Reading Tom Verducci’s book, The Cubs Way, has been a delight as a Cubs fan and as a leader who coaches executives to be their best. The book has many principles that you can apply to how you lead.
Maddon has 13 principles he uses to manage and lead his life and his team. His first principle is foundational.
Make A Personal Connection First: Everything Else Follows
The greatest responsibility of a leader is to connect with others and create a positive environment that promotes openness, growth and success. “That’s the most important thing,” he says, “and most overlook it.” The key for creating that environment for Maddon is developing a connection with his coaches and each player on a personal level. Maddon’s only agenda is to Connect. He does it by simply having a conversation. Maddon asks a lot of personal questions to get to know someone, their history, family situation, what makes them tick, what motivates them, how they think, what their interests are, what lights them up and what their dreams and aspirations are. He wants to find common ground so that he and each player can start to build trust with each other.
In my work as a leadership coach, I often see executives focus on just tasks to get the results they need and ignore “the soft stuff;” the personal connections and relationships. Leaders who focus on only the results are limiting their leadership effectiveness. The great ones do both, get results and build relationships with others. Zenger Folkman, a well-known leadership consultancy research firm says when leaders focus on achieving results only as a strength they are only 14% likely to be an extraordinary leader. Focusing on relationships only as a strength they are only 12% likely to be an extraordinary leader. If a leader focuses on both the percentage increases to 72%. You can learn more about Zenger Folkman research from their book, The Extraordinary Leader.
As Maddon builds trusting relationships with each player it enables him to be open and honest with them and to give them feedback that will improve their performance. He can be constructively critical and he knows they know he is not picking on them. He has their best interest at hand. If the player is upset he wants them to tell him. It works both ways. They can do this and move positively forward because of the connection and the trust they have with each other.
Be a leader that makes a personal connection first and then let everything else follow.