Tuesday Morning Focal Point – October 11, 2016 – Yanking the Starting Pitcher
I happen to be one of those baseball fans that is really only interested during the post season – and I guess in some ways that would raise the question as to whether or not I truly am a ball fan. In any case, I’ve enjoyed watching some great Major League playoff action over the last week or so.
When I watch baseball, there is one particular leadership issue that always stands out to me. It relates to the number of pitchers who get “pulled” from the mound during any given game, to make way for a replacement to come in. A General Manager may have started his absolute star pitcher, and yet in more games than not, that pitcher will not finish the game. That means that at some point in that game, the GM makes a determination that the starting pitcher is no longer the best guy for the job.
Personnel Decisions are not Always Easy
In business, sometimes personnel decisions like “pulling the star pitcher” are really tough. Given our relationships and our loyalty to the people in our entity, especially where friendships have developed, we find it difficult to pull someone off a particular job or file, giving way for another that we believe is better equipped in that moment or for the next set of tasks or challenges.
Not-for-profits are particularly notorious for this – I often encounter a poverty mentality with not-for-profits where they somehow feel that they cannot expect excellence because they are an NFP, and so they simply have to make due. They are inclined not to call on someone else. They continually put people in charge of things they simply cannot deliver. While this is particularly common with NFP’s, it also happens frequently in the for profit business world.
It is not uncommon in a ball game for a GM to “yank” multiple pitchers in an effort to win a game. I am not suggesting that in business we should have a culture of a revolving door where we are constantly yanking people off their projects, however we must be careful not to have a mentality that keeps us from making these critical and important people management decisions because we don’t have the jam to make the tough decision and deliver the difficult message.
Verne Harnish says it best, when he says that managing the people side of the company involves having, “the right people doing the right things in the right way.”
Leadership Requires Delegation
Your responsibility as a leader is to make sure you have the best person on the job, and if this means changing that up from time to time, you must do so in order to deliver. If you are not doing that, you are not fulfilling your obligation as the lead. I’ll also throw in one more point here, and that is that even as the senior leader, you must know when it is time to yank yourself out of a key role in your company, making way for delegation to another, even someone that reports to you.
Cameron’s Call to Action
- Have a close look at any of your key initiatives or ventures that are currently underperforming in some way. Is the right person “throwing the pitches” or has that person become fatigued or for some reason unable to perform at the level required?
- Do a self-assessment regarding your own performance in key areas. Are there some files or projects you are currently leading that you need to delegate to another lead in the company who is better equipped to advance as is needed?
- Act – make the decision – even if difficult and carefully observe the outcome(s) that result. Remember that adjusting the lead from time to time on key initiatives does not need to have anything to do with discipline or a “firing” it is simply having the right players on the field each and every pitch.
Cameron is an Executive Coach and Consultant specializing in business growth and workplace mental health.
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