POINT TO PONDER
A good boss makes his men realize they have more ability than they think they have, so that they consistently do better work than they thought they could.”
– Charles Erwin Wilson
STORY LINE by Rajiv Shah
Yesterday, I attended the victory parade for the San Francisco Giants, a baseball team that won its second world championship in the last three years. It is tough to win one championship let alone two in the past three years. Even more remarkable is the way they won. Without the big name stars, they nurtured players through draft or scouting. They continually found ways to win, even when they lost key players to injury or suspension. In the playoffs the Giants were only one of two teams in the history of the game to have conquered six elimination games en route to their improbable championship victory. This team was defined by its resolve, heart, and determination. Quite simply, this team refused to quit no matter how dire their circumstances.
I love using sports examples in Friday Reflections as I feel there are lessons from them that we can apply to our own lives. In its best sense, sports shows us the capacity of human performance on many levels: physical, emotional, mental, and interpersonal. At the risk of sounding cliché, sports can show us the very best we can be when statistics and expectation might say otherwise. Sports express what analysis cannot - the human spirit. As if reading my mind Larry Baer, the Giants CEO, echoed that sentiment at the victory parade. Mr. Baer proudly expressed, "I believe we can take away life lessons, very much teachable moments for our children."
And what are those life lessons? Well, it seems the San Francisco Giants instill a culture that starts with their executives, then filters down to their managers and onto the players. The Giants culture and values are best expressed by a plaque that hangs in the clubhouse as a reminder of the team's core values. The plaque reads:
1 Common Goal.
This core value resonates with everyone that puts on a San Francisco Giants uniform and is reflected in the way they play the game:
- Never give up.
- Play for the greater good, for the team. This was especially exemplified when the Giants refused to reactivate Melky Cabrera after a suspension for 50 games due to his use of performance enhancing drugs. Melky at the time was the hottest hitter in all of baseball and quite easily their best player. The team came first and by excluding Melky from the remainder of the season, the Giants showed it's resolve - the integrity of the team came first over any individual. Incidentally, the Giants improved their record after losing him and sailed into first place, eventually winning the National League West.
- Value each member of the team. The Giants organization recognizes the value of each team member. They not only acknowledged the players, but everyone in their support staff including ushers, secretaries, and assistants. This is reflected in the victory parade where every Giants staff member (including past owners and officials) are invited to participate in the parade along with the players and coaches. The Giants value each individual as integral to the success of the organization.
- Take it one moment at a time. Conquer each challenge in the present and you will succeed in the future.
- Play with heart and love. Leave it all on the field. Playing with integrity allows you to walk off the field, head held high no matter if you win or lose.
This culture, set forth by Giants management, worked its way into how the players approached the game as a team. Down 0 games to 2 against the Reds in the first round, Hunter Pence gathered his teammates before the first of 6 elimination games they would play, and exclaimed:
"Get in here, everyone get in here. Look into each other eyes. Now! Look into each others eyes, I want one more day with you. It's the most fun, the best team I have ever been on and no matter what happens we must not give in. We owe it to each other. Play for each other. I need one more day with you guys, I need to see what Ryan Theriot will wear tomorrow, I want to play defense behind Ryan Vogelsong because he's never been to the playoffs. Play for each other not yourself. Win each moment. Win each inning. It's all we have left."
What the Giants proceeded to do after Pence's speech was win each moment, each inning, and each game. Together the team that had the odds stacked against them, the statistics against them, and had the history against them, prevailed. Their leaders made them believe, made them look to each other and not to themselves, and they did the near impossible; they beat the Cincinnati Reds on their home field three days in a row to win 3 games to 2 and advance to the championship series. In the entire season, the Reds had not lost 3 games in a row at home until they ran into the Giants.
In the National League Championship series the Giants again went down to a 1 game to 3 deficit against the reigning world champion St. Louis Cardinals. Again, the Giants refused to give up, winning three games in a row. The Giants won the series, 4 games to 3.
In the World Series the Giants again did the improbable by beating the Detroit Tigers who on paper were the superior team. Not only that, this time they didn't go down at all, winning 4 games in a row to sweep the heavily favored Tigers 4 games to 0.
The Giants looked to the 25 guys around them and won each moment, each inning, and never said die. They played by the culture and values that Larry Baer and the organization instilled. Hunter Pence echoed when it mattered most:
"...tonight I was proud to be together as a team, in a hostile environment, with just us...brothers that play for the name on the front, not the name on the back.”