There is one time of year when baseball players have a chance for a fresh start. They can rid themselves of the sting of last season's painful losses. They also can curb the heightened expectations and huge egos that come along with the role of reigning champion.
This time of year, the playing field is leveled. Potential is vast, and only one goal exists. Spring training doesn't care if you're a rookie, or rostered. For some, it's time for a new beginning. For others, it's their one shot to make it.
With this year's spring training season officially behind us, I am not only excited at the thought of no baseball-free Saturdays from now through fall, but I am also inspired to seize this unique time of year to make my own mark. Here are a few lessons from the pros on how to create your own spring training program and make it a real game-changer for your business.
1. Get back to the fundamentals.
As business leaders, we get into the habit of focusing on results so much that we overlook the basic principles that drive those results. Spring Training is not about winning or losing. With batting practice, sliding drills, conditioning sprints, and agility drills, coaches dissect the building blocks of the game.
What fundamentals affect your end game? Is your brand strategy working? Are you targeting your customers effectively? Do people care about what you have to offer? Sure, you tackled these questions when you launched your business, but now is the time to revisit them.
2. Act like a rookie.
You may have heard the famous baseball adage, "Play like champion, train like an underdog." As a rookie at spring training, nothing is guaranteed. Rookies must earn playing time and prove they can fit in with the team. Rookies give it their all because there might not be a next time.
As a small business owner, you have regular opportunities to shine among a sea of budding prospects. What helps your firm stand out from the competition? When you follow spring training rules, you forget about complacency, and swing for the fences every time.
3. Look at the farm system.
A baseball coach uses spring training to build out his 40-man roster, but he also looks to the future of his team by paying close attention to pipeline of the farm system. This focus provides "bench strength." Historically, the teams that win championships are the ones that focus on the next generation of players as well as on their all-stars. Additionally, a team with a strong bench can overcome the injuries and the fatigue that come with a long season.
Take a close look at the bench strength of your organization. Can you adapt to unforeseen changes in your team? Are you building a chain of command and the communication channels that go with it? Now may be the time to add some depth to your team by hiring some new employees or by training and empowering staff members to take on new responsibilities.
4. Spend time playing other positions.
Every spring, the Boston Red Sox conduct a drill called "the Juanchi." Named after pitching coach Juan Nieves, the drill forces pitchers to play every infield position so they can better understand their teammates' responsibilities on a given play. "We rotate guys through so they can anticipate the game situation, what an individual or player at those respective positions is going to be doing," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of the unique drill. "It's more just understanding the situation and anticipating more."
As a business owner, you can use this concept to help your team become more efficient. Spend some time in your employees' shoes. You will be able to identify any necessary improvements, anticipate pitfalls, and both recognize and reward your top employees.
5. Remember that last season is last season.
When Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers received his Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards for his performance in 2014, he thanked the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that defeated the Dodgers in the National League division series, "for reminding me that you're never as good as you think you are."
As a business leader, avoid entering a new season carrying the baggage of past performance, no matter whether it's worthy of MVP honors or a humiliating defeat. Use this time as an opportunity to shed past results. Look at things that worked and things that didn't. Learn from your successes and your failures, but do not dwell on them.
As you watch your favorite team take the field this week, do as I do and take some time to conduct your own spring training rituals with your organization.
Who knows? You may discover it's a great time of year to work on your change-up.