What does a leader look like? In baseball, it’s the coach; he’s the one who organizes a game plan, prepares his players, learns about their competitors, listens to his team, and demands mental toughness as a prerequisite to success.

Likewise, a business leader mirrors this mindset. He gets employees to move, as a group, toward an ultimate goal. He learns from his successes, failures, and competition in order to adapt to the changing times. A business leader evangelizes a team to believe in the mission and goals of the company. Finally, he demands mental toughness and the fortitude to persevere.

In business and sports, there will always be obstacles. Strong leaders will make adjustments that determine how successful our teams become.

Coaching for Life

Being a coach and a teacher is a family business. My uncle was a high school football coach, and my father was an English professor and a baseball coach at the University of Illinois. I was a head college baseball coach for more than 23 years, coaching one major leaguer and several minor league players. I fell in love with the job not only because of my love for the sport, but also because of the impact I had on my players’ development. I loved being a part of their success; seeing each person’s improvement and forming a group of players who trusted and relied on each other for success was an achievement in itself.

When I started my own business, I kept a coach’s mindset. I wanted to make great businessmen out of ordinary people who wanted to succeed. They needed to learn fundamentals, systems, and processes that would help them develop a successful business blueprint. In essence, I coached them. My clients learned the fundamentals of achieving short-term goals that, with practice, would yield long-term success. As any leader knows, making it to the top is not an event — it’s a journey. Everyone needs a coach along the way.

From the Baseball to the Business Field

There are many things that can translate from sports to business. In my case, these are the five most important practices that I took from coaching baseball players and implemented when coaching business leaders.

1) Leadership: It’s a crucial trait that is too often soaked in vanity. You can say you’re a leader, but what backs up that statement? Leading does not just mean you are the titular “head” of a company; it means others choose to follow you because the advice you give actually makes them better. If you fashion yourself a leader, then ask yourself at the end of every day: Have we progressed, or are we right where we started? After all, leading means you must stay in front while keeping an omniscient eye on those who follow you. You get nowhere unless your team is close by.

2) Fundamentals: Sound fundamentals are the marrow of a person’s or business’s structure. In baseball, one must throw well, field correctly, be a smart base runner, be a picky hitter, and have a high baseball IQ. In business, we also need these fundamentals. For example, we must understand the language of accounting to determine financial success. We must be able to estimate future growth, manage projects, and market the company and its employees. These are the basics that every leader must build other skills upon.

3) Teamwork: There’s a “me” and a “we” in that word; you choose which one to pull out. In baseball, not everyone can be the pitcher; the other eight positions are collectively as important as the one standing on the mound. In business, the CEO doesn’t succeed without his team of employees; likewise, the employees have no direction without their CEO. Each person has an important position and unique skills to help the team move forward. Individually, we are stagnant; collectively, we advance.

4) Systems: Each pitcher has a system to throw a pitch correctly. He visualizes, takes a deep breath, checks certain points, and then throws the ball. A good pitcher is one who can repeatedly throw deep into games. It may not lead to a win, but it sets his team up for success. Systems and processes are also important for the growth of a business, and a leader has to be the one to implement and enforce these. Each player or employee must adopt and perform the processes that will help the team move toward the ultimate goal.

5) Knowledge: It’s a no-brainer, right? Not so fast. Ordinary people acquire knowledge about their craft. Then, they become successful people who have knowledge about their craft. And once this is accomplished, many people become complacent; they think past knowledge will yield future success. You know what the business game does to complacent businessmen? It rears its ugly head and devours anyone not willing stay ahead of it. Don’t be the prey. Just as baseball players need to continue to improve their skills, agility, and knowledge of a sport, business leaders need to read and speak to other experts to increase their knowledge on new trends and research.

Translating Passion

Bringing your passion — to the field or the office — is necessary for a leader. Obviously, you can’t bring the field to the office, but you can bring the attitude. You can bring the passion you feel when you’re doing what you love. Your “job” begins to feel like something more meaningful, and as a result, you, your team, and your clients are the recipients of this rejuvenated work environment. Bottle up that passion, transport it to the workplace, and shift toward a new kind of game on the field of business.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

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