Like many fans in the bay area, our baseball teams inspired me this year.
The Giants and the A’s did a great job all year long and into the post-season, of thrilling fans, excelling at the physical demands of the game, and generally being good team players.
Here’s what I think your winery can learn from baseball.
The beard, The Bernie Dance, the freak, Ku-fu Panda, Green collar baseball, baby Giraffe and a rally thong. Baseball may have it’s
odd nicknames and superstitions, but you can’t say it doesn’t make it fun.
The point? Well, sometimes a group of odd men out make a better team than a group of highly decorated prima-donnas with initials after their names. And, more importantly, if everyone has to come together as a whole, to succeed, it breeds a culture where everyone feels like a part of a team, rather than an individual struggling on their own.
During harvest, it is even more important for your staff to feel a part of the winery team. Your employees will keep motivated when they’re putting in 10-hour days if they have a supportive and inclusive environment. Second, nothing is more gratifying to an employee to be able to answer obscure questions from customers, or provide behind-the-scene tidbits to guests.
So, maybe your tasting room team has very different personalities than the accounting department or the cellar crew – everyone on the team provides value and has a special skill to bring to the team. Which brings me to…
Not everyone is the starting pitcher. Sometimes you’re the pinch hitter brought in for left hand closers…but you’re on the roster for a reason. As managers, we need to recognize, appreciate and put teams together so we fill in each other’s gaps.
And, if you’re not a manager, push your management to look at the overall team vision and then let it go and focus on your role and the task at hand. Even if you’re asked to bunt or sacrifice a fly when you know you can hit it out of the park, trust that at that time, with that customer, there is a plan.
Moneyball is an easy analogy here, but statistics are just as important to baseball as they are to a winery tasting room. The beauty of baseball is that when you break down the team, and know everyone has a box to check, then the logical next steps is that every role has its own metrics.
Personally, I want to work in a world where if you’re right 30% of the time you’re a rock star, but, we’re not that lucky. (Although a 30% Wine Club sign up percentage would be nice, wouldn’t it?) And you might say that such tough attention to detail in metrics is stressful, but I think someone like Barry Zito would disagree. Zito, who at the beginning of the year was one of the most maligned players on the giant’s for poor performance in relation to his big salary turned around public opinion simply by focusing on, and improving, his numbers.
Anyone watching the last A’s game against Detroit was sad when they lost the ALDS after pulling many miracles out of their ball caps. But what was truly tear-jerking was not watching the Tiger’s celebrating on the field, but the standing ovation the crowd gave the A’s – so much so that they got the team back on the field from the dugout and their cheers usurped the Tigers celebration. This is in stark contrast to the Dodgers’ fans that can’t even be bothered to stay to the end of a winning game. Perhaps the ‘blockbuster” buy of high-priced players that didn’t try their hardest mid season could be a reason.
The learning here is if you try hard, and treat your customers/fans with respect and honesty – they will be with you through thick and thin. You might have a bad harvest, or god forbid a fire, or a shortage, but if you don’t pose, or offer excuses or pretense, and try your best they will understand and support you.
Sports give us some of the most inspiring stories, don’t they? A young Buster Posey who was clawing the dirt in agony only 18 months ago with a blown out knee is now on track to win the league MVP this year.
Adversity struck the Oakland team in unimaginable ways this year, particularly at the end of the season. First, starter Brandon McCarthy was struck in the head by a line drive and needed emergency brain surgery, and then on the most joyous day of their year, when they closed out the Rangers on the final day of the regular season, they received the tragic news that reliever Pat Neshek’s newborn son had died suddenly.
But yet, they overcame, they played. They pulled together as a team.
It puts some everyday challenges in perspective, doesn’t it?
So, I leave you with these final thoughts.
First, don’t do steroids.
Second: I salute our bay area ball clubs and drink a toast to them for a great year.