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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Johnston

Lessons In Teamwork: Expectation vs. Reality of Ontario’s Best Baseball team

Updated: Jan 15, 2021

It should be noted that Ontario only has 1 official MLB team. It is, therefore - by default - the best. This post has been captured from an article written in 2015, when the Jays were at the end of one of their hottest seasons since winning the world series.

DISC personality profiles has a strong history with Major League Baseball: it was Dr. Robert Rohm, founder of Personality Insight Inc. who was consulted to help draft the original Arizona Diamondback team roster, in 1996, based on their personality styles. 4 short years later, they were the fastest team in history to win a World Series. But what does baseball have to do with my team at work?

When it comes to teamwork, the answer is “everything”. Here are 7 lessons from Ontario’s best baseball team that will help improve the dynamics in teams across your organization.

1.Your past does not determine your future.

At the beginning of this [2015] season, it had been over 20 years since The Jays won the World Series, or even made it to the playoffs. But that didn’t matter, because every season is a fresh start; another chance to go all the way. In business, when do we ever look at our team with new eyes, or give them the opportunity for a fresh start? How often do we judge our team by their past failures?

Sometimes what’s needed for a team to succeed is to wipe the slate clean and start anew, without the limiting beliefs we’ve come to impose as leaders. You don’t have to wait for a change in management or a reorganization of headcount – give your team the benefit of a new beginning and see how well they can perform this season.

2.Your team on paper doesn’t always equal your team on the field.

The Jays set up their roster to include talented players with a variety of skills. They literally, and figuratively, need to cover all their bases. But building a great roster isn’t unique to their 2015 season, so what makes the difference between a team on paper and a team in the field? Any great sports fan will tell you, it’s ‘heart’. In the corporate world we might call this our team spirit or the culture of our organization. Having employees who can perform their roles well is only one piece of the puzzle …. how those members work together as a team is a whole other ballgame, so to speak.

If your team synergy is at an all-time low, your team’s performance is unlikely to measure up to playoff standards. Don’t brush off employee engagement or team-development training as an HR-mandated box to check: improving your team dynamics is a huge indicator of how your team performs in the field, and it could mean the difference between winning and losing.

3. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit.

Despite opposing ideas around this long-standing sentiment involving teams at work, there’s still validity in holding this mindset, to an extent.

On a team where players make millions of dollars each season, The Jays locker room would be an ideal breeding ground for egos to run amok. A pecking order could easily develop, based on who makes the most money, who scores the most runs or who hits the most RBIs. But if you asked The Jays players “Who was the MVP of your team this year?” they’d likely all have a different answer. One person alone cannot make the playoffs. Sure there were some great hits and well positioned catches, but they won each game as a team.

In some organizations, we hang our hat on years of service or hours logged at our desks, when neither of these aspects of an individual’s effort equals a ‘win’ for the goals of a team. Are you encouraging your staff to share their personal wins with their teammates? Or does your group’s performance rely on the mentality of ‘everyone for themselves’? When a group begins to share the credit for their success, it’s amazing how much they can accomplish!

“One person alone, cannot make the playoffs!”

4. The further you go, the more fans you’ll gain.

Every sports team has their diehard fans – those who cheer them towards success regardless of how well –or poorly- they’re performing each season. What each team also has are even more people who just don’t care; they have no vested interested whether that team wins or loses. But if you spend all of your time and energy convincing the latter group of your potential to win, that doesn’t leave much time and energy for you to play a winning game.

Throughout the season, The Jays gained more and more fans. And while those of us in this camp may be referred to as ‘band wagon fans’, our enthusiasm and energy still added to the celebrations - and the franchise profits - nonetheless! By the end of game 6 against Kansas City, The Jays held the entire nation as their captive audience; millions upon millions of supportive, excited fans, standing behind them and wishing for their success. But if they’d started their season with the primary goal of recruiting fans, rather than practicing and playing the game of baseball, I doubt they’d have made it to the first round of the East Division.

Is your team focused on convincing others of their success versus actually working towards succeeding? And if you’re a leader, what part do you play with regard to answering the previous question?

5. The team you start with isn’t always your team at the end.

If office teams were like sports teams, we’d see our employees change roles/teams/companies a lot more frequently. But since the majority of organization are not members of professional sports leagues, we don’t always get the opportunity to frequently change roles … or when we do, we don’t always know how best to lead this new team, with its fresh set of skills and lack of synergy. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ever change up our players!

There are many dynamics required to make a team work well; sometimes, this requires us to change the actual players and sometimes is simply requires us to develop new skills. Every person on your team should add value – even the newest recruit.

Consider this; Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays closer this season, was a rookie who wasn’t even born when the Jays last won the World Series. Think about who you may be overlooking on your team? Which players need to be moved around, in order for everyone to shine? What skills does your team require to reach a productive level of team synergy or improve their overall team dynamics?

6. A team and a group, are two distinctly different things.

In the book Organizational Behavior: A Skill-Building Approach the authors describe a group as “...3 or more people who work independently to obtain organizational goals.”

Check out the book for the full definition, but suffice it say the authors’ definition of a team focuses on the collective of individuals working towards a common goal.

Using individual skills for the success of the collective (aka the team or even the organization) is hugely vital to the success in the workplace. And yet how often is workplace performance based on the individual accomplishments of employees? Perhaps that’s exactly why professional sports teams are such an excellent case study for this: even the top player with the highest ranking and best individual stats will swiftly get traded if they do not prioritize the success of the team over their own goals. The same cannot usually be said for the corporate landscape.

With this differences in mind, does your organization support an environment for teams to thrive, or is it structured around group work?

7. Even when you lose – you can still win.

Even with all these lessons in team work, there is no such thing as a guaranteed win. Every team encounters obstacles and hurdles that will sometimes result in a loss. When this happens in sports, they can fall back on that classic line from the movie The Bad News Bears:

“…. Just wait till next year!”

Fortunately, in the workplace, the level of competition is not so stiff; when teams are unable to hit their targets, it may be considered a loss … but that doesn’t actually rule out a win down the road. Delays in timelines, increases in budget, although not ideal, do not eliminate the opportunity to still succeed. They are, however, indications that changes need to be made. Refer to lessons 1 through 6 and adjust accordingly!

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