by Michael Sansolo
Here a blindingly obvious confession: I’m way, way short of perfect. I have some skills, but frankly I’m missing many others. Luckily for me, I’m surrounded by people (starting with my wife) who manage to fill in many of those gaps.
It isn't just me. Truth be told, we all can say the same things about ourselves. However, too often in business we see people, especially in highly visible positions, who act as though they possess all the talents to take on any problem of any kind. Somehow they portray this as strength, when in truth it’s a weakness and an awfully large blind spot.
Kevin and I got discussing this recently. We're both (loyal and oft-suffering) New York Mets fans, and we were bemoaning our team’s decision to hire Carlos Beltran, a once-great Mets player, as the team's new manager - despite his lack of any relevant experience. (More experienced and successful skippers went, of course, to other teams.)
What's interesting - and maybe even a little heartening - is the fact that Beltran is widely reported to want to add a previous Mets’ manager, Terry Collins, to his staff as bench coach. In doing so, Beltran may both be providing hope to fans and a great lesson in management.
Baseball managers, as the saying goes, are hired with the knowledge that they will someday be fired. No one keeps the job forever and, in truth, they usually keep it for a fairly short time. It’s a lucrative position, but comes with incredible pressures especially in the New York media market.
Beltran's desire to add someone with significantly more experience to his leadership team speaks to his awareness that he lack experience. By adding a former manager he gains someone who will be both his subordinate and his mentor, hopefully making him immeasurably better at doing his new job. That awareness also speaks to his personal confidence that having a more seasoned hand on his team will reflect well on him.
In addition, it speaks to his confidence that the organization sufficiently believes in him to allow this move.
(There's a pretty good template for this kind of decision - when Joe Torre took over the New York Yankees, one of his first moves was to recruit Don Zimmer as his bench coach. Fair to say they had a pretty good run together - four World Series championships.)
Now let’s take that to our own roles in business, leadership and management. The best leaders I have known have always bragged that they surround themselves with people better, smarter and more agile than themselves. Ironically, that might be the single best trait to look for in new managers, that awareness of their flaws and the need to mitigate those issues.
But let’s also think about whether we encourage and applaud managers to honestly admit and address their shortcomings or do we somehow inhibit them from doing just that. Sadly, the latter is more likely.
Carlos Beltran may or may not succeed as the Mets’ manager. (History doesn’t make me optimistic.) However, if he actually executes this plan of having a past manager at his side, he may well be delivering an excellent message in the importance of recognizing weaknesses and honestly addressing them.
That would be a home run for most managers, even far from baseball.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
- KC's View: