MANAGERS WITH MOXY

By:  Holly Horning

“Passion is the number one thing that I look for in a manager. IQ is not really that important. They need to be able to work well with others and the ability to get people to do what you want them to do.”                          – Warren Buffett

What do Joe Girardi, AJ Hinch, John Gibbons, Jeff Banister, Mike Matheny, Bruce Bochy, Clint Hurdle, Joe Maddon, Terry Collins and Don Mattingly all have in common?

Well, yes, they are all current MLB managers and their teams made the playoffs. But 7 of them were surprise playoff contenders this year. This is the first clue that there is more than meets the eye.

They also share more common traits. All but two have impressive winning managerial records. (The 2 who don’t managed rebuilding teams but are close to .500.) More than half of them come from military families, one has a degree in psychology and another had a father who was a long-time sports coach. Could these backgrounds have something to do with how well they manage? Undoubtedly.

But to see what else they share, you need to watch and listen to these guys on the radio and tv. They are impressive – and you really want to hear what they say.

So what’s so special? First of all, it’s the voice – firm, declarative and showing passion for what they discuss. They also have a clear vision of what they want, what needs to happen and where their team is going. In my line of work, you learn that people communicate in a way that represents who they are “authentically.” In a nutshell, what you hear is what you get.

Their speech is exact. They make declarative statements. They don’t use weak verbiage like “I guess”, “maybe”, “kind of”, “a little”, or “might be”. They also don’t make excuses or use apologetic words. They may not be cheerleaders in the usual sense, but they inspire, have passion for their work and make you want to join their team.

Their communication is supporting evidence that they are also leaders. Is it a coincidence that they all managed to get their teams into the playoffs? I don’t think so. Look at what they’ve had to navigate this year.

One team full of fresh-faced guys with just 1 or 2 years of experience. Another team chock full of ageing players. Several with significant and numerous injuries to star players. One of these teams had the audacity to accumulate 100 wins this season for the best record in baseball.

Yet another organization with several guys coming back from major surgeries. Three clubs with new managers this year. Eight out of 10 teams with significantly less payroll than the Tigers. A couple of organizations operating with a half to even almost one-third of Detroit’s salaries.

And that’s what leaders do – they inspire, they motivate and they get the best performances out of everyone with whom they work. Underperformance is never a question with their teams when the dust has settled.

And as managers, they impact the game on a daily basis. These guys did not get their teams to the playoffs by successfully managing a handful of games. They do much more than make decisions about when to pull the pitcher or substitute another player.

Let’s get rid of that silly assumption floating out there that managers don’t really impact the game. Managers are an essential cog in any industry and responsible for maximizing performance from his/her entire team and achieving the desired results. And baseball is one of the biggest businesses out there. This sport is not the lone exception to the universal rule.

While there is no single factor or person who is responsible for a team’s success or failure, the manager impacts his team’s performance every single day outside of the in-game strategy he employs.

This week, you can’t escape the endless reports in the media by former players extolling the value that Joe Maddon brings to his team. Excluding in-game strategy, some of his talents include:

•Discovering what motivates every player on the team.
•Motivating the entire team on a daily basis to win.
•Helping each player understand his role and importance to the team.
•Ensuring every player is physically prepared to enter the game at any time.
•Addressing the mental performance of every player and the entire team daily.
•Keeping players sharp in-game and focused.
•Pushing the team to be and to stay hungry.
•Keeping the focus on how to win the game instead of how not to lose it.
•Inspiring peak energy levels of play.
•Setting and communicating challenging goals for performance and winning.
•Creating a system that maximizes team play.

And this is what Joe Maddon said in November 2014 when he was introduced as the Cubs’ new manager:

“For me, I’m going to be talking playoffs next year. I’m going to tell you that right now. Because I can’t go to Spring Training and say any other thing. I’m just incapable of doing that. Why would you even report?

“It’s all about setting your standards and your goals high, because if you don’t set them high enough you might actually hit your mark. We’re going to set our mark high and I’m going to talk playoffs and World Series this year, and I’m going to believe it.”

This is what leaders do. This is how leaders talk. This is how leaders get their players to exceed last year’s wins by more than 25 games and end up with baseball’s third best record with 97 wins.

Any chance at all that Joe has an identical twin brother?

11 thoughts on “MANAGERS WITH MOXY

  1. I am with you Holly. You were being factual without naming any “obvious” names of “some” managers that come up short based on your well thought-out criteria. Excellent job! I can read between the lines. Intelligent readers “get” intelligent writers!

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  2. I apologize for changing sports. However, look at what Jim Harbaugh has done with the UoM team that was put together under Brady Hoke. That’s leadership.

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    • Dave, no need to apologize. I was thinking about sending a post about Red Wing’s coach, Mike Blashill. The other night, the new coach split up the newly “established” lines and put the youngsters together. The team responded, the game changed course and the Red Wings won. Another case where coaching/managing made a difference!

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  3. Holly, Joe Maddon does have a brother, and a sister for that matter. Don’t know if either is a twin. But at this point I’m willing to try anything to move this team in the right direction!!!

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  4. Kurt and Holly, we all know Brad is coming back but plans and direction can change. If Don Mattingly pays the price and is shown the door in L A, could he be a good fit for being Tigers manager? Or is he considered too old school by upper management and the new analytics department?

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  5. Fantastic journalism Holly. It is a joy to read yours and Kurt’s slants even as we go through the off season. The “Big 5” that comprise the core of the Tigers lineup deserve a leader/manager as you hi lite. Watching the playoffs and bench shots – it’s Ike night and day. Still dumbfounded Avila is going to stand pat.

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