Bill Treasurer, author of “Leaders Open Doors” and chief encouragement officer of Giant Leap Consulting, spent two days with the Pittsburgh Pirates during spring training. Although he was hired to help them with their leadership, he came away with five lessons he learned from the experience:
- Cultivate both current and future talent.
- Leadership is an action, not an idea.
- Be accountable for your own actions.
- Motivate with one or two inspirational messages, not a long-winded list of mottos.
- Be abnormal.
The first three lessons seem pretty straightforward — the kind of things you learn at sleep-away camp while doing trust falls and three-legged races — but the others are particularly interesting.
Anyone who has been tracking my blog posts knows that I love the movies, so here’s this post’s dose. How many long-winded locker room speeches do you have entirely committed to memory? How about single inspirational lines that mentors, bosses and coaches have uttered during those speeches? I can list a few right off the top of my head:
- “Failure is not an option,” from 1995’s “Apollo 13.”
- “Great moments … are born from great opportunity,” from 2004’s “Miracle.”
- “This is your time! Now go out there and take it!” also from “Miracle.”
- “There’s no crying in baseball!” from 1992’s “A League of Their Own.”
- “It is not this day. Today we fight!” from 2003’s “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.”
Yes, many of these come from longer speeches, but it’s the little nuggets that stick with us. As Treasurer saw while with the Pirates, the same goes for how leaders can inspire their followers. And, of course, this can also apply to learning and development. As Treasurer put it to me in an interview, it can be more effective to give learners “a shot of vitamin L — vitamin Learning” than inundating them with a load of information at once. Usefulness and immediate application matters.
He knows this from experience. Before arriving in Pirate City, he was asked to cut his typical 90-minute presentation to half an hour, then down to 15 minutes.
“When you’re forced into quick motivational bytes like that, you get to the essence of what really matters,” he said. “It’s better when we can have a quick burst of an essential truth that can motivate a person at the moment they need it as opposed to showing up and throwing up everything we know.”
The last lesson Treasurer lists is the most interesting, however. To him, winning is not normal – only one team in the league can win the World Series, and that makes them an anomaly. The same goes for leading a winning organization.
“By definition, ‘exceptional’ is an outlier,” he said. “My experience has been that it only takes about 10 percent more than the next guy to be that much more above average.” The Pirates, he said, work to improve by a 10th of a percent every day, and that slow but steady improvement accumulates over time to make an organization successful in its actions and development.