Comment of the Day: Learning from Bobby Cox

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There are limits, I think, about how much professional sports and professional athletes can teach us. Sports are ultimately best consumed as entertainment. When sports figures actually try to teach us life lessons, they’re usually in the form of really bad, gimmicky business management or motivational books that are better used as kindling for the fire rather than for the mind.

But they can, on occasion, teach by example. Reader DLF thinks Bobby Cox did so, anyway:

Beyond just missing him in the dugout, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned from him.

In my professional life, I am a director of a business unit with about 200 employees. They don’t pitch, hit or field, but they have a job to do and I manage that team. From Bobby, I’ve learned that downward loyalty creates upward loyalty. I’ve learned that I should praise my team in public, but not do so too much or it will create unrealistic expectations.

I’ve learned that I should criticize only in private where it may lead to constructive growth without public shaming of the miscreant. I’ve learned that sometimes you have to argue with the umpires — in my case the CEO and board of directors — because they don’t always see what really happened.

I’ve learned that personnel and policy decisions should be made slowly and not changed on a whim. I’ve learned that every member of the team has a role to play and that if they don’t want to play that role, they need to be on another team. I’ve learned that rookies can come in and contribute. I’ve learned that people who are purportedly bit players, if placed in the right role, can find ways to really shine and make all of us better.

I’ve learned humility in victory and unfortunately I’ve learned restraint in defeat. Unlike Bobby Cox, I’m not one of the best of all time at what I do, but I’m better at it from learning from him.

Thanks Bobby.