job to start the game. It’s the closer’s job to finish it. Just like in the workplace, each role has different tasks and responsibilities.
Secondly, it is also imperative that the starting pitcher doesn’t get burnt out by throwing too many pitches. Because if he is left in there too long and becomes over-worked, then the pitcher’s productivity will eventually suffer (I think we can all relate to how productive we feel when we are overworked).
Finally, when a manager pulls the pitcher (when having the lead) it also helps build the pitcher’s confidence. It’s basically saying “You did your job, you did it well, now let me try to preserve it for you.”
In other words, to set up a team for success, a manager needs to select the right pitchers for the right roles, and be smart enough to know when to take them out of the game.
Whether or not your employees are ball players isn’t really my point. But if you are leading employees it’s imperative that they too are set up to succeed, not fail. Here are some lessons we can learn from winning ball teams:
Know when to rest your high performers
As mentioned above, one of the main reasons starting pitchers get relieved is to ‘save their arm’. So maybe your employees aren’t using their arms like a pitcher, but they most likely still need to be ‘relieved’. And by this I mean adequate breaks. So if your staff are working their butts off be sure to give them the right amount of rest and relaxation time so when they come back, they feel ready to go again.
Give your employees confidence for stretch goals
It’s an enormous goal when your team is down 7-3 and the bases are loaded with two out. Sure, a well hit single would help, but you know in your heart that the manager wants the long ball. It’s a huge stretch, and if you strike out, there goes the series. If you have ever watched scenarios like this I don’t need to remind you how much motivation and encouragement the batter receives–from the fans cheering on the sidelines, to the manager in the dugout. Despite the odds, the hitter knows he has the support of everyone around him.
If your employees are given seemingly impossible goals, make sure they know they have your support.
Communicate often and continuously
Have you ever watched what happens when a pitcher struggles to find the strike zone? Communication happens fast and frequent! Whether it is the catcher, the pitching coach, or the manager, there is always constant communication to ensure the pitcher’s success. In a high pressure situation (like the MLB playoffs) you cannot afford to wait it out. But for those situations where you CAN afford some patience, talk to your team often; especially when they are struggling. And most importantly, always let your employees know you are on their side.Tags: coaching, communication, goal setting, stretch goals