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Two leadership nuggets from World Series champion, manager Joe Maddon

My wife, Susan, faithfully watches Charlie Rose’s late night talk show. She knows which leadership idea(s) would be of interest, recording them for me to watch and learn from.

Recently we sat and watched an interview with Joe Maddon

who, as manager of the  Chicago Cubs of the MLB, in 2016 led the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years.

The natural question is asked: what was the secret--how did he and president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, do it?

Joe shared a number of thoughts with Charlie Rose, but two stood out to me as I sat and watched, paper and pen in hand, believing I was going to hear something noteworthy.  I was not disappointed.

1.  Try not to suck

How many teams have you been a part of that just plain suck? How many restaurants or places of business have you quit going to because they suck? There is such a lack of excellence everywhere you go. It seems like folks just don’t care about doing a good job anymore; many are apathetic, waiting for the weekend so they don’t have to work for a day or two. Granted, some of this apathy can be laid at the feet of the leader or manager who has failed to create a work environment which keeps morale high and workers motivated so their work and their attitude doesn’t suck. But, at the same time, each of us needs to take responsibility for our work, to see that it honors the Lord himself, who does all things well (Mark 7:37.) Not just passing, not just okay, not just mediocre, but well!

A lot of what I do is with leaders and teams in local churches and, honestly, many churches suck when it comes to their spirit of excellent work and excellent attitudes. “Try not to suck” resonated with me from my own experience and from my experience with churches and church leaders. I don’t want to suck as a leader! 

2.  Do simple better

I have been thinking a great deal lately about simplifying my life so that I am not as overwhelmed and overcommitted as I have been recently. I want to stay focused on a few simple and basic things and learn how to do them better as time goes on.

When it comes to doing well at anything (sports, music, leadership, etc.), there are generally not dozens of things to hone in on, but there definitely are a few. There are always a small handful of simple basic principles to keep mind, whether we are talking about improving the golf game or improving family relationships. I am more motivated than ever before to pick a few simple things and do them better. This has to with focus and intentionality.

When Billy Graham preached Dawson Trotman’s funeral (founder of The Navigators, an organization I worked with for 37 years), Billy said: “Of Dawson Trotman it could be said, not these forty things I dabble at but this one thing I do.” He was referring to Philippians 3:13 and, perhaps, Psalm 27:4. There are books out now about the “One Thing” you need to focus on.  Remember City Slickers with Billy Crystal and Jack Palance where Billy’s character is encouraged to find out what the one thing, the most important thing is.

Dawson Trotman had a singleness of purpose with the The Navigators organization which is expressed in their purpose statement: “To know Christ and to make Him known.”

As I look ahead to the coming months, I am starting to say no to more things so I say yes to a few simple, basic things which I want to be better at doing. By his grace, I can do a few simple things better, but probably not dozens of things better.

Joe, thanks for inspiring me to “Try not to suck” at what I do and to “Do simple better!” Thanks Susan for “introducing” me to Charlie Rose.



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