The Boston Red Sox were crowned Major League Baseball's American League Champions on Thursday night. It was quite an accomplishment for first-year skipper, Alex Cora. However, it should not have been unexpected given the winning culture that Cora's been able to forge among his team.

Winners they are. The 2018 Red Sox team won a league leading 108 games this season and have cruised past their long-time rival, the New York Yankees, and last year's World Series-winning Houston Astros to land atop the American League. What are Cora's leadership secrets for re-imagining his club's culture?

I decided to see if any of his strategies could apply to regular office settings. Turns out, they absolutely can. Here are five lessons we can learn from Cora's approach to reshaping the Red Sox:

1. Set an unambiguous goal.

From spring training throughout the American League playoffs, Cora has reinforced the idea that he believes they're preparing to compete for a world championship. Setting a clear and unmistakable goal provides a context for all the hard work needed to get through 162 game season and win. As he told reporters in September:  "I know what I signed up for. I signed up to win a World Series."

You should set an unambiguous goal for your team -- and regularly remind staff of it and the importance of their work. 

2. Build trust through bonding.

One of the things that distinguishes Cora from other big league managers is his willingness to bond with his players. According to the Boston Globe, Cora regularly took players out to lunch or dinner during Spring Training to get to know them on a personal level.

This kind of bonding enables trust to be established and makes leading talented all-stars a bit easier. Take the time to get to know and build trust with your team and reap the benefits.

3. Keep it light.

Cora employed a variety of devices to keep things light in the clubhouse. For example, the team's ongoing ping pong tournament is an entertaining distraction from the season-long grind of major league baseball.

The same Boston Globe report noted that Cora takes time at team meetings for his players to present interesting and fun facts to promote camaraderie. Rookie pitcher Bobby Poyner, for instance, produced a slideshow about his time at the University of Florida that broke the ice for his first big-league training camp.

With so much time required each week to get our jobs done, it makes sense to create a work environment that is as welcoming as possible -- it can serve to keep spirits up, when the chips are down.

4. Be prepared, but don't burn out.

Under Cora, the Red Sox have adopted a new practice routine that breaks from the traditional approach that centered on conducting long and repetitive drills, opting instead for shorter more focused sessions that reinforced the basics. The approach prevents less injury and reduces mental fatigue while still placing emphasis on what's important.

You can borrow this advice and think about ways to reduce burn-out among your staff. Letting your go to people take a break by assigning additional work to others is one way to keep burn-out at bay, while improving the preparedness of the rest of your team.

5. Remain approachable.

Cora is deliberate in his efforts to be among his players. He is very approachable. It's common for his players to sit next to him on the bench, for example. Such is not the case in many major league dugouts, where many managers prefer not to fraternize with the players in an attempt to maintain their authority through distance.

If you want to enhance your followership and create a winning culture, be approachable. Let your people bring their thoughts and concerns directly to you. It improves communication, understanding and performance.  

Published on: Oct 23, 2018
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