When I read, I read to be inspired. Sometimes inspiration is born from the pages of a great business book – teaching me lessons like Good to Great by Jim Collins – and sometimes it is born from the pages of a magazine, a blog or the pages of a newspaper. Regardless, I don’t read for relaxation or pl.....
However, if you saw me on the airplane today (being Monday, August 26th when I wrote this), you would have observed me first reading two Sunday sports sections (The Chicago Tribune and The New York Times, yes, a day late, I was feeling under the weather on Sunday) prior to burying my head in the business sections. Pleasure, right? No, business.
When I read a sports section, my mind instantly wanders into a world of statistics and analytics. How do great athletes produce great numbers? How do great GMs piece together winning teams that stick? I think about this. I observe the quotes, the reactions, the box scores, trying to find hidden gems of guidance for doing the same with my team.
Today I read, in The New York Times, about how the Philadelphia Phillies’ new manager, Ryne Sandberg, has his players playing for him in a remarkable way, something his predecessor Charlie Manuel seemingly lost his ability to do. Sandberg figured out a pattern in the minor leagues (where he was a coach) on leading. He learned how to squeeze the best out of his players. Even the million-dollar men will play for him. Will the Phillies win a World Series this year? No. Will they have even more challenges next year with an aging roster? Absolutely. Will Sandberg give up on making his aging players play more for him? Absolutely not.
I thought about this. I thought about this in the way I manage our team at the agency. Am I a manager who squeezes every inch out of my team? Honestly, I don’t think so. I don’t think I have cracked the perfect pattern where I can squeeze the best out of my team. In fact, I am not sure I have figured out the pattern of igniting passion among everyone on my team. I struggle to find the right balance of fun and tough love. Inside, I love everyone. Outside, my demanding demeanor is designed to get the best results for the brands we represent. I am willing to be the hard-ass if it generates the best results for our clients. Not everyone will like me. I am not in this to win a popularity contest. I am in this to create a winning process that can continue no matter if you are the power hitter or the utility guy.
I think of our staff much like a GM would think about their team. To consistently win, I must figure out the patterns, the analytics and the statistics to draw a perfect combination of passion out of my players. I must recruit, not hire, the right coaches to inspire the right players. Encouraging “good to great” is fantastic, but it is not enough to complete the perfect puzzle.
Much like a GM, I have a budget. I have a percentage of gross income I get to play with. From there, I have to measure out where I want to spend and at what percentage. The beauty of the agency life is that much like the NFL, if a player has lost the passion to compete, I can dismiss from the team without any contractual obligation. Unfortunately, though, this goes for my team, too. They can dismiss me without any contractual repercussions. They can choose to go to a competitor if I can’t figure out their patterns or a way to help them love the agency as a career, not as a job. The timeframe to do so with millennials is limited. I understand this.
I think a lot about building the perfect staff. Not the perfect person, but the perfect team. I can have a few power hitters, a few all-star fielders and some great pitching, but unless I carefully analyze the intricate statistics, I won’t have a great team. I may have a few egos, including my own, but that won’t net the perfect result without the right support group. A team is made up of all different skill levels. If we were all all-stars, there wouldn’t be any budget left over to be a great company. A fine balance of stars and prospects is what we desire.
Perhaps perfection is impossible, but it won’t stop me from trying. I know there is a longstanding championship agency team in the waiting – recruiting the right people to play the right positions will help us complete the puzzle for today. Tomorrow, though, the puzzle may change.
Business sections are great. Some stories are great tales of great business formation. Sometimes, though, great businesses happen by accident or don’t include prolonged success. Great sports stories, though, can teach us everything we need to know about teamwork, execution, diligent work ethics and prolonged results. I dream of identifying the Billy Beane way of recruiting, running and winning. I dream of the perfect staff. My dream inches forward through sports sections. I will continue to read for inspiration.