As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a Chicago Cubs fan. This has been a good year to watch, as they’ve had a spectacular season (103-58, thank you very much), and have just won the National League Divisional Series. Winning teams are fun to watch because they have a few things in common, attributes that apply just as well to other fields of work.
This is one thing you can’t fake is natural talent. Thanks to excellent recruiting and demonstrated ability in the field, a team can go far just by having bright people with natural skills to do the jobs you need. The Cubs have managed to field an amazing, young, and talented team in the last couple years, and they’ve been willing to pay competitive salaries to keep those players in Chicago. The Chicago Bears’ management should be so wise.
Natural talent is one thing, but applying that talent is something else again. Great hitters (or writers) who don’t show up on time or aren’t working to the best of their ability aren’t much use. And even average performers putting in extra effort can make a difference. There are always going to be days when you’d rather “phone it in” than give it your all, but if that becomes a habit, it will be noticed. Likewise, you might feel like you’re dragging or not motivated, but as soon as you show up for the job, you’re all attention and focus, that too becomes a habit. This work ethic also helps in a pinch when the team is behind–they don’t quit!
Getting the basics right
You can do some individual things right–home runs are a good thing in baseball, for instance–but if your defensive game is off or your runners keep getting thrown out on base because they’re not paying attention, those little mistakes will cost you. Getting the little things right in an office setting means attention to detail, like spell checking or getting the math right on a spreadsheet. The big picture starts to suffer if the details are missed.
Keeping it loose
Hard work does not preclude enjoying what you’re doing. This can arise form a combination of factors, including enjoying the company of the people you’re working with to being excited about a particular project to having a leader who motivates you to want to do more. The Cubs this year–and really most winning teams that I’ve seen–have an upbeat, “loose” attitude to the extent that they’re confident in themselves and happy to be doing what they’re doing. And really, can you get much looser than “pajama night” in the dugout?
Being fun to watch
As a fan, it’s great to watch the Cubs play. They’re good at what they do and they’re upbeat while doing it. In a business context, you’re more likely to work with other teams rather than just watch them as a spectator, but even teams you’re only a customer for will have a “vibe” to them. Would you rather work with an organization that is motivated and productive or one that’s silent and morose? Positive feedback from customers makes a difference as well.
Tying it all together
Like I said, winning teams in baseball are not that different from winning or productive teams in other lines of work. Bring together a group of talented people for a task, get them motivated to do things great and small, and keep them having a good time doing it, and great things can be accomplished. One hopes these are lessons that the current owners and manager of the Chicago Cubs remember going forward. One hundred and eight years is far too long for an organization to miss out on what good teams can do.