When watching baseball, I can’t help but be reminded of how similar the sport is to business. There are a number of business principles that are mirrored in baseball. There’s teamwork, constantly changing conditions that call for real-time responses and decisions to be made that have both a direct and indirect impact on outcomes.
Baseball, like business, is about playing to win. The team that has the advantages in skills, direction and leadership is the one that will take home the trophy.
With this in mind, let’s dive in and look at ten parallels between baseball and business, and see what lessons our nation’s favorite pastime can teach us.
1. Follow your passion
The first and most obvious thing we can learn from baseball is the undeniable amount of passion that fuels each game. The best coaches and players are the ones truly fired up about the game. As Howard Fero, co-author of the leadership guide, Lead Me Out to The Ball Game explains. “You’ll be more effective doing something if you’re passionate about it.”
2. Set clearly defined goals
With baseball, the goal is clear -- to win games. With business, it’s equally important to set clear goals and ensure that everyone knows what it means to win. Make sure these goals are clearly communicated to everyone on the team, from the customer service reps to the IT department. Everyone needs to be on the same page, and know their role within the company.
3. Teamwork matters
A successful season for a baseball team is determined by the performance of individual players, as well as the team as a whole. Focus on building your team. Equip them with the tools and training that they need for success.
“The older pitcher acquires confidence in his ball club. He doesn’t try to do it all himself.” -Burleigh Arland Grime, professional baseball player
4. Don’t focus on failure
Don’t dwell on your shortcomings or failures. Even the best hitters in baseball fail two out of three times. You won’t win every game. Some of your ideas are bound to fail, but it’s important to refuse to let your losses define you. Get back up, dust yourself off and try again. Learn from your mistakes, and learn to move on. Your big break is coming soon.
“Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.” -Ted Williams, professional baseball player
5. Focus on performance
It’s important to remember that results are merely indicators –outcomes are the result of performance. While it’s tempting to narrow in solely on results, it’s better to focus on improving performance, and to spend resources refining the internal strategies that are responsible for creating the results. Your team’s performance is what will win the game!
6. Keep your eye on the ball
It’s tempting to watch the scoreboard the whole time but spending all of your time quantifying isn’t going to win the game. This isn’t to say that keeping score isn’t important. Quantitative numbers, year-end reports, data, stats, they’re all important and vital for a company’s continued success.
But equally important is working hard and pressing on towards a goal. Not getting caught in analysis paralysis ensures your are making the right decisions in a timely manner. This will help you to not miss opportunities when they present themselves.
7. Know when to make tough decisions
You may have heard about the recent decision by the Minnesota Twins to let Ron Gardenhire, their long-time manager go –most likely due to the fact that the Twins have had lackluster performance in recent years.
It’s a sobering reminder that in business, like baseball, you will constantly be faced with difficult decisions that demand difficult answers. Avoid the temptation to gloss over issues or sweep things under the rug. It’s important to make tough calls when necessary.
8. Learn to handle pressure
While many pitchers can throw 90 mile-per-hour fastballs in spring training, few can hold onto the same performance during a World Series game. Pressure changes everything.
In business, as well as baseball, it’s hard to compete if you can’t handle pressure and competition. Your focus is what will keep you from succumbing to pressure, so hold onto your goals and don't lose sight of them. This will save you from unneeded pressure, and the distractions of the crowd!
9. Survey the playing field
Don’t forget to survey the playing field from time to time. See what you’re up against, so you know how to react. It’s important to know your competition and be aware of potential obstacles that you might face in the near future. It’s vital to know what your next step will be. This helps to keep you one or two plays ahead of the game, a defining trademark of a winning team.
10. Have a winning strategy
Finally, business, like baseball, is not a game of luck. It’s all about strategy and your role in making that strategy come to life. Having clearly defined goals, and rallying around your team, will help to drive your company to success.
It’s important to take time to spot opportunities that may have been overlooked, and learn new strategies that we may not have thought of before. Teamwork, leadership and clearly defined goals are three things that have always been prerequisites for success, in baseball and business.