My beloved Cubs won the National League Pennant for the first time in 71 years. The goat is history and it is on to the World Series. As a leader, what can you learn from the Chicago Cubs and how they built a winning team? Here are 2 important leadership lessons:
- It starts at the top…the CEO.
Tom Ricketts is a local Chicago kid, who grew up loving his team, met his wife in the bleachers and eventually bought the team in 2009. Tom had a vision for the Cubs organization: Excellence in everything we do. Simple and straight forward. It was not about winning the World Series. It was achieving excellence in the front office and on the field. Building a team that excels in everything they do has built a winner. Tom Ricketts has created a culture of excellence. Everything he did, every communication he delivered he talked about excellence and what it means in the Chicago Cubs organization. He lives his vision and expects his team of Theo Epstein, President, Jed Hoyer, EVP GM, Joe Maddon, Manager and the others to do the same. Excellence defines every word and action of the Cubs.
As a leader, what is your vision for your team and organization? How often do you communicate it to your team? Are you living your vision through your actions and words? Without a vision, you and your team do not know where they are going and why. It is difficult to achieve sustainable results and success. You can’t delegate this task. Vision starts with you. What is yours?
- Great organizations have a plan and strategies to achieve their vision.
The plan was to rebuild the organization from the bottom up. Ricketts knew he had to make a bold move and hire the right guy to turn around the Cubs baseball operation. Fitting with his vision of excellence, he made a bold move to hire Theo Epstein of the Boston Red Sox. It immediately sent a message to the Cubs office and field personnel as well as to the baseball world. Theo was the architect of turning around the Red Sox’s and helping them win two World Series Championships after decades of futility.
Hiring Epstein helped to further change the culture in the organization. Instantly, there was a change in organizational philosophy and for the first time in seemingly forever, the Cubs were preparing to undergo a rebuild.
Theo’s rebuild was going to be different from the past. No quick fixes. No big free agency deals. Identify and draft well, develop the team, build the farm system and look for opportunities to upgrade the team when available without compromising the long-term plan of building a consistent winner. Theo developed a 5-year plan that required patience on the part of the organization. In other words, the Cubs had to be prepared to lose, which they did – 101 games in Theo’s first year and 96 in his second. Not an easy thing to do with an overly passionate fan base that screamed for a winner. Ricketts had full faith and trust in Theo to implement, measure and work the plan. Theo had the intellect, the experience, the drive and passion to implement it.
Part of Epstein’s plan was to hire a seasoned manager to lead and develop his team. Epstein also pulled a bold move and hired Joe Maddon to manage the team. Maddon is a baseball genius and he has the right temperament to manage seasoned and younger talented professionals. His theme this year was to embrace the challenge and have fun.
Boy, did they.
As a leader, what is your plan and strategies to succeed? Are they on a bookshelf collecting dust or are you and your team working the plan, measuring results and making the necessary adjustments to achieve your vision. How firm and confident are you with your plans and are you able to stay the course during difficult headwinds?
Here we are in October of 2016, the 5th year of the Epstein’s plan. My Cubs are going to the World Series! The Cubs and the CEO had a vision for excellence and success. He hired the best to turn around the organization. As CEO, Ricketts got out the way and enabled Epstein to create and implement the plan and strategies to achieve organizational excellence. Epstein worked the plan and hired the right people to help him in the rebuild effort. The entire organization had one goal in mind and they are all marching together to achieve it. Would you not love to work in an organization like that? I would.
I hope my Cubs finish the job and win it all. It would be deserving for a world’s greatest fan base and a true testament of the leadership of Tom Ricketts and the entire Cubs organization.