Here in the U.S. Major League Baseball’s ‘Spring Training’ games have been going on for two weeks and for those of us that love ‘America’s Pastime’ the sights and sounds of spring are inexorably wrapped up with baseball.
I had the great pleasure of coaching Little League and Babe Ruth baseball as my son made his way up through the ranks. Prior to that I had not played organized baseball since I played Little League myself back in the day. One summer when I was just past 40 I was enticed (induced?) to play Men’s Senior League Baseball. I was not a good player and the level of the other players which consisted of former high school, college and even an occasional retired professional player, was far above anything I could really handle. Yet one of the best things was that I learned a great deal about teamwork, team support and team spirit.
What was most interesting to me about playing baseball (as opposed to watching it from the stands), was the constant infield chatter and constant support when a team member was at the plate. “Nobody better here Mark” “You’re who we want up in this situation”. “Work your way back in the count”. “ Good eye”. Constant, positive encouragement helped keep my confidence up even when I really knew I wasn’t very good. I am not going to say that our team used that approach to win the championship that season (we didn’t) as all the other teams in the league did pretty much the same thing.
And when things did not go so well (like I didn’t get a hit, made an error in the field or gave up two home runs in a row), the support was still there in the form of – “Tough day”, or “You’ll get ‘em next time”.
I took what I learned from that experience and brought it to the young players that I was coaching at the time. Because those young players were far from being professionals, I found the impact of positive reinforcement made them more effective than other teams they played that did not practice “Nobody Better” as I like to call it.
As business professionals having a success ratio of 30% (making one a multi-millionaire in professional baseball), is unacceptable. The stakes are higher as your livelihood is directly correlated to your performance. At least hypothetically speaking. However business leaders and managers all too often miss the opportunity to improve their team by offering a show of confidence that in the current project there’s “Nobody better” and “There’s nobody we’d rather have at-bat in this critical situation.”
The “Nobody Better” approach won’t turn a lousy player into a star. But it very well can push a team member to focus more and give his or her best effort more often because the team believes and is relying on them.
How do you motivate your team?