I find one of the hardest things about building teams in the workplace is the lack of good examples. I often use sports analogies, such as "What Professional Baseball Can Teach Professional Managers", but they don't work for for everyone, as you can see from this poll.
The One-Man Show
I am amazed at how little the team seems to matter in a team sport like baseball. For the past several days, all we have seen in the sports news is Barry Bond's chase of Mark McGuire's record for most home runs in a season (congrats, Barry, on 73 at this moment) and Ricky Henderson's attempt to beat Ty Cobbs' record for most runs scored in a career (which he did).
Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn retired at the end of the season amid heavy press coverage. Both have had distinguished individual careers in baseball. Ripken, was the "iron-man" whose string of 2,632 consecutive games played broke Lou Gehrig's record and is probably unbreakable. Gwynn was one of the purest hitters in the game. He won eight NL batting titles, had a .338 lifetime average and 3,141 hits, 17th on the all-time list.
While these individual records are impressive, the most team-oriented sports story in baseball this year is completely overlooked. This past week, the Seattle Mariners tied a record set only three years ago by the New York Yankees for most wins in a season by an American League team. Joe Torre, the Yankee manager, said at the time that someone would hit 80 home runs in a season before his club's win record would be broken.
One night later, the Mariners broke the Yankee record and set an new AL record for most games won in a season. Last night they tied the 1906 Chicago Cubs for the Major League record of most wins in a season with 116. Other than in Seattle itself, and on a few Internet forums of true baseball fans, these accomplishments were simply overlooked in favor of the individual records being chased.
This kind of news coverage reinforces our fascination with individual accomplishments, even in a team sport. That is not a good thing when you are trying to build up teamwork in the workplace.
Manage This Issue
Focus your team building on how the Mariners accomplished this feat, rather than on the lack of coverage it got in the press. That a team lost three super-stars (Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Alex Rodriguez) in three consecutive years, yet came back to win more games than any pro baseball team ever, is powerful proof of what teamwork can do.
I saw a fan hang a banner in the Mariners' stadium that I think nicely sums up the power of teamwork "Every Night A Different Hero".
Additional Internet Resources
"What Professional Baseball Can Teach Professional Managers" examines the similarities between coaching a successful baseball team and managing a successful business.
Benchmarking. In this article, I use another of my baseball analogies to define what benchmarking is and how it can help you.
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