77, 7’s and 1’s: sports and business thoughts


lots of 7's

lots of 7’s

Sports can remind us a lot of things about business. I am going to use this year’s Wimbledon and the return of Alex Rodriquez to make a couple of points.



This is about what we can learn from success and Andy Murray.


Andy Murray became the first Brit to win at Wimbledon in 77 years.

It was his 7th grand slam final.

He did it on 7/7.

And he is with his 7th coach <Ivan Lendl>.


When someone makes so many decisions and choices on a grand stage solo it is easy to suggest that ‘1’ created the success.

But it sometimes pays to spend a minute to discover how the ‘1’ got there and the road taken <and those not taken>.


Let’s talk business.

As a manager I would have looked at Andy’s resume and skills in the interview … and I <personally> would have hesitated to hire him.

Not because he wasn’t talented <because he has world class talent>.

But because I am relatively sure I would not have been a good manager for him. I struggle to explain to everyone why … but it is a gut thought.

And you know what?

Hiring is part gut.

77 all in the headOh.

And management isn’t always about managing talent and skills … but managing the head on the body that has that talent.


Andy is extremely talented.

But up until recently he just never seemed to get the results you would have expected from someone with such obvious talents <how often have we said this about one of our own employees?>.

What changed?

Ivan Lendl.

Andy has had 7 coaches <I am counting his mother> but until Ivan came along he was often categorized as ‘not living up to his potential <or talent>.”


Ok. Here is the business lesson … well … several.


How any times does an employee get fired because they <a> weren’t living up to their potential or <b> they were unmanageable? Answer: a lot.

How many times is the situation the manager’s fault? Answer: a lot.

Too few times a manager reflects upon their own management style as the issue. Sure. It takes some fortitude and character to suggest you, as the manager, is the one at fault. But that is part of being a leader and a manager.

If an employee is not living up to their potential I would suggest more often than not they are not being managed correctly.

I probably wouldn’t have hired Andy because I am fairly sure I would have managed him poorly.


I would have hired him in a second if I thought I could have placed him with a manager who COULD maximize his talent.

Just because you can manage, maybe even be a really good manager, does not mean you can manage anyone or everyone.




Whew. We get so impatient with employees in today’s business world. Even if they appear to have the talent and skills if they don’t perform now … well … ‘thanks for visiting’ … you are fired.

Andy didn’t win his first grand slam until he was in his 6th <I think>. Talent and skills … well … exceptional talent & skills just cannot be taught. The great ones just have it. Wasting ‘it’ because we are impatient for the results to match that talent is extremely short sighted.

Combine this thought with the first one and maybe you can save some great skills and talent from being underutilized or even fired <both represent missed opportunities>.


Moving on.



This is about employees and what we can learn from Alex Rodriguez.

This 1 guy has had about 7 crappy to average years out of the 9 years he has been a NY Yankee.

This is the guy who was arguably one of the greatest shortstops in baseball history … before he got to the Big Apple.



Last year when the Yankees were swept by the Tigers and failed to go to the World Series <but succeeded in being one of the 2 best teams in the American league> I watched the struggles of Alex Rodriguez I pondered the topic of effective <or ineffective> management of employees.


Let me begin by saying I would kill to have an employee like Alex.

He is extremely talented.

He has shown an excellent work ethic (steroids aside).

He has shown a willingness to accept a different role (despite already being a star at another).

He has shown growth in maturity as he has gained experience (listen to him speak now versus when he was young).

I say all that … but I would not have killed to have an employee like that if my office was in NYC and always under the scrutiny of America’s finest <citizens and media>.

Because I cannot help to think of the Alex Rodriguez legacy if he had never gone to New York and played for the Yankees. I personally believe he could have ended up one of the greatest shortstops, if not all time players, if he had stayed in Seattle or maybe even Texas but let’s just say a non-major media market.


So let’s discuss effective management of employees … employee management and being an effective leader.

As a leader your job is not only to lead but to maximize your employees. You need to put them in positions to be successful.


I will make this simplistic but there are 2 aspects to putting an employee in the ‘right’ position to be the best they can be:

– managing the employee (mentally)

– managing the environment the employee is within (tangible responsibilities).


–          Mentally.

Whether we like it or not … all the skills in the world are useless <or are not maximized> if the head is not screwed on right. I don’t care if we are discussing multi-million dollar athletes, multi-dollar accountants or multi-pennies by the day laborers. If you cannot get their head in the game … and in the right frame of mind … you <as a leader> will be frustrated … and they <as workers> will be dissatisfied.

That said … in managing the mental aspect … you cannot treat all employees the same.


But that is a truth … unless of course you get one employee cloned and they all think exactly the same.

I hate to use this metaphor … but it is like marionettes.

You tug a little here … you ease a little there … you adapt and be flexible sometimes … and rigidly steady others.

But that really isn’t my point.

My point is that for someone to be the best they can be … their head has to be in the right place mentally.

Simplistically they have to believe in themselves. Doubt has to be eliminated or surely limited.


Alex has surely made his share of mistakes but I could argue that his management didn’t do their job to <a> put his head in the right place, and <b> place him in situations where he could be successful given what was important to him mentally.


One of our responsibilities as a manager is to manage the head. It is silly to simply say “they are adults and we should expect them to act like adults.” You are shirking one of your responsibilities if you are being that simplistic.


–          The environment.77 spotlight

Simplistically … some employees are made for the big stage … some are not. Some are made to perform front and center on A stage … but never on the biggest of big stages.

And some are made to be on a stage … in the background.

And some are made to never be on the stage regardless of its size or situation.

It’s your job as a leader to recognize this. And not force the issue. People are what they are <within some boundaries>.


To me … Alex was made to be on center stage … in a non-marquee market.

Arlington Texas? Sure. Seattle? Awesome. NYC? Doh.

This is no slam on Alex … this is more a slam on management for not recognizing how to insure an extremely talented and skilled individual could be put in the optimal environment to maximize the skills at hand.


This is one of our responsibilities as a manager of people. Put employees in places and situations where they can be the best they can be.


I like to write these types of articles not only because I love sports and appreciate great talent & skills but also because I sometimes believe we overlook some lessons as we focus on ‘results’ <or the result of the moment>.

Andy’s result was awesome. He deserves all the accolades he is receiving. But behind the result is some good solid learning.

Alex’s results have overall been disappointing <as a NY Yankee>. It is easy to squarely place blame on his shoulders … and yet behind the results is some good solid learning.


I got to use 7. And that is my lucky number.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Written by Bruce