I made it through the entire season without making any baseball references in this blog, but today I’m going to break that streak. I want to look at a real leader from the sport.
This week, the New Your Mets hired Carlos Beltran as their new manager. Carlos has long been recognized as a leader on the teams he was with as a player. Even though he had a great playing career and is a legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame, his leadership had more to do with how he handled himself in the clubhouse to distinguish himself as a leader.
Let me cite one example of what I mean. Carlos was born in Puerto Rico, and when he signed his first baseball contract in the Royals organization, he spoke no English. He remembers feeling lost as an 18-year old, unable to do things as routine as ordering dinner in a restaurant.
Most teams offer English lessons to their Hispanic players, and he used that to become fluent in the language. He still recognized an additional need. As he moved up in the Royals system, he encouraged teams to offer Spanish classes to their American-born players. He then carried this a step further. When he spoke to native Spanish speakers, he spoke to them in English. When talking to his English-speaking teammates, he spoke only in Spanish. This helped encourage each group to learn and use the new language.
There are a number of lessons about leadership to be learned from this example.
You do not have to be in management to be a leader. Until he took the Mets job this week, Carlos was never in management. That never slowed him down from looking for ways to improve the workplace and the careers of his teammates. Real leaders can come from every part of your workplace. It is important these leadership skills be recognized and given the chance to flourish.
Leaders recognize what they need to do to enhance their own skills. Carlos took advantage of the opportunity to learn English. Doing so helped him enhance his leadership role among all teammates. Being a life-long learner is important, especially in the constantly changing demand of our workplaces. Employees must be willing to seek training in the skills required for their jobs or for their next job.
Managers must also learn ways to better understand and improve their work systems. In baseball, the latest trend impacting the game is analytics, the use of statistical analysis to determine the best approach to take. Several managers who have failed to grasp this process have lost their jobs and limited future employability. Past success means little when paradigms and methods change.
Leaders recognize the importance of good communications. Carlos recognized the importance of learning English. This enabled him to communicate better with teammates, club officials and workers, the press, and fans. Good communications is essential to let people know what is going on, share ideas between employees and managers, and improve employee morale.
Real leaders encourage others. Through his choice of languages when speaking to teammates, Carlos encouraged them to learn and use their new skills. This helped improve communications and teamwork on and off the field, enhance opportunities for players to improve their skills by communicating with other players and coaches, and increase understandings and interpersonal relationships. Your colleagues will also benefit from encouragement to leave their comfort levels to learn and use new methods and skills. It may be an employee who doubts their ability to learn new ideas or a senior employee who doesn’t want to cope with anything different, encouragement will help them be willing to make the effort and, in doing so, improve their careers and the workplace.
Even in a diverse workplace, leaders need to encourage inclusion. A baseball clubhouse is highly diverse. For example, the Yankees clubhouse featured players from the U.S., Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, and a variety of Latin American countries. This could have fostered a clash of cultures, languages, and backgrounds. By promoting inclusion beginning in the minor leagues, the team melded together.
In our workplaces we need to encourage everyone to be involved with each other, create opportunities to build teamwork, all while recognizing the unique needs each may bring. We have worked with employers who were reluctant to hire candidates whose religion, culture, or other factors would have required special accommodations. When they learn what is required, and how easy it usually is to do, the employment doors open. By ensuring all employees understand the nature of any accommodations, the barriers they present can be eliminated.
Even though I am not a Mets fan, I wish Carlos Beltran success as their manager, His hard work and natural leadership have paved the way for him to earn the job and bode well for his success. The things he can teach us all about leadership can help us be more effective and satisfied in out jobs.