Posted by: G. Lane Cavalier | April 27, 2007

Life: White Board Sayings Explained – Number 5

“I”ve never seen a manager win a game, but I’ve seen many lose one!”  – Unknown, though it may have been Tony LaRusa or Tommy Lasorda

Another of my favorite quotes of all time.

As Managers or Leaders, our responsibility is to find the absolute best people, give them a direction, define a clear target, remove any roadblocks, make sure they have the tools to be successful, and then “get out of the way.”

If you do all of the above, you have created the framework for success, but at the end of the day it is up to those individuals to execute the vision and achieve success.  If you have done all of the above well, you have given the project or objective a chance at success, but you have NOT guaranteed it. 

Conversely,  if you do any of the above poorly, or if you haven’t left the work to the “experts,” then you can just about guarantee failure.  I have to say that in my experience most catastrophic failures occur because of poor leadership.  This may entail choosing a target that is unrealistic, mis-indentification of a problem, over-managing a group of individuals, or just being a general roadblock yourself.

For true empowerment of a team, you must also cede some of the decision making authority.  One of my best examples of this was from when I was a youth baseball coach for “traveling” or “all-star” teams.  Those of you that follow baseball will understand this situation.

Runner is on third, can he score on a passed ball?  We’ll the best 3rd base coach in the world can’t make that decision for him.  The decision must be made in a fraction of a second, in that fraction the runner needs to evaluate where is the ball, where is the catcher, where is the pitcher, and his own physical abilities. 

You can “coach” him before the game on all the proper techniques, how to take a lead, how to break for home on the pitch, how to lead off in foul territory and return in fair territory, and how to read a pitch in the dirt and even what to expect by a catcher’s reaction and body positioning, but when it happens, it’s no longer a manger’s/coach’s decision, it’s the player’s.

You can put guidelines around his decision.  You can say “tie game, no outs, don’t take chances, make sure you can make it,” or you can say “2 outs, pitcher’s been great, we need to make something happen, if you get the chance go for it.”  Either way all you are doing is setting parameters for the amount of Risk/Reward you are willing to take as the leader, but again the ultimate decision is the runner’s.

You can also set general guidelines of how you want the “team” to play.  Are we going to be aggressive “high risk/high reward” as our strategy, or are we going to play conservative, by the book baseball. 

Last night I had a similar discussion with a fellow soccer coach, are we going to have our defense line crash the penalty area, or should we have them lay back.  Our discussion revolved in essence around this topic, because we can give them that direction in general, but the decision of “when” to be an offensive defenseman or lay back is ultimately be the players decision.  Our decision ultimately revolved around discussing our players capabilities ( effectively, which do they have the tools to do).  Speed, decision making, field awareness were the tools that we needed to factor in.

Both examples are of manager’s putting player’s in a position to be successful, the wrong decision or coaching can guarantee a loss/failure.  The right decision simply guarantees a chance at success. 

A motivated team left to it’s own devices with the tools to be successful and a clearly obtainable goal is the target you need to strive for as a manager, expect nothing more than that.  The perspective you take away is that if you want to be a leader, failure rests on your shoulders, but victories are obtained by the team! 

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