top of page

When Your Catcher Won't Throw To 1st Base

Last month we discussed the many opportunities that the so called ‘Great Resignation’ phenomenon presented us with. We decided to drill a little bit further about what it takes to be an effective leader in the current workplace.

While ‘The Big Quit’ has calmed a bit, the real concern is the effect on those who have remained in their roles and companies, and what it has done to their perspectives of their employer, their loyalty, the culture they are working in and in many cases, what life/career balance really means.

Adding to the mix is that today’s workforce comprises at least four cohabitating age generations, all with different perspectives, needs, histories and tolerances. So how does a leader effectively lead in this new and bubbling environment?

It is Spring and we have chosen to use a baseball analogy. So, what does a leader do today when their catcher won’t throw to first base?

By the time major league players are even allowed on the field, a lot of success factors are well ingrained, especially strategies, tactics, skills, leadership, and culture. It’s a beautifully aligned team with thousands of demanding fans. But a catcher that wouldn’t throw to first base, short of a medical issue, would likely not have their contract renewed. Everyone, including the player, would fully understand why. As well as a huge roster of anxious, replacement players waiting in the wings to be called up.

The reality is, and with respect to any major league team, most other businesses have greater complexities to manage in a world of truly turbulent times. Recruiting, managing, inspiring, and retaining “players” in business is a lot tougher when the rules of the game are constantly changing, like technologies, regulations, market needs/desires, supply chains, and oh yes, pandemics.

Many of our “players” are reconsidering whether they like our team anymore or even the ‘sport’ itself. Many have actually “walked off the field” in the last few years, even leaving in the middle of the ‘game’.

Sounds simple then, we just run businesses like baseball teams and continuously enjoy home runs and world series statistics! So, why don’t we?

It’s a good question, as while baseball is a “game” it’s also very much a business as well.

On average, each team generated almost US$122 million in revenue in 2020, each with high-expectation Boards of Directors and customers (fans) with a tight timeline for delivery. The Toronto Blue Jays for example has nearly 400 employees working within it. It’s a good midsize corporation with lots of people, the majority of which enjoy working there (Indeed Reviews).

They do have several great advantages though: One product, one focus, a predisposed market and expectation, minimal product change and immediate performance data feedback.

The prime difference between the baseball business and other businesses today, is that in other businesses today, first base keeps moving from where we count it to be, and “people” are continuously moving it. While the game of baseball hasn’t changed much since the 1800’s, people dramatically have. Boards, Leaders, Employees, Customers and the age demographics and experiences that form who they are, have changed and will continue to do so.

So, what does it take to be an effective leader in 2022?

Let’s classify the term “leader” here for a moment. Let’s review three leader classifications common to many organizations: Board members, Executive Team, and Middle Managers.

Board members

Board Members realize that the decisions and advice they provide the organization have a direct impact on the culture of that organization and its ability to generate the financial and other performance targets set for it.

Boards realize that not all people have the skills to be an executive leader today, or the capacity. Executives need to be hired carefully as they ‘own’ the culture of the organization.

So, Directors should require their C-Level executives to present their initiatives with people risks and mitigation strategies along with their usual financial and other performance criteria.

Directors should add a “Culture Metric(s)” to the C-Level employment agreements, and hold the CEO accountable for those performance results

Executive Team or C-Level Members

Executives need to lead by example. By what they do…. and more importantly by what they don’t do. The company culture depends on them and the consistency to which they emulate and manage it daily. Not all people have the skills to be a leader today, or the capacity. Executives need to hire their next layer team carefully. Multiple degreed, impressive on paper candidates may not have the people skills critical to lead and inspire the workforce and may in fact poison it.

Executive Teams should create “Culture Metric(s)” that will be consistently applied across all teams. Review the results together, regularly and respond/react.

Get a detailed handle on the age demographics of your functions and understand the unique needs, views, and tolerance of each. Do this for your employees, their managers and for YOURSELF.

Create a new or refresh your existing Leadership Program for your organization, not only to embed the new skills required today, but to provide a visual substantive move towards a realization of what the organization needs and wants.

Identify resistance and delay in adopting these new leadership skills and address it. Don’t hide it.

Don’t transfer it. Deal with it. Get out of your office and walk-around. Get a sense of the culture in play, ask questions, be there (occasionally, not constantly).

Middle Management

Realize that YOU TOO are the example. By what you do…. and more importantly by what you don’t do. And saying it again, that company culture depends on you and the consistency to which you emulate and manage it daily.

Realize that not all people have the skills to work and collaborate in today’s workforce, or the capacity. Hire your front-line team carefully. Your next candidate may not have the behaviours your team needs to succeed and may in fact poison it.

Be there to notice positive employee interactions and “shine a light” on them so that other notice with rewards/encouragement. You’re the example here.

Be there to notice negative employee interactions and “shine a light” on them so others notice, and actions can be taken. You’re the example here, even more so. Remember that overall performance is the goal, but it’s also your leadership responsibility to notice and address the positive and negative examples that solidify culture…. Daily.

Get a detailed handle on the age demographics of your department(s) and understand the unique needs, views, and tolerance of each. Do this for your employees, and for YOURSELF.

But Wait, We’re Already Doing All That!

We are sure there are a number of readers, who will say, “Thanks, but we’re already doing that” and “That’s obvious stuff that everyone should be doing”. What do you say to them?

We’d say the statistics and our observations are that its not as obvious in practice and not enough people seem to be doing it.

First of all, have a regular, independent survey done of your employees to establish an accurate “pulse” of how things are truly going. Not everyone may be seeing your magic they way you intend.

Final question then, as we know that age demographics make a big difference in the workplace today, with at least four of them cohabitating together. As a leader, how do I consistently and effectively lead Boomers, Millennials, Gen-Y’s, and Gen-Z’s, especially if I’m one of them?

That’s a huge question and one we will address in a future article, but we will say this.

In the same way that customers and markets have changed over the past forty or so years, so have employees…. and many company leaders haven’t figured that out until most recently. The good news is that there are things that are common to all of those generations, as well as differences.

The challenge is recognizing the demographic differences of your team members and developing leaders that have the skills to provide the unique communications, interpretations, and inspirations for each of them.

From a ball game perspective, if any company can consistently drive strategies, tactics, skills, experience, training, alignment, leadership, and culture, it has a great chance of hitting the field and winning the season.

But even pitchers need different love and attention than fielders do.

bottom of page