Four Little League Lessons That Are Just as True in Business

I’m coaching my son’s baseball team 11U travel baseball team. He’s on a good team, full of talented, coachable, good kids. Now that the boys are older and playing at a higher level, we still focus in on the fundamentals, but we spend more time on the little details, the mental game. Our focus with the boys is on process, rather than outcome. We set goals for the season, and for practices and games. We coach them to stay positive, to learn from failures and mistakes and move onto the next play. The lessons the boys are learning and the good habits they are picking up will certainly help them on the field, but will also be crucial to their success professionally and in life:

Learn and get better, every day. If you boot a ground ball, don’t let it take you out of the game. Shake it off and move on to the next play, but remember what happened and learn from it. Embrace every mistake as an opportunity to improve; don’t fear making a mistake, but resolve not to make it again when you do. There is something to be learned, some knowledge that can be gleaned, every time we fail. In the lean manufacturing industry, this is often referred to as kaizen—continuous and never-ending improvement. In the context of growth, change and constant learning, kaizen is a long-term approach to work that seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality in a significant way over time.

Have a plan. Know what you are trying to do when you step into the batter’s box. Understand the situation, know what your job is and what you need to do to execute it. If you are looking for a middle-in fastball that you can turn on, don’t chase the outside pitch. Be ready to adjust if you need to; the best approach in the world is out the window when you are down 0-2 in the count, and your job now is to be aggressive and protect the plate. Setting goals, and building plans to achieve those goals, is no different. The more clearly defined you make your goals, the easier it is to focus on achieving them. Situations, industries, markets, even your own expectations change, however, and what once was the ideal plan may no longer be right. Be ready and willing to pivot in order to achieve the best outcome.

Remember your achievements. Confidence is everything. Forget the last strikeout, but remember that RBI double. Those positive feelings will give you confidence at the plate, which will increase your likelihood for continued success. It is the Law of Momentum in action, and it applies in just as much in business. Wins beget wins, and accomplishments fuel further accomplishments. When is the best time to make a sales call? Right after you close a deal. Use that positive energy and winning mindset to your advantage.

It’s an individual and a team game. A pitcher’s job is hugely important. A strong performance can keep the other team off-balance and give his team a huge advantage. But he also needs to rely on his defense to make play behind him. A great ground-ball pitcher is no good if his infield can’t field the ball, just as a fantastic defense can aid a pitcher greatly when he is having a rough start. In business, you have to do your job, and do it well, to succeed, but success rarely happens on your own. You need the benefit of a great team around you. You need to be able to rely on them, and you need to allow yourself to rely on them. Just as a pitcher can’t play all four bases, a business owner or leader cannot handle every job in the company. Throw good strikes, and allow your team to make a play behind you.

Have a goal—for the at-bat, the game and the season—and a plan to achieve those goals. Remember your wins, but forget and learn from your losses. Focus on the fundamentals, as they are the building blocks, but strive to improve on a little thing, every time out. Play your best game, and rely on your teammates to play theirs. Do these things and you give yourself a great chance to succeed. And you might be a pretty good ballplayer as well.

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