“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” Those are the famous words of legendary American baseball player, Babe Ruth. As we enter the month of March, spring training has begun and we are just weeks away from opening day of baseball season. For those of you who personally know me, you know that my family loves the game of baseball. We try to visit a new major league baseball stadium every year and I thoroughly enjoy this season. As an SBJ contributor and baseball fan, I wanted to write about the valuable lessons that baseball can teach us about our careers and our workplace. My son is an avid baseball fan and loves the game. My husband reminds him often that if you want to be successful you have to practice, be committed and respect the game. I am often amazed what the game of baseball has taught him about life. I have come to realize that the principles of baseball can also teach us how to be successful in life and in the workplace.
Cal Ripken Jr.’s Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech is not only inspiring, it’s unusually relevant to the workplace. Cal’s speech discussed commitment, preparation, teamwork, personal development and pride. Of course, we all remember when Cal broke Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games played (known as “The Streak”) by playing three more years and reaching 2,632 consecutive games — nearly 15 straight years without missing a game.
“Some fans have looked at ‘The Streak’ as a special accomplishment, but I always looked at it as just showing up for work every day. I see thousands of people who do the same ... You all may not have received the accolades I have, but I’d like to take the time out to salute you for showing up, working hard, and making the world a better place,” Cal stated.
Cal’s idea of workplace commitment extends beyond perfect attendance. Cal stated that teamwork, leadership, work ethic and trust are all part of the game. These principles are also part of the workplace. It means consistently performing your job well by showing up for work every day and being proud of what you have accomplished. Cal’s speech talked about how baseball imitates life and that everything that happens in baseball happens in life and everything that happens in life happens in baseball. How can we as business professionals use Cal’s example in our own work to inspire and motivate employees? I have taken a few baseball terms and translated them into the workplace. These terms can help us be successful professionals in our game:
Never miss a practice
We all know those employees who call in for work because they have a stuffy nose or a headache or maybe they just don’t feel like coming to work. Successful professionals never miss work. They show up day after day and they are the ones who will wake up at 3:00 a.m. to shovel the snow out of their driveway so they can still get to work on time. Perfect attendance isn’t rewarded much anymore. But we can recognize employees who are always prepared, pay attention to detail, strive to improve themselves and take pride in their own work — no matter what their job is. As managers, supervisors and executives, we can inspire our employees and lead by example, in the same way, Cal Ripken, Jr. did.
Keep your eye on the ball
Keeping up with methodological and technologies changes, along with the constant need to multitask, can make us feel like we need to control every aspect of our professional lives. We must be able to delegate tasks to other members of the team and let go of those things that are out of our control. If we “keep our eye on the ball” we will be more successful in accomplishing those things we can control.
Step up to the plate
Everyone would admit that they have a lot to do and a lot on their (home) plate. However, when opportunities arise, “step up to the plate” and offer to take on new projects, help other employees with work tasks and lead new initiatives for your company. Be committed to excellence and be willing to handle the balls and strikes that come your way.
Step out of the batter’s box
We often walk into meetings trying to “swing” at those strikes and we miss because we want to win. Although we all have the goal of victory, we should strive for mutual satisfaction — “win-win. Many people approach a work situation with a personal agenda. We’ve all heard the adage that there is no “I” in team. No one can win by themselves. That’s why it is important to “step out of the batter's box.” Workplace rules have changed and we should try to look at things from a different perspective and think outside the box.
Watch out for the curveball
Develop the skills of curveball hitters. We need to be able to handle the unexpected and know how to react professionally when those curveballs cross the plate. In today’s unpredictable and chaotic workplace, our reactions to these curveballs can teach us valuable lessons. We often let our emotions get involved particularly when we experience a conflict with a co-worker. By removing our emotions and allowing time for reflection, we can clearly see the situation and then decide, what to do about it, if anything. This is where emotional intelligence comes in; being able to identify and control your own emotions and recognizing the emotions of others. Although it is difficult to manage the emotions of others, being able to watch for the curveball and manage your own emotions and your response is key to building relationships.
Hit a home run
There are many opportunities that may arise within your company. Be a role model and hit a home run. Anyone who knows Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa or Willie Mays knows that any of these players are capable of hitting a home run at any time. Every at-bat is an opportunity for them to prove they are truly Major league players. Likewise, every day at work is an opportunity for us to use our talents to shape the culture of our organization. It is important that when we have those opportunities, or at-bats that we are also ready to hit a home run.
Cal Ripkin Jr. was always thinking and devising strategies. His motto was his father’s, “If you take care of all the little things, you’ll never have a big thing to worry about.” It’s obvious that there are many workplace lessons that have been brought to us from the baseball diamond. I hope that others can use Cal’s examples and find ways to use these strategies to be successful in the game of life, both professionally and personally. For those of us who are baseball fans, we will continue to support America’s favorite pastime, but along the way, we should always be reminded that these strategies can always help us improve our game.