Major League Baseball's 2012 World Series kicks off tonight, with the National League's San Francisco Giants up against the American League's Detroit Tigers. While much rests on how the players perform, each team is guided by its manager, who is responsible for making decisions in key moments that ultimately affect how games are won.
At first glance, one might think that the role of a baseball manager is to eat sunflower seeds and kick dirt on home plate when a call needs to be argued. But if you dive deeper into the role, you can find that they have many responsibilities that go beyond having the best seat in the stadium -- and some that mirror those of great business leaders.
Here are three ways you can manage your business like a MLB manager:
1. Understand the numbers but follow your gut.
When New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to bench star third baseman Alex Rodriguez in the 9th inning of a playoff game this season, he chose to replace one of the all-time greatest hitters in MLB history with Raul Ibanez, an aging pinch hitter.
The result? Ibanez hit a home run and then another in the 12th inning to win the game for the Yankees. When asked about his decision, Girardi said "I just kind of had a gut feeling."
Lesson: In business, managers can conduct research to obtain information that will help them make decisions. But while understanding the numbers is important, at times managers need to put the numbers aside and follow their instincts.
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2. Make difficult decisions and stand by them.
Former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona had a similar, difficult decision when his team was facing elimination against the Yankees in the 2004 playoffs. Despite the criticism his decision could have generated, Francona chose to keep center fielder Johnny Damon in the line-up even though he was struggling at the plate. Damon turned out to be a critical cog in the Red Sox offense for the remainder of the series, pushing the team to one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history.
Lesson: There is no way of knowing the outcome of a decision before it's made. But managers need to make hard decisions, learn from their mistakes and adjust to improve their results the next time.
3. Keep calm and carry on.
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy has faced adversity all season. His closing pitcher has been sidelined by an injury, his two best starting pitchers struggled and his all-star outfielder was suspended for failing a drug test.
But Bochy calmly went about making decisions on starting pitchers and lineup changes in an effort to give his team the best chance to win. Despite the challenges, his team overcame insurmountable odds during the playoffs and advanced to its second World Series in three years.
Lesson: In business, everything doesn't always go as planned. Leaders are responsible for instilling confidence in their employees -- during good and difficult times.