Lessons on Winning From the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs

The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series was 1908. They were nicknamed the “lovable losers” of Major League Baseball. But after one of the best seasons in recent history, the Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in extra innings in a game seven nail-biter to become the 2016 World Series champs.

Chicago, Illinois - October 7, 2016 Chicago Cubs Sign at WrigleyYou don’t have to be a die-hard Cubs fan to pick up lessons in high-performance and winning from their World Series performance. Here are a few winning tips, inspired by the Cubs’ victory in the final game on November 2, 2016.

1. Manage your emotions.

Midway through this historic final game, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo voiced to his veteran teammate David Ross what many players and fans were feeling: “I’m an emotional wreck!” Yet, Rizzo continued to perform brilliantly.

Awareness of your stress leads to the option of choosing how to manage it. Otherwise, it may manage you. Like Rizzo experienced, it can help to acknowledge stress, talk to others who can help you regain composure or perspective, and then do what you’ve prepared to do.

2. Take the opportunities you’re given.

Cubs second baseman Javier Baez was hitless until late in the game. During this at bat, he waited patiently for a hittable ball and, instead of trying to hit it where he preferred to hit it, he took a swing that matched the pitch and hit it to the opposite field. The result: a game-changing home run.

The lesson: opportunities aren’t always thrown your way at the time and in the manner you expect. But sometimes they can lead to great results. Maybe, for example, you’ll find greater success with that initiative you’re proposing at work if you try a different direction or better timing.

3. Own more than your share of responsibility in failure.

Cubs catcher David Ross, when interviewed after the game, took full responsibility for letting two runs score on a wild pitch that got past him. He could have easily blamed the pitcher and he would have been justified.

How often do we look to blame others when things don’t go well instead of taking an extra generous share of ownership ourselves?

4. Take time to reset.

After some Cubs mistakes and Indians heroics, the Indians came back from a 6-3 deficit to tie the game at 6-6 and send it into extra innings. Thankfully for the Cubs, a rain delay dampened Cleveland’s momentum, and then the Cubs found their groove. They scored two runs in the top of the 10th inning and held off Cleveland to clinch the victory 8-7.

Cubs players were asked after the game about the impact of the rain delay. Every player mentioned the pivotal team meeting during the delay called by outfielder Jason Heyward. Heyward helped them remember who they were as a team and reminded them that they could achieve what they were striving to accomplish. What a great example of leadership and team resilience.

Taking the time to pause and reset – even if briefly – can be critical to help yourself and your teammates perform well under pressure.

5. Share credit in success.

Star outfielder Ben Zobrist was named the series Most Valuable Player. His MVP award was a new car and his response was to say how excited he was to give his Cubs teammates rides. Similarly, the next night, he stood outside his home for two hours thanking fans and signing autographs.

Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, and Joe Maddon, Cubs manager, were also generous in sharing success as they accepted the World Series champion trophy. Not only did they credit their team, but they also complimented their worthy opponents, the Indians.

Who doesn’t love watching, playing with and working for people who generously and humbly share success?

These are just a few lessons I took from this game, let alone the whole season and the Cubs’ turnaround over the last few years. I bet other Cubs fans gleaned other winning tips; I’d love to hear them.


Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. As a leadership consultant and executive coach, he helps executives and their teams perform their best and enjoy it. You can reach him at jbaker@people-results.com or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr. Sign up to receive his and his colleagues’ blog at Current.