Friday, November 4, 2016

backs up against the wall leadership

Pinch me!  The Chicago Cubs are World Series Champions for the first time since 1908.  For over 57 years I have been waiting for this moment, and when it arrived it felt so surreal...and perhaps is just now sinking in.  Even as I watched game 7 for a second time last night, I was still stressed watching the multiple times the team had their backs up against the wall, ready to once more become the lovable losers.  Only this year WAS different...this was not the same Cubs team with whom I grew up.  All three series had that moment when I wondered if it was over...and then they came back to win and move on.  Down 3 games to 1 in the World Series, the chances were slim - only five other teams had done that in all of baseball history.  They had their backs up against the wall...and prevailed.  All hail The Cubs...all hail Theo Epstein...all hail Ernie Banks...all hail Chicago!

Leaders often find their backs up against the wall, having to lead through a crisis that must be faced for the good of the organization.  In those times decisions have to be made that can make or break the leader and her team.  Based on what I watched over the past month, here is a list of items for leaders to consider when their back is up against the wall:

  • never give sounds cliche, but I watched a Cubs team that never gave up.  Multiple times they came back from a seeming loss to win the game.  Down 3 games to 1, with all the odds against them, they never gave up,  Even at the very end, after blowing a lead in what seemed to be game that was theirs to win, they kept playing as they had all season...and eventually won the championship.
  • support those who got you there...many of the players who were all-stars during the season seemed to have lost their touch early in the playoffs.  Just as the experts were calling for them to be benched, Joe Maddon stuck with his best players and they delivered.  Showing confidence in your best people, even when their work is less than stellar for awhile, can pay big dividends in the end.
  • look for unlikely heroes...names like Contreras, Almora Jr, and Montero may never make it into the Hall fo Fame, yet they were key to the Cubs success over the course of the playoffs.  Given the right oportunity at the right time, people can rise to the occasion and do spectacular things...all they might need is a chance.
  • let others lead...when a rain delay was called after nine innings in game 7, Jason Heyward called the team together for "the talk" that changed momentum.  Manager Joe Maddon never saw this as as threat to his leadership; instead, he had created the culture where all could particpate in making the team better.
  • take a wild-hair chance...after being out for the entire season due to injury, Kyle Schwarber announced he was ready to play for the World Series.  Rather than laughing him off, the Cubs took a close look, invested in his return, and he became one foof the many heroes of the Series.  No way should he have played...and yet there he was, contributing to the end.  Risky decisions can be one's best decisions.
  • celebrate the end...when one's back is up against the wall, it does not stay there forever.  There is an end in sight, and no matter the outcome, it is time to celebrate the hard work that went into the process of making hard decisions.  As I watched the Cubs' players hug one another and rejoice, I too hugged those around me, popped open the bottle of champagne, and shed a few tears.  This was the moment I had been waiting for for 57 years, and it felt all that much better because the team's backs had been up against the wall.

If you are a fan of the Chicago Cubs (or of baseball in general), take the time to thank the gods for removing the curse of the goat...and for all of you who read this blog regularly (or not), take a moment to watch this video and celebrate with the author on this historic occasion.  

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