Clint Hurdle Leadership Strategies from Manager of Year

With spring right around the corner (think positive!), my thoughts turn to baseball. I love baseball for many reasons, and among them are the life lessons the game provides. Every player knows why baseball is called ‘a game of failure.’ Major leaguers can make 7 outs in 10 at bats and reach the Hall of Fame (gambling and PEDs aside). Players understand that to succeed they must put past failures aside and focus on the next pitch, the next play.

I am now watching, and sometimes helping, my three teenage sons as they try to master the game. I should say, as they try to excel in the game because true mastery will elude them as it eludes all players. In the film ‘A League of Their Own,” when one of his players observed that ‘baseball is hard,’ manager Jimmy Dugan replied, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great”

Clint Hurdle,  the current Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, describes Eight Leadership Strategies that he used to become the 2013 MLB Manager of the Year. These strategies will be featured in an upcoming book by Patti Johnson.

Here are few of Clint Hurdle Leadership core beliefs:

1. Leadership never takes a day off. You have to model leadership every single day. Actions matter a lot more than your words. Everyday repetition is critical.

2. Players have to trust you before you can coach them. Hurdle explained, “Players have to believe you can help them get better. But it starts with trust. They want to be seen as more than a fast left-hander. They need to know that you are care about them as individuals and what is going on in their lives.”

3. Listen before you change anything. When you start with a new baseball club, or group, Hurdle starts by asking questions and then listening. Hurdle said, “Why wouldn’t I? Do I know everything already? Why take the time? Because they will know I care. And I want to gather enough information before I know the changes I want to make.”

4. Leading can be lonely. Making tough decisions is hard and it can be a lonely place. That is part of it.

5. Let voices be heard. Hurdle explained, “I always say if you don’t speak up, you can’t complain. I need to hear your voice.” He has used an open communication technique called ‘Three up, three down.’ He asks players to share three things going well and three things that aren’t. This is a way for him to hear from each player regularly, even if it is uncomfortable for them at first.

6. Three encouragements for one negative. Remember to encourage with honesty. Share where improvement is needed, but also share what has gone well too. See the good.

7. Confrontation is important. Hurdle explained that confrontation isn’t negative if it’s done with the right intent and honesty. He gave the example of a base runner that gets picked off. Hurdle said, “If a base runner makes what looks like a poor decision, you have to confront it—but do it in the right way. I ask the question, ‘Tell me what you saw out there’ and I listen to the answer. Then, the next day we look at the tapes together and match that up to what he saw at the time. This is a chance to learn. And it’s a lot more effective than yelling at a player ‘that was a stupid play’ in front of the team as he comes into the dugout. He knows he made a mistake. Confrontation, in the right way, is how we learn and understand each other.”

8. Fear has a short shelf life. Fear doesn’t motivate over the long haul.  For a Major League Baseball manager who led the Pirates to their best season in over twenty years, Hurdle isn’t focused just on results. He said, “It’s never about focusing on field results. It’s about how players talk and how they think. They need ownership of the game and the team—and to trust themselves and each other. Then, the results will take care of themselves.”

I think these strategies work as well in business as they do in the dugout. Clint Hurdle Leadership is truly inspiring.

Source: 2013 Success Blog 

photo credit: Pittsburgh Pirates | 4/3/13 via photopin (license)

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