Playing Leadership ‘Small Ball’ to Win!

Abundance Gratitude Personal leadership


Key Point: Perhaps people spend too much time looking exclusively for the big wins to advance their careers. Certainly, exposure and a proven reputation for achieving great results are important and ultimately necessary for career progression. However, so many people have their head on a swivel looking for that big hit or connection that they might not give sufficient attention to the many little things that differentiate themselves on value. In baseball, the equivalent is playing “small ball,” concentrating on doing all the basics versus mostly trying hit the home run.

I recently read comments from two married couples celebrating 81 and 88 years of marriage (Yup, no typo… More than 80 years living with the same person) :). While no one really knows the formulae for marriage success these days, one common thing in these two relationships was “playing marriage small ball,” attending to the respectful little things between each other.

I believe the same opportunity applies to leadership. People may not give doing little stuff the attention required. It’s like an athlete that doesn’t fully compete until the whistle blows, finish line crossed, or practice ends etc. The last few minutes or steps of any process are often most important, and for some reason (usually mental), we pull back or step out rather than up. Let me give you a few very practical examples:

1. You come home tired and you haven’t given anyone recognition for a few days, but instead of hitting the couch, you take time to write out three recognitions.

2. You are going to a company holiday party and you know how much energy it takes to be present. You want to rest on the taxi ride to the event, but you take out the email and go through everyone’s names again.

3. You know how important it is to acknowledge people personally… You see an article in a newspaper that could be very valuable to a colleague…it’s a distraction to your Sunday reading, but you find the link, and forward it to them… Etc, etc… All just wee examples of “playing leadership small ball.”

Character Moves:

  1. Ask yourself how good you are at leadership “small ball?” Are you always looking to add just a little more value without expecting reciprocation? Or do you find that too mentally exhausting? Why?
  2. If you think it’s of use, consider playing just a little more “small ball” in your business and personal life. I’m not talking about anything too obsessive but just a few more things to finish the “daily game” on a high note. Finish strong. Identify five or six practical examples for yourself and just do it.
  3. Remember not to expect anything in return. Be a “giver” not a “matcher,” as Adam Grant advises. Enjoy the satisfaction of adding more value to other people every day in little ways too. Like I say, “you’re worth it.”

Playing small ball in The Triangle,