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Winning Game #3 Leading With Courage Blog: Rip Off The Rear-view Mirror

The Cubs and Indians have had decades-long championship droughts and both teams have rebuilt themselves all the way back to instill a culture of united vision and sustained victories.

In this 7-part series to match the 7 games of the World Series, Trent Clark, who worked in 3 baseball organizations – the Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Detroit Tigers, including three trips to the World Series with the Indians and Angels – shares his insight on the ingredients for a winning team. Take these concepts to heart as you transform your own company culture into a winning one.

In both Cleveland and Chicago, there is an infectious and unmistakable energy that’s positively electric. You can feel a buzz in the air in these cities that have dreamed and hoped and wished and…waited. But when you think about it, shouldn’t more people be pessimistic based on a long history of losing? Why don’t we hear about more skeptics who are trying to protect themselves against yet another tremendous heartbreak?

Nah. The heck with that. Because that’s no longer part of the narrative.

Take the Cubs as an example. Curses based on goats from 1945 may make for fun stories, but I’m here to tell you – as someone who has been in major league baseball clubhouses, these gentlemen aren’t interested in that story. They’re not even remotely thinking about it.

Short-Term Memory Is A Beautiful Thing

How did they have such a shift in their mindset? For one, today’s current Cubs roster has no sense of the Club’s history. Many of them are far too young and new to the major leagues that it’s hard to get rattled by a history they don’t have a real connection to, which is a good thing.

Secondly, they have a selective, short-term memory. What I mean by that is that Cubs Manager Joe Maddon knows that plenty of young players could focus too much on the negative, negative, negative. If Kris Bryant has a throwing error, but makes four other great catches at 3rd base the rest of the day, guess which three Joe is going to talk about more?

Consider this positive mindset as you approach your own business environment. I’m not suggesting that you have to be a cheerleader all the time and pretend that nothing’s wrong when clearly everybody can see there are issues to be addressed. Still, you can be 100% without pointing out the negative all the time. Recall the ratio learned for your best coaches: 5 to 1 – Encouragement to Criticism. Michael Hyatt quite famously said, “Criticism is like medicine. It’s poison unless carefully administered at the right dose.”

What are some “wins” that your people have had recently? Large and small?

It doesn’t have to be a gigantic event. Wins on the board for your company add up, just like in baseball where a win can be a good hit, a strikeout and of course, what’s on the scoreboard at the end of the 9th inning. The point is, little wins add up to big ones. By pointing out positive behaviors and sharing them with the rest of the organization, you’re demonstrating that there are a lot of good things happening – and many great events that may lie right around the corner.

Whether we’re talking about athletes or corporate leaders, I often equate situations in which the history has not been great – like, say, a period of 108 years without a championship – to driving on the highway. If you’re looking out the front windshield when you drive, you know that you’re prepared for what’s to come and alert to the present. There’s less of a chance of surprises.

Now pretend you’re heading out on the very same highway but this time, you’re looking out the rear-view window the whole time. Yikes! How can you possibly see what lies ahead? It’s a recipe for disaster. Well, the same concept applies to the business environment in which a relentless focus on the past – the rear-view mirror – can be a distraction from both the present and the future. It becomes a rationalization for failure. I think the relative size of the windshield versus the rearview mirror make for an appropriate proportion of time spent planning and driving forward, to reviewing the past.

When people like Joe Maddon joined the Cubs organization, he didn’t just ignore the rear-view mirror: He ripped the rear-view mirror off the car. After all, what’s the point of looking back at any previous failures? There’s only so much time and energy that a person can spend in that environment without significant detriment.

Is your team focusing too much on what’s in the rear-view mirror? What kinds of things are they saying? What’s needed is a paradigm shift to focus on the strengths and how those can propel your company forward. But you may be struggling with how to identify the best avenues to do just that.

The good news is that in as little as one-half day, a Leading With Courage Workshop can equip you and the rest of your team with the tools and on-going support to get back in alignment. It’s also a great way to strengthen client relationships by inviting their emerging leaders to participate too. To learn more, call 312.827.2643 or email

In Winning Game #4 of our 7-part Series, we’ll explore how leaders can become isolated decision makers and how to break out of that pattern to empower more people in your company culture.

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