I was having a bit of a rough start to my weekend when I decided to get out and get some air. There was a ballpark down the street with a young team practicing. After watching the coaches and the kids for a few minutes, my petty issues quickly evaporated.
The experience brought to mind a few components of American business that could learn something from this Little League team. One is the lack of an “atta boy” or an “atta girl.” The world is tough. It is indeed dog eat dog in many situations. That will eventually wear down even the best of us and transform others into cynics.
There was a play where the second baseman bobbled a groundball but still threw to second in time to record the out. What did the coach do? He commended the kid for getting the lead runner. What would many other coaches have done? They probably would have jumped on the kid for messing up a sure double play.
It wasn’t two minutes later until the coach hit another grounder to the second baseman. He fielded the ball cleanly, threw to second and the shortstop threw to first to complete the double play. I believe the reason why the kid fielded the ball the second time was the confidence the coach instilled in that young man just minutes before. And that is one thing that’s sadly lacking in the business world today.
Make a mistake and your job is on the line or another employee gets promoted ahead of you. That perfection thing is way overrated. I believe its one reason why we have so much corruption in the business world. It’s not that bad people won’t do bad things. They will in nearly every situation. But sometimes the corporate culture encourages otherwise good people to cut corners. To hide mistakes and that leads to bigger gaffes that can eventually turn into a scandal.
It seems as if we have too many specialists in the business world today. How many times have you heard, “That’s not my job” or “you’ll have to speak to another department.” As the coach was running his practice, he had his kids dressed in their full uniforms. The kids, who weren’t playing at that time, ran the bases so the fielders would get the look of how things would be in a real game. It also helped the base runners know what to do in different situations. He then moved the players around so every kid played nearly every position. He was teaching them the meaning of “team.”
I get the impression that so many people expect to be heard or have their opinion count in every situation. Sure all our voices should count and we all need to have input at certain times. No one should ever feel like they are being ignored. But there are times when the leader or the boss gives an order that it simply has to be followed. How successful would the D-Day Invasion have been if the field leaders stopped and asked the foot soldiers how they felt? It would have been a disaster and we’d have lost the battle with even more casualties.
When players did something different from what the coach expected, he stopped practice and asked the them what they were thinking? Why did they throw the ball to one base instead of the other? The coach gave the player the chance to explain what he was thinking but then he told them why doing it the way they had been taught would have been better. It was a great teaching model. The coach got his point across without belittling the kids.
I don’t know how this team stacked up against others in their league. But one thing I do know is that team is going to be competitive in every game they play this year. The encouragement, teaching, support, discipline and preparation from their coaches all but assure that. It’s not too late for American businesses to resemble Little League teams instead of ruthless, win at all costs professionals. Not only does American business need it but so do our families.
Kevin Powell can be reached ast email@example.com.