11/01/2012 10:04 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Baseball and Business


As the San Francisco Giants and the Bay Area celebrate their second World Series victory in three years with a parade just a couple of blocks from our office, I can't help but think of the characteristics that made the Giants great and how they can be applied to business.

A key trait is how the Giant players sacrificed individual goals for the common good. Here's a team that finished last in home runs yet did the little things in baseball that helped them score runs; a team that lost key players during the season but had total faith in those that replaced them. And the team grew closer together and more confident as a result. All through the playoffs during interviews, I noticed how the Giants spoke more about what they could achieve collectively as opposed to individually. They displayed a willingness to step into any role necessary to succeed; the most obvious example being All-Star pitcher Tim Lincecum, who moved from struggling starter to stunning reliever in the playoffs. In business, it also often comes down to teaming and how individuals come together that drives success. It certainly pays to interact, communicate and promote teamwork above all.

Another key trait is focus and execution. I saw it in the Giants. Take relief pitcher Sergio Romo, for example. During a post-game interview after Game 2 of the World Series, Romo was asked whether he was focused on the fact that that one of the best hitters in baseball, Miguel Cabrera, would bat if Romo didn't retire the Tigers in order to win the game. No, he said, without hesitation. He told the viewing audience that he was focused on each batter, on each pitch, one at a time. It's a great reminder for business. Great teams and individuals avoid distractions and tightly focus on the immediate task at hand. This isn't a matter of not having a sense of the "big picture" or the greater objective. It's precisely the opposite. It's understanding that to achieve the strategic objective, requires laser-focused execution on each tactic, each step.

And success in business, like success for the Giants, comes down to leadership. For it is leadership that helps the team jell and leadership that fosters a culture that allows (and inspires) the team to execute. I admired Bruce Bochy, the Giants manager, for the job he did. In the postgame interview after Game 2 of the World Series, he was asked about the significance of winning the first two games in the best-of-seven Series. Bochy calmly said it means we are up 2-0. Bochy was exhibiting leadership. He was telling all, including his team, that the Giants were only halfway to an objective. In essence, like a good leader, he was determined not to bask for one minute on current success but to continue to stay the course until ultimate success is achieved.

I watched the Giants from beginning to end and was definitely not surprised by the outcome, even though the Detroit Tigers were heavily favored. I saw how Bochy pulled them together, how he welcomed and encouraged his coaches and others to contribute, and I saw how the players reacted to his ways. He had a good steady hand over the course of a long 162 game season, and the Giants' players believed in him and in each other. It was a fitting and exciting outcome.