Four Leadership Lessons From Bruce Bochy

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What? You don’t know who Bruce Bochy is?

He’s the manager of the San Francisco Giants. You know, that team from the National League that’s headed to the World Series this year.

What you also may not know is that there weren’t very many people who thought the Giants would make it this far into the postseason. It was pretty obvious there were a lot better teams out there (at least that’s what the analysts kept saying). On paper, the Phillies were supposed to dominate the National League Championship Series. On paper…

But the San Francisco Giants are a team that scratched, clawed, and won a lot of close (CLOSE!) games with grit and determination. This was a group of good players who had been overlooked and looked over from other teams. The Giants organization brought this rag tag group together and turned them into…a Pennant-winning team.

If you’ve ever worked with a group of people who were quite diverse, with different backgrounds and different philosophies, and brought them together – you know how difficult it can be to create…a team. That’s why I think it’s helpful to listen to the words of Bruce Bochy. There’s something you could learn here. The following lessons are taken directly from Bruce Bochy quotes in an article written in the AP today.

1. Keep your team focused.

“You certainly can’t drift mentally, that’s for sure, when you’re not putting a lot of runs on the board and playing these tight games.”

During the course of a 160+ game season, it’s easy to get distracted. There are issues both on and off the baseball field. A manager steps into a roster full of professional athletes, with all of their problems, pressures, personal lives and tries to find ways to keep them all focused on the one thing that matters during a game…the game itself.

When games are as close as the majority of the Giants’ games were (1 or 2 runs), any little mistake or error can make the difference between winning or losing. This is difficult when you have the same players throughout an entire season. For the Giants, there were many changes made in personnel DURING the season. Which makes Bochy’s leadership that much more impressive.

2. Do what’s best for the team.

“You set aside your own agenda and do what’s best for the team,” Bochy said. “That’s what it has to be at this point. Hopefully we have one priority, and that’s to win. These guys have done a great job with it. A lot of guys who have been out there every day, their role has changed. They’ve done a great job of being a good teammate and accepting that and doing whatever they can to help out. It’s not easy. They all want to be a part of it but there are only nine places out there.”

One of the things that you quickly notice about the San Francisco Giants is there aren’t any major stars on the team. Of course, there’s 2-time Cy Young award winning pitching phenom, Tim Lincecum. But the batting order doesn’t have the All-Stars in the lineup like a Yankees or Phillies team. And that’s the beauty of this team. Nobody has assumed the Prima Donna role. It appears that Bochy has done a great job of getting everyone to check their egos at the door.

A good leader will communicate what each person’s role on the team needs to be at any given time. Sometimes those roles change. People don’t typically like change. In fact, once someone finds themself in a prominent position on a team, it’s difficult to give that up. A good leader helps teammates put aside their own agendas for the success of the team or organization.

3. Know what people are good at.

“I don’t know if I’m managing really any different than what I was doing earlier,” Bochy said. “It’s not so much ruffling feathers, it’s doing what’s right and putting the guys out there that you think are going to help you win that game.”

For Bochy and the San Francisco Giants, the goal was (and continues to be) winning. For your team and your people, you need to identify what the goal is. Then, put people into the best position to help you reach that goal. Do you know what each member of your team is good at? Do you know the types of situations in which they thrive and those where they might choke? Knowing your people well precedes leading your people well. When those whom you lead have a sense that you know them, they’ll be more apt to want to follow your leadership rather than feel like they have to.

4.  Put your people in a position to succeed.

“When you put together a club, hopefully you have guys who are unified. You have that chemistry,” Bochy said. “And that’s not something that just happens. You have to work at it. These guys do.”

Did you see what just happened in that quote? Bochy didn’t claim to be the answer to the team’s success. He didn’t point to his hard work, he pointed to their hard work. That’s so important to good leadership. The leader helped to create an atmosphere that allowed the people to do what needed to be done to succeed, to reach the goal. When the team tasted success, the leader (in this case, Bochy) pointed to the people who made it happen (which they did). The best leaders give credit to their people when things go well and take the responsibility when things go poorly.

BONUS LESSON: Couldn’t pass up another lesson from that last quote. Bochy mentioned two words that guide a team toward success: unity and chemistry. Unity doesn’t come from everyone agreeing on everything. Unity comes from pursuing a common purpose. Sometimes you take the scenic route to get there and there’s lots of discussion, arguments, and pushback. But you arrive…together.

Chemistry is formed through the mutual respect each member of the team has for the other. Once again, people may not see things eye to eye, but they don’t dismiss someone simply because the other person holds a different viewpoint.

Finally, unity and chemistry flow from good leadership. When a leader communicates a clear and compelling vision for the team and the members buy into it, unity and chemistry can flourish. When there’s confusion and many false starts because a team doesn’t know where it’s going, chemistry disintegrates and unity is only superficial at best.

*For another great article comparing the management styles of Joe Girardi and Bruce Bochy, read Freak Out: How Joe Girardi Could Learn From Bruce Bochy from The Faster Times.

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