Earn Your School a "W"

Lesley Fisher, Eklund Consultant, possibly without the blessing of Twin-fan Nate Eklund, explains how the success of the Chicago Cubs can help your school.  She might be biased about the Cubs, but she is correct on the (Cubbie) blue-print that can be used to help your school become a better place to work.

Disclaimer: I am writing this piece with the assumption that all readers are familiar with our 2016 World Series Champions, Chicago Cubs. If not, you should be.

Maybe you don’t know all the stats (like that the Cubs have won 200 games in the last two regular seasons), or you aren’t familiar with many of our players (Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta, Golden Glove Award defensive players, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo, and NL MVP 2016, Kris Bryant). Perhaps you even missed Grandpa Rossy’s HR in Game 7 of the World Series, making him the oldest player (and soon-to-be-retired after 15 seasons) to ever homer in a final World Series game.  But you’d have to be living under a rock-one of those rocks with lots of moss on top, buried in a bog, in some very far away, obscure location-not to know that The Chicago Cubs are doing quite well these days.

To what do we attribute this upswing? Is it that the curse has finally been broken after 108 years? That Bill Murray and Eddie Vedder’s celebrity catapulted us to victory?

How does an organization become this great, worthy of a World Championship, after so many years of underperforming? While we can’t deny that their current roster is impressive, the team has had multiple All-Stars in several previous seasons. There is a simple yet important reason the Cubs have (FINALLY) achieved success. Their most recent accolade, awarded this week by Baseball America, is the honor of 2016 Organization of the Year. A study of the leaders at the helm provides answers…and much wisdom.

Theo Epstein took over as President of Baseball Operations five years ago.

Having achieved previous success, he knew he needed to identify and secure key playmakers and up-and-coming hitters. Epstein set realistic expectations. He did not pretend that success would be achieved overnight. He asked the fans, and the organization, for patience. In time, we would build a team that could compete-and win-it all. Theo created an environment of promise…and change. Undoubtedly, his most important recruit was that of Manager Joe Maddon.

When the time comes to revolutionize, it is time for a revolutionary leader. After years of managers who couldn’t make much progress, Theo and Co. turned it upside down.

Maddon began applying unorthodox strategies right away. In addition to creating a unique team motto, giving players unexpected breaks (batting practice every three days?), and insisting on elaborate Halloween costumes for all, his style was not something the players, the fans, or the press were used to. 

In the dugout, on the field and during press conferences, Joe exhibits patience, exudes calm, and treats his players with respect. He is quick to praise and s-ll-ooo-wwww to point fingers. Even when they mess up. And that they do, even on this winning team.

Blinded by champagne in a Cleveland locker room following his team’s unforeseen World Series win (down 1-3 going into game 5, people!) Theo Epstein said it best: “There was a plan, but the people and their passion, that is how we got here.” As the camera panned the players, hugs and tears of joy were on display, and in the middle of it all was Joe. Joe, always quick to credit his players and the organization, was the one being celebrated this time.

You have the people. It is your job to flame the fire, ignite their passion. 

Players love to play. 

Teachers love to teach.

The Cubs have a line-up including All-Stars, veterans, rookies, and those who will likely be traded.

So do you.

Take a long look…How is your organization? Is it thriving? Drowning? Above water, a buoy, mindlessly floating back and forth, to and fro? Whether some fine tuning or a complete overhaul is in need, take some notes from Theo and Joe’s playbook:

1.  Embrace change!

Implement new ideas. If we expect our teachers to continue to learn, grow, and take risks, so, too, must their fearless leader.

2.  Whether your players are hitting it out of the park OR they are in the midst of a slump, be kind.

Praise your people in public. Problem-solve together in private. Show support ALWAYS.

3. Switch up the batting order.

Show all of your people you believe in them. Enlist the talents of all, even those who are reluctant to volunteer.

4. Support the veterans as they mentor the rookies. 

Your new hires are exciting, they have a special place in your heart, but don’t negate the important tone that the veterans set for all staff, or the historical perspective they offer.

5.  Don’t forget about your fans.

Your community wants you to be successful. Share your dreams, hopes, and concerns with them. Keep them close. Listen to them. Empathize. 

On a crisp November morning, an estimated 5 million fans- the Cubs’ community-crowded into the streets and Grant Park for a parade and rally to celebrate with their World Champions. 

One day, perhaps soon, there might be a parade in your own hometown. The community will pour into the streets, donning the colors of their beloved neighborhood school, basking in the joy that is felt when administrators, teachers, students, parents, and community members achieve emotional and academic success. 

OK, so the celebration might be disguised as a passing of a referendum, a filling of a school board vacancy, a student crediting his school’s curriculum for preparedness in the real world, or by a teacher thanking her principal for, after years of waiting, being the leader she always wanted to work for-and with.