It’s that time of year. Major league baseball’s spring training starts in late February– signaling that spring is right around the corner! Every year, each team starts a new season in warm weather, playing “practice” games, and preparing for the grind of a long season.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have spring training for our work?
While that likely isn’t possible, let’s think instead about what we can borrow from MLB spring training to apply toward our work:
- Fine-tuning our skills
- Playing practice games
- Choosing and coaching your team
Perhaps one of the best things about spring training is the feeling of optimism. Most teams believe they can win the World Series at this point. Here in Kansas City, we are dreaming of back-to-back World Series championships (who would have thought!). No one has lost a game that counts yet.
Taking optimism into our workplace can be very powerful for you individually and for your team. Optimism has multiple benefits – it may help you handle stress better, stay healthier, and perform better at work. For example, studies of MBA students at Duke showed that the optimists tended to earn higher starting salaries and were promoted more frequently. Optimists tend to be resilient and bounce back better from failures.
Plus, if you are an optimistic leader, your team members will tend to mirror that view. Optimism spreads, and can help teams be more innovative, better at problem solving and in delivering client service.
Take a “spring training” attitude to work with you and it will serve you well!
To keep ahead of the competition, you must continue to improve. Since we are still in the early part of the year, you have plenty of time to invest in yourself and continue to learn and develop your skills. Just as the baseball players work on their fundamentals during spring training, you can too! A first baseman works on his skills around the bag, handling bunts, line drives and of course “picking” the throws from his fellow infielders. Likewise, identify what your role within the team is, and determine how can you get better. Be specific. Get your “timing” down on your batting swing.
Play Practice Games
To fine-tune your skills, “practice” them in less risky situations. I work with clients who are often trying to change certain behaviors at work that are less productive, and instead use new, improved behaviors. We identify situations where they can practice the new behavior in a safer environment. It could be with “friendlies” at work, or perhaps with the team you lead before you try with your boss or peers. This is very similar to baseball’s “practice” games of spring training. If you goof up, there are less severe consequences. Practice, practice and practice so that when the “real” season starts and you need to use your new, improved behavior in a key situation, you are ready to go!
Choose and Coach Your Team
In spring training, coaches and the manager are evaluating numerous players in order to select the team for their opening day roster. The manager also starts to identify his opening day batting line-up. As a leader in business, a critical part of your success is picking the right people and putting them in the right roles. Understanding each individual’s strengths and how to line them up for team success based on goals for the team is a key for your success. As a leader and coach, you’ll likely benefit if you consistently coach your team on how they can improve. If you fine tune your skills, that’s great, however if you coach your entire team up, the benefits are exponential!
Finally, remember to have fun during your “spring training.” Our work lives can be similar to a baseball season – long, grinding, with a lot of hours invested in it. It’s good for our psyche to have fun along the way!