If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I love to travel. My travel exploits tend to fall in to one of three major categories: leisure (Take a Break), adventure (exploring foreign lands, foods, and languages), and baseball.
One of my favorite things to do, either home or abroad, is to go to a baseball game (go Yokohama BayStars!). The sport is fun and engaging to watch while also leaving time to connect with others around you. So, whenever I travel, if there is an opportunity to catch a game (or two or three), I do. Recently, we took a trip down to Florida and in between relaxing at the beach and sampling local cuisine, we fit in three baseball games. We had a blast watching the Mets, Marlins, and Rays, but it got me thinking…
Every Inning Matters
I think baseball – with its strategy, strength, and suspense – is a great analogy for life and business. For instance, start with Spring Training. Many people scoff at spring training games since they don’t “count” and for much of the spring the teams play minor leaguers and split squads. Attend a game? Why bother? These players aren’t going to be in the big leagues any time soon. But it’s important to consider the future, to understand where you and your team are heading. So here are a few points I have put together to get you thinking about your approach to business, courtesy of baseball.
- Where You’re Headed Counts as Much as Where You Are
I love spring training games. Sure, I’m seeing players I have never heard of play on a roster that will in no way resemble the regular season. But these players are the future. They are working on their skills now so that when the team has a need or a place for them, they will be ready.
This applies at work, too. You may have more junior team members who you don’t want to spend the time to nurture. You don’t need their skills now. You have things to take care of yourself in the moment. But if you invest and help them build their skills over time, they will be ready when the need does arise. Or, do you find yourself complacent in a position now, with a wish to move up or take on more, but your company doesn’t have a need now? Keep working, practicing, and taking on what you can in the meantime. Be ready when the need does present itself, and you might be the one to get called up to the big leagues.
- Defense is Just as Important as Offense
So much excitement and talk around baseball is about offense – who can hit the most home runs, who has the highest exit velocity, or how many steals they can get (even against the terrible shift). But defense can make or break a game. What about the fly ball that drops in between left and center field, the one that neither fielder called for and the winning run scored? Or the tag at second base that didn’t count because the fielder’s foot left the bag? One misstep can lead to a tie, a loss, or an uphill battle to retake ground.
Part of business can be about being flashy – who is getting the most net new sales, or hitting quota most consistently, or even writing the most engaging content? But while it’s great to focus on goals and performance (think: offense), it’s also equally important to consider your supporting efforts. What do you need to do to make sure your content and approach remain fresh? Are you savvy about the changes coming to your business or products which could affect how you are able to close deals already in your pipeline? Reinforcing your work with preparation (think: defense) can make the difference in your long-term success (think: win the game).
- Every Inning Matters
Spring training might not get you points to rank you for the Playoffs in September, but the foundation built in March can set teams up for success in the fall. Baseball has a long season. Players focus on building strength, creating muscle memory, honing in on their swing, and enhancing areas of their game that need work. Every inning matters.
Your business is the same way. Often we take it easier in the beginning of the year because we have 12 whole months to meet goals or quotas. Then Q4 comes around and everyone scrambles. Set your self up for success and use every month to work toward your goals (good planning helps, too). Applying the same work ethic year-round can make it easier on you to hit your year-end goals or sustain yourself during busier or more difficult times. Treat each month, each opportunity, each project as if it counts…because it does.
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