Saturday, October 29, 2011

3 Association Leadership Lessons from World Series Champs

I watched from my hotel room in Columbus as the St. Louis Cardinals finished the unbelievable ending of their amazing 2011 season by winning their 11th World Series championship (their 3rd since I've lived in St. Louis). This morning I realized that associations (and other organizations) can learn at least three valuable lessons from the Cardinals season and their 2011 World Series championship.
1. Never Give Up
The story will be told for generations. Before the first pitch of their season, star pitcher Adam Wainwright went down with season-ending arm troubles. The Cardinals struggled most of the season losing a whole lot of games in the final innings. New players arrived in mid-season trades but failed to get the team going. Yet, they didn’t give up. Back 10½ at the end of August, they started an improbable run. They became the Wild Card team on the last game. In Game 6 of the World Series, they were behind two runs in the bottom of the 9th and down to their last strike when a triple scored two to tie the game. In the bottom of the 10th, they were again down by two with two outs and two strikes when a hit scored two.

As your organization tries new tactics or struggles to get through the “Dip” (a Seth Godin term), do you give up or struggle through?

2. Work as a team
Yes, the Cardinals have Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter and other stars. But Pujols and Carpenter struggled early. Ryan Franklin, their “closer” at the beginning of the season was so bad that the Cardinals finally released him. Yet, in their improbable run to the Championship, other players (so-called role players) stepped up and kept the run alive. Other than his historic Game 3, Pujols struggled at the plate. All-star Matt Holliday wasn’t hitting, got picked off third in Game 6 and couldn’t even play in Game 7.

As you organization works on its strategic goals, are you engaging everyone on your team (volunteers, leaders, executives and staff)? When some struggle, are others willing and able to step in?

3. Trust your younger generation

MVP David Freese, Allen Craig and a host of other 1st and 2nd year Cardinals represent the Generation Y members of your association and leadership team. The Cardinals played them during the regular season and they came through when the championship was on the line. If the Cardinals had relied only on the “older generation,” they would not have made the playoffs. Did you watch the player interviews and count the number of times the younger players mentioned how they valued example (work ethic) and mentoring of the older players?

Is your organization engaging a younger generation of volunteers, leaders and staff? Are you trusting them in key situations? Are your “older” volunteers, leaders and staff providing examples and mentoring the new generation?

Well, it takes a lot to be a champion. What other lessons have I missed?

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