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Joe Maddon – Management Guru

Written by Paul Detlefs on October 12, 2015

Leadership People Management

Joe_Maddon_-_Management_GuruThe toughest part of any organization is leading and managing its people.  Leadership is the more strategic, “thinking” part of the job — setting a clear direction, long-term planning, etc.  Management is more about execution — the “doing” part of the job — setting expectations, communicating, coordinating, etc. A manager needs to be a coach, or a “Manacoach” as my colleague Kevin Armstrong calls it. 

Over the years, I have seen several examples of managers who were so good that I believe they could manage almost anything. They just know how to manage people. They don’t need great technical skills in their field because they know if they get the right people in the right seats, the skills will be there.

Truly Great Management

My most recent example of a truly great manager (not just a great baseball manager) is Cubs Manager Joe Maddon. In his first year with the Cubs, a mostly young team sprinkled with a few veterans, he led them to the 3rd best record in baseball, 97 wins (tied for Cubs most since the last World Series team in 1945), and a Wild Card playoff berth. After Wednesday night’s 4-0 win over the Pirates, they will face the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time ever in postseason play in the NLDS.

Maddon is a fascinating character that Chicago has fallen in love with (and he with Chicago). But I am constantly amazed at the wisdom of his words and how well they apply to the business world that I work in every day. Some examples (with minor paraphrasing):

  • On how he interacts with the players — “It starts with relationships, which requires spending time with people, having true conversations, showing a sincere interest in them, listening.  That leads to trust.  I tell them ‘you have my trust, I have to earn yours’.”
  • On how he individually “coaches” players — “I try to slow things down.  I try to simplify things.” (Maddon is known for the phrase “Do Simple Better”)
  • On the role of veteran players — “There’s nothing more powerful than peer pressure – nothing like hearing it from your peers”
  • On outcomes vs. process — “Everyone wants the end result — to win.  To win you have to score more runs than the other team.  The question is how do you score more runs.  If you focus on the outcome, there can be fear.  If you focus on the process, you can be fearless”
  • On pressure — “Pressure is good.  It means there is something positive at the end and you have high expectations.  I want them to run toward the pressure.”
  • On staying loose and having fun — “To not enjoy this moment, to want to be uptight about it or over think it, it’s kind of counterproductive, I think.”  21-year old rookie Addison Russell said. “He said to me, ‘Hey, I want you to just play and don’t be afraid to make a mistake,’ and to me that spoke a lot about the confidence he has in us.”
  • On everyone having a role — “I want everyone to play — to have ownership.  If we are all pulling on the same rope, we will pull for each other.”
  • On delegation — “You have to empower your staff.  You can’t do everything.  My job is to make sure we are all singing from the same sheet of music, simplifying things and being positive.”
  • On management decision making — “We have great trust and respect for each other, so we have intense conversations, hear everyone’s opinion, make a decision, and then have a unified commitment to it”

Results of Great Management 

All of this has led to a team with incredible chemistry and “team health”.  Starlin Castro, who was the starting shortstop, has been on the team since 2010, makes $6MM and was one of the biggest names pre-Maddon, was benched, platooned and moved around, yet showed a great attitude about it all for a 25-year old, and his contribution to the team has blossomed. That didn’t happen by accident.

Relationships. Listening. Simplify. Slow Down. Trust. Commitment. Peer Accountability. Process. Have Fun. Ownership. Delegation.

Listen carefully to Joe Maddon if you want to know how to run your business better.

Next Steps

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