Saturday, January 26, 2013

The 12-6 Self-Awareness of Barry Zito:
Getting A Grip and Letting It Rip  

Barry Zito is one of the truly insightful rare humans in baseball who comes from a spiritual orientation. And while surprisingly little management wisdom comes from most spiritual thinkers, thanks to Sarah Rich's lovely piece 6 Things Governments Can Learn from SF Giants Pitcher Barry Zito in Government Technology we can harvest some pretty good Management by Baseball lessons from him.

Plan on reading the whole piece, but here are a few quick hits.

...or in Zito's words
Focus on ‘What am I gonna do?’ Not, ‘What’s going to happen to me?’
In that moment, he suggests (and I agree) if you focus on past mistakes, you're likely to feel a primitive shame response that disrupts or at least diffuses what you can do right now. And when you do that, you undermine the amount of attention you can invest in dissecting or dealing with the siutation at hand.

The very act of over-focusing on "not making a mistake again" makes the feared mistake more likely to happen.

In Baseball, they refer to this skill as "Short Memory", and it enables the most competitive people in the world, who operate in the most relentlessly competitive zero-sum endeavor (much more challenging and accountable than corporate or most government environments), to continue to operate at high-performance levels even when events are temporarily falling apart around them.

Most experienced line managers who work in factory or assembly environments figured this out long ago, but those who work in white-collar office environments or in the military rarely act as though they've figured out Angus' Second Law of Talent: Everyone knows something valuable that you don't.

Rich's description of Zito's words shows the Second Law from a slightly different angle:
Zito said he felt like he had a lot figured out as a young baseball player, but as he got older, he realized that he could be surprised on a daily basis by a fellow player -- someone he didn’t think could bond with him -- but who would offer up some advice or bit of wisdom that would stick with him, "that I can take with me for years and years.”
Beyond Baseball, managers can turn even the most talent-laden teams into generic sweatshop mediocrity by not understanding Zito's insight. Most people (almost all of them outside physics labs or engineering groups) intuitively get that a manager thinks they don't have anything special to offer. Some check out at that point, some don't. But the knowledge that teammate has is very unlikely to ever get used to the organization's benefit.

If managers Beyond Baseball could work within Zito's insights for a few months, they'd find they be breaking their productivity norms AND their exceeding their
normal personal and team morale, too, as a side-benefit.

If you're not following Zito's Zen Syzygy, it's time to start.

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