Lessons From a World Series Champion


 

 

 

If you happened to catch a few games of the World Series then you probably agree it was one of the most enjoyable series that I’ve seen in recent memory. This one had everything – great hitting, great pitching, amazing comebacks and late inning heroics, and it all culminated with the Houston Astros winning in Game 7.

 

In the middle of the celebration was one of the post-series heroes, pitcher Justin Verlander. Being a life-long Detroit Tigers fan, I was quietly rooting for the Astros, mostly because I’ve followed Verlander’s career as a Detroit Tiger since his rise to super-stardom as Rookie of the Year in 2006. For over a decade, my sons and I have watched him develop into one of the most dominant players in the game. Like many Tigers fans, I was sad when I heard the news on Sept 1st that he had been traded to the Houston Astros.

 

Clearly this trade worked out well for both parties, as Verlander finally can add a World Championship to his long list of Hall of Fame accomplishments, and the Astros get to hoist the World Series trophy after building an organization from the ground up in five years.

 

While it’s common for athletes and employees to move from one organization to the other these days, I’ve seen this situation handled very differently, and quite often very poorly by all parties involved. In a day where people and organizations change as often as the seasons, it struck me that Verlander’s move seemed to work at so many levels.

 

As always, when something resonates to this degree, I feel there are some lessons to be learned and Quarter Turns to be discovered. Here are a few that have come to light.

 

  1. Sometimes you have to leave a comfortable situation to achieve your ultimate goal.

Justin Verlander is one of the best pitchers in the world and he gets paid accordingly. I’m sure he was very comfortable with his situation in Detroit and no doubt could have finished off his career there without a hitch. The only thing is he probably would have done so without ever accomplishing his ultimate goal of winning a World Series title and that would’ve left him wondering, “what if?”

 

So often in our businesses and in our lives we choose to take the safe and comfortable path, rather than make the hard choices and change that inevitably come along with opportunity. While it may not hurt us too badly, it can leave us with the haunting questions of “what if” “what would’ve happened?”

 

Sometimes it seems we will work so hard to make a bad situation tolerable, or just okay, when if we would instead make the hard choice to move on to something new, all that hard work would payoff into something amazing, something incredible and certainly worthwhile.

 

Change for the sake of change is probably not a good idea. That said, change is necessary if you ever plan to get a different outcome.

 

  1. Leadership Matters

 

The Detroit Tigers and other organizations have struggled with leadership over the past few years, and it has most certainly cost them. The one thing that was evident with both teams in the World Series is that they both have strong leadership, with a clear vision of what they want to do and how they plan to do it.

 

Yet the true test of leadership is what happens when you have to throw your plans out the window. During the world series both managers had well thought out plans that for one reason or another didn’t work and had be tossed out or modified drastically. Once those plans got scrapped, you saw both managers make adjustments and course corrections that put their teams in the best position to be successful – that’s what effective leaders do.

 

Your team can have the most talented people on the planet, but without strong leadership it just doesn’t matter. If it did, then the teams and the businesses with the most talent would always win and be successful, yet we all know that simply is not the case.

 

Of course you need talent in your organization. Talent alone however, is not enough. You only find big success when that talent is committed and focused on a clear vision of what you do and how you plan to do it. That’s usually when you see talent rise to the occasion, and it’s also when you see people and players with less talent excel and over-achieve.

 

 

  1. Be Gracious to Your Former Employer

 

Look, I realize this might sound obvious, it’s still worth asking – how many times have you seen a player or an employee bash their former employer once they move on and find success elsewhere?

Justin Verlander realized how much he meant to the Detroit Tigers fans and he didn’t take that lightly. Instead, he honored, and continues to honor, the team and the fans. He acts graciously. Never once have I heard him say or post anything negative about the Detroit Tigers, or talk about how much better things are in his new situation.

I’m certain I’m not the only Detroit fan who was rooting for Verlander to get his championship ring. Yet I know from recent memory that isn’t usually the case when athletes jump to other teams in their quest for a world title.

What can someone possibly gain by bad-mouthing a former boss or organization? All that does is make them look angry and selfish, as if their personal success is somehow related to what others do or don’t do. Plus you never know which way the pendulum is going to swing, and at some point you may be back in that same organization with an opportunity to win your own championship.

 

Thoughts for the week:

 

You might have to fight a battle more than once to win it – Margaret Thatcher

 

Winning doesn’t always mean being first. Winning means you are doing better than you have ever done before. – Bonnie Blair

 

Some people want to make it happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen. – Michael Jordan

 

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. – Unknown

 

You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win. – Zig Ziglar

 

Winning isn’t everything, but wanting it is. – Arnold Palmer

2 Comments On “Lessons From a World Series Champion”

  1. Tim: Once again YOU hit a home run.

    Greg

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