Leadership Lessons from Little League Baseball

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In the many hours I logged this summer watching little league baseball, I heard coaches and fans shout a lot of things (not all of them suitable for this article.)  Here are a few common refrains that aren’t just for young baseball players.  They are for all of us who want to play well and lead well in life and work:

Get ready! Yes, advance preparation is important. But being ready is also about knowing when you’re about to bat, knowing when a ball is about to come to you and being ready in that moment. I worked with one executive coaching client who greatly improved his image and influence with his peers and colleagues by simply readying himself with some basic communication reminders before he went into meetings.

Keep your eye on the ball! As one of my sons’ coaches told his team, “Watch the ball – when you’re batting, fielding and on base – and you will react more quickly, make better decisions and be more likely to make the hit or the catch.” Focus is difficult for adults, too. One leader I know reviews her priorities and to dos each morning – before checking email – and lists the top 5 items on a post-it note. Keeping this list in visible sight throughout the day helps her stay focused even when distractions come along.

Throw the ball! Slow-acting and indecisive outfielders usually hear this if they hesitate in throwing a ball they just caught. And smart base runners often take advantage of their indecisiveness. How often does this happen to us at work? We don’t have all the information or support we want, so we ‘hold the ball’ too long. This can cause wasted time, frustration with our team mates and lost ground in the game.

Take a deep breath! Coaches and parents say this to players who are over-anxious and under-performing. (Ironically, coaches and parents may need to hear this more than the kids!) In the heat of the game, we need to remind ourselves and our colleagues to do this – whether it is literally taking a deep breath or it’s just pausing, taking a walk, or otherwise letting the tension diminish before pressing on. ‘Taking a deep breath’ helps us be more resilient and get back to a better place.

Shake it off! If we cannot move on relatively quickly after a blunder or bump in the road, then we will not perform our best in the next play. There is a time to acknowledge a mistake or difficulty and the emotions that may come with it, and there is a time to look for lessons learned.  And there’s a time to move on quickly so we can be ready for the next play.

Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults and sponsor of the mighty PeopleResults little league boys’ baseball team in Chicago. In addition to coaching his sons’ teams, he loves to coach leaders in improving their games. You can reach him at jbaker@www.people-results.com or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.