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Another Management Lesson from Red Sox Nation

I confess. I am an avid Red Sox fan and spend considerable (OK, probably too much) time every week watching not only the games, but also the pregame and postgame (only if they win, of course) shows. A side benefit of watching the interviews before and after the game is that I have so many opportunities to learn valuable lessons about managing employees from a very knowledgeable manager, Tito "Terry" Francona.

Here is a recent example:
Back up catcher Doug Mirabelli was traded away during the off-season and then reacquired because of his usually phenomenal ability to catch pitcher Tim Wakefield's fluttering knuckleball. Commenting on Mirabelli's three passed balls in one inning that led to a run in a game against the archrival Yankees, Francona said, "When you see balls getting by Dougie, you know that ball is moving pretty good."

This is typical of the way Terry manages to say positive, upbeat and reassuring when talking about his players. He always says positive things about and to his employees—even just after they have pitched a horrific game, when they are in the midst of a terrible batting slump or when they exhibit unsportsmanlike behavior on the field. He makes sure his players feel appreciated and supported by him. I believe it helps them to become better players.

Terry is a rarity among managers in any type of organization. Most are much more likely to say negative, rather than positive, things about their employees. They make these negative comments both directly to employees as well as behind their backs. This typically exacerbates rather than improves a bad situation. Employees who are criticized only occasionally feel unsupported, anxious and stressed. As a result, their attitude and performance suffers.

What to do:

1. Communicate the positives

Make a list of positive things about each of your employees and then make it a point to tell them frequently how much you appreciate their work and why.

2. Make sure “never is heard a disparaging word”
Make it a practice to NEVER utter a bad word about employees to their coworkers. Bad-mouthing will get back to your employees and they will becoming demotivated. Keep negativity to yourself.

3. Catch people in the act of doing well
Behaviorists have proven that positive reinforcement is most effective when it occurs immediately after the behavior that you are trying to encourage. Don't wait until performance review time to praise an employee; say something right away.

4. Don't rush to judgment
When an employee does something wrong, a good managers withholds judgment and gives the employee the benefit of the doubt. For example, if an employee arrives late to work one morning, instead of immediately thinking negatively about the employee (e.g., he's lazy, he doesn't care about his work or he just can't be trusted), probe to learn more about the situation so that you can understand it from the employee's perspective (e.g., my car broke down, my child was sick or traffic was unusually bad).

Even if you’re a Yankees fan, take a lesson from the Red Sox skipper. Stay upbeat and positive when managing your employees. Communicate the positives, catch them in the act of doing good things, don't "dis" them and don't rush to judgment. Make this your management mantra and you won't have to wait another 86 years to become a champion.