Summertime Lessons – Part 1
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

Summertime is such a special time in Central New York. The temperatures are mostly ideal, the grass is beautifully green, the sky is brilliantly blue, and the lakes, well the lakes are magnificent. Life is more relaxed, and the boys of summer are playing their games. Yes, this year took a bit longer, but we finally got to see those perfectly manicured diamonds trimmed with white chalk. As a lifelong Yankee fan, life is good.

Another great thing about summer is that my reading is more casual. This summer, thrilled that the great American pastime is working its way through a modified season, I am reading The Yankee Years by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci. I just love the inside stories as Joe Torre recalls his time managing the Yanks. Mind you, I am only about twenty percent into the book, and the leadership lessons are already so good. Joe had the challenge of leading superstars, role players, coaches, and one of the most outspoken owners in the history of the game.

The first lesson that jumped out at me came from this statement Torre made, “If you want commitment, you need to start with trust.” When the Yankees hired Joe, he was the team’s fourth choice. The others that were offered the job wouldn’t take it. So this 55 year old manager with a losing record, who had been fired by the NY Mets, Atlanta Braves, and St. Louis Cardinals, had a real challenge ahead of him. How would he be able to get the commitment from players and owners with a less than impressive record? His path was simple; earn their trust. Once the trust was in place, the commitment would follow.

Joe Torre is an excellent communicator. As I studied his interactions in the book, it became clear that his skills in communicating came from a high level of emotional intelligence. He knew how to read people and communicated differently with each person. He learned how to lean in and speak first with Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. He also learned how to make Steinbrenner feel valued. Something previous managers under Steinbrenner were not able to do. Torre also studied his players and communicated with them as unique individuals. He was learning what motivated them and what would stress them out. By mastering his communications with ownership, players, the media, and the fans, Joe Torre earned trust. Once he earned their trust, commitment followed. The result: 1,173 wins, six pennants, four World Series titles, and two American League Manager of the Year awards in 12 years at the helm. Not bad for the man they called “Clueless Joe” the day he got the job.

If you would like to hear more about the connection between trust and commitment, and how to increase both, please join Marisa Norcross and me for Episode 167 of The Next Page podcast.

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