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A leadership lesson from a baseball gaffe
Last October, the Boston Red Sox were a few innings away from a trip to the World Series when it came time for then-Manager Grady Little to pull his superstar pitcher, Pedro Martinez, in favor of a fresh relief pitcher who could have finished off the rival New York Yankees in the deciding Game 7 of the American League baseball playoffs. But at a couple of crucial junctures, Little managed with his heart instead of his head. He left Martinez in, Boston's big lead evaporated, and the Yankees won.
Martinez had told the manager that he wanted to stay in the game. Little listened and obliged, and a few weeks later he was fired. Bruce Katcher, Ph.D., an industrial/organizational psychologist and president of The Discovery Group in Sharon, Mass., says the managerial meltdown offers valuable lessons:
Base decisions on logic rather than emotion. Boston fans would have cheered if Martinez saved the day, but not calling for a relief pitcher was an unnecessary risk. In such situations, a leader needs "to be as open as you can be about the criteria" for a decision, says Katcher. "It's not a personal thing. It's not an emotional decision" when you are forced to go against the wishes of your employee-even one as popular as Pedro Martinez.
Listen up, managers: Let workers do the talking
"Good leaders are good listeners," says Baldoni. "It is an easy thing to state but very often hard to put into practice. Leaders give listening short shrift because they have so many other things to do. The trick is to turn listening into an action step, one that can help the leader ensure organizational understanding and ultimately drive for results."
Baldoni offers the following tips for managers hoping to improve their listening skills:
"Listening is by nature a passive activity, but when transformed into an active process it may be one of the most important actions a leader can perform," says Baldoni.
References for Managers
Constructive feedback, mentoring, coaching and performance assessment are key to helping employees reach their potential, say Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith in
The Art of Waking People Up (Jossey-Bass, 2003). But that doesn't mean that managers must force employees into one mold. Instead, the authors believe managers need to help their employees become more fully themselves at work, bringing all their ideas to the table, not just the ones they think management wants to hear. The book offers a detailed path to providing better feedback, including:
Packed with real-life examples of employers' legal headaches—and a few nightmares—A Manager's Guide to Employment Law (Jossey-Bass, 2003) by Dana M. Muir is designed to help managers be more confident about managing risk when hiring, firing or dealing with potential legal problems. The book explains "employment at will," the cornerstone of U.S. employment, which allows employers to fire anyone for any legal reason. Then Muir delves into the exceptions to employment at will that can make employers question their own decisions, particularly in common problem areas:
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