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Winning Game #4: Strengthening The Trust Factor

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.

Trust. It’s one of those elements of a culture that’s easy to talk about but not so easy to obtain, especially when a new leader comes into the organization. Just the other day, I was watching a sporting event where the commentator said, “The coach has just completely lost the team.” What he meant was, the players had very little energy or enthusiasm for running the plays to perfection, or following the Coach’s direction. Once that happens to any coach, he’s in big trouble.

Losing a team can happen to a new CEO just as easily too. How? For one, just barge into a new environment you’re joining without getting to know the people, history, processes or anything else and instead start talking about how you’re going to change everything based on what worked really well elsewhere.

That approach never works very well for good reason: You’re already making yourself an isolated decision maker. This doesn’t foster a ‘team’ environment. From an employee’s perspective, it looks like you don’t trust anybody and believe the only way to do it right is to do it yourself. Why would anyone want to get close to that?

From my experience in Professional Baseball clubhouses, the best managers never put themselves on a pedestal. They feel like a key part of the entire team, even though they’re obviously not taking the field. They don’t talk about open door policies. They live and breathe it.

Look at Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs. Does he know how to have fun? If you’ve ever seen what this team wears on road trips, you know a team that puts on “onesie” pajamas before they get on a bus is having a lot of fun together. They genuinely like one another and it carries over into a performance where they don’t get easily flustered.

Even on the most important stage of their lives, the World Series, the Cubs roster from top to bottom doesn’t appear to be nervous. They look like they’ve been here before – that starts with a manager that creates a welcoming tone. They’re not in fear of the risk or of the result. Failure is part of the deal and it is accepted under the proper circumstances-the opponents at this level are the best in the world.

There are other managers that aren’t that loose, of course. Some of them are very successful too. Take Nick Saban as an example. The University of Alabama Head Coach is probably one of the most focused individuals of any coach there is. But does he ignore all advice and input from his other coaches and players? No. He’s very good at respecting his staff and giving them the opportunity to contribute. He may be very short and to the point, but he doesn’t need to have lengthy conversations when he is so good at preparing others who work around him (think One-Minute Manager expert). Saban may not be perceived as fun, or as loose as Joe Maddon, but both have the utmost respect for their support staff and personnel. In addition, they both offer clearly defined expectations for those around them. Those expectations are high, but achievable.

In your own business environment, don’t fall into the trap of total self-sufficiency and saying, “Oh, I can do that myself. I know it’ll be done right at least.” The more you say that, the more you’re building a wall between you and the people who want to help. How can you delegate tasks to them? Because in doing so, you’ll not only be taking things off your plate and freeing up time to focus on other activities. You’ll be showing how much you trust and value the people around you – and it doesn’t just have to be people in the C-suite, if that’s where you reside.

Once you understand what each person’s strengths are, you can find yourself in a much better position to utilize them very intelligently while conveying expectations clearly. Best of all, the more you do it well, the less often you’ll have lengthy meetings that devour your time.

Wondering if you’ll ever get to that point – or how? Don’t worry. A Leading With Courage Workshop is an immense help to leaders, emerging leaders and managers who want to build a trust-filled environment where roles and responsibilities are well understood. In as little as one-half day, we can give you the tools to elevate others so that they feel entrusted with the projects to move your company forward. To learn more, call 312.827.2643 or email

In Winning Game #5 of our 7-part Series, we’ll speak to how great clubhouses are open to all kinds of innovation, transforming their players into versatile weapons in the process. What will you take away to use for your own company culture?

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