He threw heat like a wild man, his bulging arms and legs flailing from wind up to release. Every third pitch winged my at-bat teammates causing them to duck, or swing their midsection backward or forward. And every time he threw his mad-hatter ball, he smiled a mouthful of perfect pearly whites.
Sometimes we hit his fastball, and sometimes it hit us. Four and a half innings into six of our Little League playoff baseball game, our team, the Indians, trailed the Yankees by one run with only one out.
The Yankee parents hurled insults at ours; the Yankee players hurled insults at us. They were known for being poor winners and every losing team felt their wrath. We, the reserved underdog Indians, cheered each other on, and our coaches and parents echoed the positive affirmations…
…I had been on deck, and after yet another wild pitch and a walk, the bases were now loaded. I remember how palatable my fear was walking up to home plate; I was thin and not the strongest hitter on our team. My throat cramped gritty and dry and it felt like a baseline chalk on hard-packed dirt in the hot sun. The Yankee catcher laughed at me as I approached.This memory came to me recently when a co-worker’s son played on a team that made it to the Little League world series. Every day there was an update on our internal social network of who his son’s team played, and whether they won or not – and win they did. Over and over again. While this winning buzz only excited a small group of us following along online, I imagined the electric thrill his son felt and all his teammates, the coaches and the parents, the local crowds, game after game after game while…
“This ain’t no hitter,” he called out to the wild man on the mound. “Easy out, easy out.
I looked up at our coach who gave me an intricate string of baseball signs, all of which translated into one action…
…and that’s when my co-worker posted the fact that they were in the final world series game against South Korea, which was always a tough opponent because…
…he wanted me to bunt. Bunt?!? I thought. If I turn into that fireball I’m a dead man. But step into the batter’s box I did. Wild man wound up, released the ball and then…
…two days later the news that they won the whole kit and kaboodle was posted, which was huge, and I kicked myself for not watching it on TV, the electric thrill of elevated Little League play and amplified moments of every single pitch and at bat…
…when I squared into the baseball hurling toward me, the Cheshire Cat smile ear to ear on wild man’s face, I realized instinctively that the ball was nowhere near my bat – it was headed at my chest – but instead of rolling out of the box away from the pitch, I put my hand up to stop it…
In the end, we lost that playoff game, and thankfully I kept my hand intact without it breaking. It was sore, yes, but my teammates and I left that game happy with our performance because we had played together with supportive coaching and parenting around us, abuzz with that playoff feeling that lifted our heart and soul.
Patrick Antrim, former professional baseball player with the New York Yankees and founder of leadership & coaching firm LegendaryTeams.com, told us on the TalentCulture #TChat Show that leaders and employees alike should aspire to that championship game feeling every single day in the workplace.
Even if once and a while you get hit with the ball, which will happen kids. No doubt.
But if we can replicate just a smidge of that playoff feeling, focusing heavily on the employee-customer relationship first and foremost, performance always fares better in driving the amplifier effect of winning outcomes. This means the business impact of driving deeper levels of employee engagement is dramatic.
- 45% average turnover reduction
- 21% higher productivity
- 41% quality improvement
- 22% higher profitability
- 50% higher total shareholder return (TSR)
The data don’t lie, which is why the amplified moments of:
- Every single pitch. It’s a bitch to sustain pitching accuracy inning after inning, but in the near- and long-term, it’s the collective strikes and outs that make all the difference between your players and your competitors. We all want to win, we really do, and we all want to string that feeling together as much as we can year round. Just as long as your “team” understands what the strike zone is and gets guidance and practice to throw heat like a mad man and woman.
- And At Bat. Deeper engagement from amplified “at-bats” drives better talent outcomes and better business outcomes. When your “players” make the hits, and when they ultimately have individual and group wins, even when they’re the incremental wins during the regular season, they feel more capable and confident, and that translates into happy major leaguers who are then more likely to be candid in communicating and advancing the business and driving innovation.
This is the stuff of legendary teams. And the best companies – the winners – that aspire to that championship game feeling every single day in the workplace perform nearly two times better than the rest of the world. That’s a world of work sports fact.
“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play, today…”