Management Lessons From Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball kicked off in April, and millions of fans will flock to ballparks across the country in support of their local team this season. But for business owners, baseball offers more than just an opportunity for entertainment. As I’ve told many of my clients, professional baseball can teach us a number of valuable lessons regarding human resources and employee management. Below are three of the most important:

1) Job fit matters as much as ability. In baseball and in your workplace, talent is not more important than fit. An athlete who can bench press a huge amount of weight or run an incredibly fast 40-yard dash won’t necessarily make a great outfielder. Mental strength and the ability to mesh with the culture of the team is equally important to raw physical ability. The same is true at your business—don’t just look for the flashiest or most talented applicant, look for the best fit for your team.

2) A common sense of purpose is more valuable than a massive payroll. Last season, the New York Yankees spent over $200 million on player salaries—and weren’t able to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers spent just over $90 million and came within one game of winning the World Series. The lesson? You can’t simply outspend your competition to bring in “top talent” and expect success. Without a common sense of purpose and a strong company culture, your talent will go to waste.   

3) Effective leadership requires striking a balance between micro-managing and passivity. Every season, there are managers who grip the proverbial reins too tightly and end up alienating their players. Conversely, there are managers who are criticized each season for exercising too little control. Last year, for instance, Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona was let go in large part because he had “lost control” of his clubhouse. As a leader in your workplace, one of your most important tasks is creating a structured environment where your team can thrive, but without becoming a micro-manager. 

This baseball season, as you root for your favorite team, pay attention to the dynamic that exists between the coaches and the players—and between the players themselves. I’m often surprised how many management lessons we can learn from the great sport of baseball. And I’m willing to offer this bold prediction: This year’s champion won’t be the team with the best physical athletes or the team that spends the most money—it will be the team with the best chemistry, and with talented people in the right places.

[Image: Flickr user Roger Smith]

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