Day 222 – Loners to owners…

Today’s BBTL book entry highlights the very real and constant balancing act of being a leader.  Do I give her more direction or give her more space?  Am I smothering of coddling?  Should I invite or demand?  Push or pull?  Be tender or tough?  Or, as we discovered yesterday, BOTH? 

“Leaders,” as Chet observes, “have to find the sweet spot and keep pushing it out…have to somehow remain above, yet stay connected.”   This is NOT easy.  And what makes it doubly difficult is one of our CORE beliefs at BTL…It is impossible to lead others further than we have led ourselves.  There are two undeniable truths every leader must embrace;  1) You must find this balance for YOURSELF before you can provide it for your team, and  2) Your team is a direct reflection of YOU. 

Leaders, never underestimate the influence you have on your team; their culture AND their behavior – both positive and negative.  Want your team to behave ethically?  Be ethical.  Want your team to work hard?  Work harder.  Be more collaborative?  Collaborate more.  

To illustrate, let’s look at one of the greatest sports dynasties of the past two decades, the New England Patriots. Despite their unprecedented run of success, several ex-Patriot players have come out recently and said what a “no fun, all business, and sometimes miserable” experience it was playing in New England.  Now, consider the public persona of their coach, Bill Belichick — no fun, all business and sometimes miserable.  

In contrast, we have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, before Tom Brady arrived.  Due in large part to the laissez faire approach of their Head Coach, the Bucs had a reputation for being a loosey-goosey, underachieving organization — long on talent, but short on accomplishment.  Enter TB12.  After 20 seasons in Belichick’s “all business” locker room, Tom arrived in Tampa with one simple and serious mission, and with a unifying strategy he no doubt borrowed from his old Coach — DO YOUR JOB!   It’s no coincidence that the Bucs straightened up, sharpened up, and eventually beat up on the favored Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, once they began reflecting their new leader.  

And who could forget the 2016 Chicago Cubs (I won’t let you!)  If ever a team reflected their leader, it was that team.  Joe Maddon arrived in Chicago knowing he had inherited a ridiculously talented, but very young roster.  And because he knew young players were often nervous players, he knew he wanted them loose.  So he was loose.  A self-described hippie throwback, Joe arrived at his first Cubs spring training dressed in tie-dye, driving his 1976 brown Dodge van, complete with orange shag carpeting, ostrich leather trim, and speakers blasting Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix.  Throughout camp, players were greeted at practice each morning by mimes, musicians, comedians and even live bear cubs.  Joe did away with the traditional dress code for road games and told the team to wear “whatever you think makes you look hot.”  And as for team rules, Joe had only three:  “Respect 90” (as in the 90 feet between the bases and his expectation that players will ALWAYS run full out), “Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure,” and my favorite, “Try not to suck!”  Talk about CCD! Joe Madden was more cool uncle than Manager and it worked like a charm. 

Theo Epstein, Joe’s boss and the architect of the Cubs turnaround, described him this way, “Joe is so relaxed, but at the same time energizing…you want to rise to his level of energy, intellect and creativity.  And I think he has that effect on players.”   You see, Joe’s players brought a relaxed energy, intellect and creativity to the ball park each day because Joe brought it first.  

This certainly wouldn’t work for all teams, but it absolutely worked for this team.  In Chet’s words, Joe found his team’s “sweet spot…and kept pushing it out.”   

So, leader, have you found yours?

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