One of the keys to being successful in team sports is to have depth in your organization. Whether you lead school, police department, local government, small business, non-profit, church, or any type of organization, this is no different for you.
Spring has sprung and that means baseball is back. Therefore, we are going to settle into the world of baseball for our time together. The lessons we will discuss are all applicable to any team sport though, just fill in the blank.
I grew up playing American’s past time, have coached it for several years, and love to watch my Atlanta Braves. Prior to the start of each Major League Baseball regular season, there is Spring Training. This is an opportunity for general managers and coaches to accomplish two things: evaluate depth in their organization and determine the organization’s opening day roster. Everyone is competing for a spot.
Here are five lessons we can learn from Major League Baseball’s Spring Training process on building depth in our organizations:
Making Cuts Is A Necessary Evil
My Paw Paw once told me that one of the hardest things I would ever do is manage people. My grandfather always gave me good advice and this piece was spot on. A necessary evil of team selection is making cuts. In organizations, those are the team members that will not make the entire journey with us. Maybe their season has passed, they are not progressing, or they are not healthy for the culture of the clubhouse.
The most detrimental thing we can do as leaders is fail to act when someone needs to be removed from our organization. Every time this happens, you are likely six months (or more) late in making the move. The affirmation that you made the right decision generally comes after you cleanup up the trail of destruction.
Sticking with baseball, I would say it is kind of like a pitcher entering the game with the bases loaded. You, as the coach left, the previous player in too long, put the rest of the team in a bad situation, and another team member inherited the mess.
We need to remember this one thing. We are the coach. We make the ultimate decision on who makes the team, but more importantly who does not. It is an awesome responsibility. Do not take it for granted.
Sometimes We Have to Send People Back to the Minors for Development
Sometimes players perform well at Spring Training and get called up to the big leagues. Every player’s dream. Sometimes they prove they are not ready at Spring Training and are sent back to the minor leagues for further development.
For the player that gets sent back to the minors, there is a purpose. The player may not understand it at the time, but the organization is making a decision in both theirs and player’s best interest. The player can go to the minors, play every day, develop, and get repetition that better prepares them to make the roster later in the player’s career. They will grow more with repetition and be able to sharpen their fundamentals.
This is probably most applicable when one of your up-and-coming stars does not get a promotion or position they so deeply desire. Sometimes it is best for the organization and their own personal development for them to continue to get reps and develop their fundamentals where they are currently positioned.
Role Players Help Win
There is a third thing that can happen after Spring Training. The young player performs well, but there just is not space on the roster for them. Many times, the organization will choose a veteran who has signed a short-term contract from outside the organization. The veteran may not have had as good of a Spring training either. If you are not a baseball fan, this seems like a bad deal. It really is not.
Again, this may be best for the organization as a whole. Most likely that veteran will be a role player. This person is typically someone that is comfortable with their role on the team. They typically do something in your organization at their current level, really well. In baseball it could be a pinch hitter, a defensive specialist, or someone that spends most of the time on the bench, but good for the clubhouse culture. Role players are critical to a team.
Build the Strongest Lineup, Top to Bottom
Here is what the best teams in the MLB have in common. They have deep lineups. Most teams have a few strong hitters in the top part of their order. Once the pitcher makes it through these four, maybe five batters, they are in the clear. The rest of the lineup is not that strong. There is no depth.
For those teams that have deep lineups, this is not the case. They have players towards the bottom of their lineup that will be hitting in the top to middle of the order one day. The pitcher does not get to coast after the big hitters.
This is the approach we need to take as leaders in developing our team’s lineup. We have our big hitters at the top of the lineup, but we need to find space in the lineup for our younger team members to get some at bats. They will be batting at the top of our order one day, leading our organizations.
Competition is a Good Thing
Here is the good part about building a winning team, everyone wants to play for you. Here is the bad part about building a winning team, everyone wants to play for you. While in our heart of hearts, we always want to give that current team member hitting towards the bottom of our lineup a shot at the top of the order. Advancing in our organization. It may not be the best decision for your organization though.
In the world of sports, you can go sign a free agent. The free agent’s time is up with their current organization and looking to join a better team. The benefit is they come proven, battle tested, and can jump into the top of the lineup on day one.
Compression in an organization is when internal candidate desire meets external candidate interest. Here is what we have to remember, it comes with the territory of leadership and developing a winning team. If you have team members developing in your system and you are attractive to external candidates, you have built a winning team. This is a good thing.
As a leader in your organization, the process of filling your roster can create a lot of sleepless nights and tough decisions. Who gets the call up? Who stays where they are at further development? Who gets cut? Who plays a role? The answer to these questions are critical to developing your organization.
You are a leader in your organization and in your local community. You have a responsibility to better others and the world you live in. As we discussed last week in Stuck, we are to choose extraordinary over ordinary, every time. In order to do this, we have to build depth within our organization by making the right call ups, developing our future talent, making timely cuts, and being grateful for our role players. Do this and you will build a winning team.
Ordinary to Extraordinary Intersection
What are you doing to build depth within your organization? Are you making timely cuts when necessary? What are you doing to prepare your team members to be a future top of the lineup hitter in the future? Do you have the difficult decision between up and coming internal candidates and experienced external candidates? If not, why?