Trouble with the Curve
Every baseball team that has ever had any type of winning streak is faced with a time where that streak comes to an end. They hit a point where they realize what got them “here” won’t get them “there” and they must act to stay in the game. A business is much like a baseball game where every company that stands the test of time ends up faced with a time where what they have done in the past may not work anymore and they must reinvent themselves. They must have the courage to think beyond their past successes, their prior record setting numbers, and their outdated assumptions of what works. Whether it is a business or a baseball team, every winning streak comes to an end that requires the leader to go back to the drawing board to raise the bar, and differentiate.
The leader must ask:
- Do we still have the right players to turn the team around?
- Do we have the right strategy and game plan?
- Do we have the right skillsets or are there gaps?
- What part of what made us successful in the past must we continue to do?
- What part of what made us successful in the past is no longer working, is outdated, and ineffective on today’s changed environment?
It’s that moment of truth where a coach or leader realizes if they don’t differentiate themselves, they are at a great risk of becoming obsolete. They realize they must step up their game to win the game and stepping up their game with a sustainable plan starts with ensuring the right talent is in place to achieve future state goals.
Top talent isn’t always the most obvious, the most talked about, those that speak the loudest, or those that might win the popular vote. Sometimes you have to look beyond the obvious to identify the root attributes of tomorrow’s top talent. The movie “Trouble with the Curve” is a great story that portrays the importance of understanding the complete talent profile to select the best players needed to win games. It is the story of a classic top draft pick that is the seemingly obvious choice based on limited observation of skills and incorrect assumptions based on performance outcomes alone. After much observation from a long time scout, character played by Clint Eastwood, realizes this “star” player isn’t as great as the numbers indicate he is. It is through observation where he realizes this supposed top player can’t hit a curve ball. He knows if this player is selected it would only be a short matter of time before any opposing team would realize the same weakness. Once that happened, every opposing pitcher would simply have to throw a curve ball to make this superstar an easy out every time. It took a person who was willing to dig deeper, make the case and see it through to prove that having a more versatile and adaptable player is the key to long term success and sustainability rather than a one pitch, one hit wonder.
Sound familiar? Does the talent you are depending on to drive success have “trouble with the curve”? Can they only perform under predictable circumstances in the way they always have in the past but buckle under pressure or struggle to adapt when things change? In life, in baseball, and in the every changing company, no one can afford to hold onto those that are not versatile. It is not a matter of if, but a matter of when, a curve ball will get thrown and it is imperative there are players skilled to step up to the plate and adapt!
A strategy or game plan is only as good as the players you have to execute so it’s time to start really looking at the strengths and opportunities on your bench. If you don’t know what is really driving individual results how do you know what to keep doing or what to stop doing? When hiring someone to help drive a winning team, numbers are only a small piece. But like any other statistical number, those numbers can be misleading without understanding what is behind the number. Assuming someone’s strengths or opportunities based on numbers alone can be a detrimental mistake resulting in the loss of potentially amazing talent or the retention of talent that might not be the right fit to get your team from where you are at to where you want to go. In business, there are many factors that can contribute to an employee’s success or struggles. Likewise, in the game of baseball, a low batting average could be a result of many things. Maybe someone is afraid to get up to the plate. Maybe they are swinging too high or too low, too late or too early. Maybe they are taking their eye off the ball. There are many possibilities of what could be behind low performance but it requires looking beyond the numbers to identify the cause. So stop managing only to the batting stats and start managing to the swing, the fundamentals. Statistics only indicate the end result but they don’t indicate HOW or WHAT is occurring to drive that result. It is the swing and the underlying skills and behaviors that show HOW the results were achieved. If you don’t understand the HOW, you can never understand WHY something went well, WHAT needs to be improved upon, and HOW to replicate successes. Any coach or effective leader will need the HOW and the WHAT to develop winning teams and execute on winning strategies. They will need to observe those behaviors, watch the swing, and diagnose and develop meaningful and personalized plans to help individuals maximize their potential and contribute to a winning team.
Top talent isn’t about someone who can hit a homerun only if the perfect pitch comes in because expecting that perfect pitch to come in every time is unrealistic and unsustainable. When your strategy is contingent upon perfect circumstances and things remaining “as is” to be successful, it is a recipe for failure and a guarantee that competitors will always stay one step ahead. They will see your move and beat you to the punch! Top talent and employees are those people who can adapt to change, those who are skilled in multiple areas, and those that can adjust when a curve ball is thrown and still hit it out of the park!
Think beyond the obvious or the way things have always been done. Hire and retain those who don’t have trouble with the curve and they will change the entire game, and in turn, the course of your team or business future! Go beyond the comfort of what IS and move towards the excitement of what CAN BE! Whether it’s a baseball game or a business leader, the better someone can adapt to the curve ball, the better someone will be able to overcome obstacles and win the game of baseball, the game of business, and the game of life!