Executive Coaching

Baseball and Business, Vignette #2

Clayton Kershaw

For those that don't know him, he is the absolute best pitcher on the planet. And, that is not an opinion. At age 28, he has won three Cy Young awards, given to the best pitcher in each league, leads the league in strikeouts, era, complete games. Basically, he is the best of the best.

So often in life we admire leaders and high performers and think, wow, they are just so talented. It must be in their genes. It's not our fault, after all, we didn't notice Clayton Kershaw when he was 16 years old, eating, sleeping and drinking baseball. We didn't notice Steve Jobs when he was sitting in his parent's garage in Palo Alto, California trying to make something.

We noticed them after they arrived and after they put in their 10,000 hours.

The thing that is fascinating about Clayton Kershaw, and that is most important to learn from his example, is that the best of the best, don't just rely on talent and charisma once they get there.

We see Clayton Kershaw pitch every fifth day, for 4 months in the summer, what we don't see is that he has planned out every other aspect of time he is not pitching. His entire life is oriented around being an excellent pitcher for two hours, every fifth day. To see some of the insanity of his routine, check out this article from ESPN.com.

The learning is, in Baseball or in Business, it's not an accident that you show up and perform well. Great business leaders and high performing athletes, have created a habit of giving themselves exactly what they need in order to show up at their highest and best self to perform their job.

For some people, like Clayton Kershaw, it's a strict 5 day cycle of routine when he's pitching down to the shorts he wears on game day. For Steve Jobs, it's things like wearing the same black turtleneck and blue jeans so he no longer had to spend energy on deciding what to wear.

For me, it's often getting my favorite coffee in the morning, walking my dog and listening to an inspiring podcast.

What is it for you? What are the habits or routines that would have you showing up at peak purpose and effectiveness when it matters?

Work/Life Balance... Blah, Blah, Blah

Work/Life Balance is one of the biggest buzz words in the human resources and leadership circles these days, and one that I most often causes me severe cringing when I hear the words. Why do I cringe? Because so often the conversation is so surface level, it doesn't address the systemic root of the problem. And by not addressing the root of the issue, it often leaves people dismissing the very idea of "Work/Life Balance" as some kind of woo-woo, out of touch concept with real leaders, who are up to real things.

Here's what Work/Life Balance is not about. It's not about spending equal times at work and at home. It's not about only working 9-5 and never working on weekends or after hours. It's not about out of office responders or vacation days or holidays.

What it is about, is learning to create a balanced experience of life where your actions at work and at home are driven by your commitment and intentions.

So often, people are driven by their fears at work and at home, rather than honoring who they intend to be at work and in life.

At work, people are constantly living in fear that they haven't done enough. They fear that if they haven't done enough, they will lose their job or lose favor. In order to combat that fear and guilt, they work harder and harder. The deeper the fear, the harder they work, the less balance.

Living with the idea that whatever they do, it is never good enough, there is no amount of working that will be enough. This creates an imbalance at work where the drive for action at work isn't getting the job done, it's about combating the feeling that one isn't doing enough. This creates an endless and exhausting cycle.

At home, similar feelings come up. There is basically no amount of being enough. I've seen this so often with parents who work full time. Of course they are committed to being great parents, but typically, they create perfect ideals about who they would be if they were a perfect parent; And then measure themselves by this unrealistic perfect standard.

The result is that people feel like they aren't good enough at work or at home. They feel like they are losing on both fronts. The best it gets is feeling successful in one area and poor in another area. And, it all ends up feeling like a big juggling act, where the balls could all drop the moment you let your focus and attention slip.

Creating real work/life balance is essential to being a great leader and building winning organizations. However, it's not about surface level issues of time off and email hours, although those can help.

What it's really about is learning to trust yourself and to work at creating a loving and empowering relationship to yourself. Work/Life Balance is about creating a sense of trust and confidence in yourself, focusing on the big picture commitments and letting go of the constant sense of doubt, fears and guilt that you aren't enough.

We Were All Kids Once

We were all kids once, and then we turned into adults. I'm not sure when it is, that we suddenly decide that we are no longer children and that other's are no longer impacted by the way they were raised.

The magic number in America is 18 years old, where you are then awarded the title of adult. Which is pretty funny, because the 18 year olds I've met, are still very much shaped and molded by their childhood experience.

Somewhere along the way, 18 turns into 25, which turns into 34 which turns into 40.

And somewhere along the way, we stop having empathy for where people came from, how they were raised and the life experience that had them see the world the way they do.

It's impossibly naive to believe there is a magic transition that occurs between childhood and adulthood that cures you of the impact of your childhood.

As a leader, it's important to know this about yourself, your followers and your own leaders. The behaviors that you dislike most in others, are typically an affect of some trauma they experienced in their life.

Nobody comes into the world distrusting, defensive, unaware, controlling, abusive, disconnected, dominating or disrespectful.

And, through many years of experience in connecting with people at the deepest levels, hearing their stories and their heartbreaks, the two most valuable things I've learned:

1. The more extreme or out of bounds the behavior is, the more level of pain, trauma or abuse they have experienced... EVERY SINGLE TIME. 2. Whatever the thing is that annoys you about a person, they typically already know this about themselves and beat themselves up for it 10 times harder than you ever could.

So the thing is, we were all kids once and then we got older. We are all still incredibly shaped by our childhood experience. Many people have experienced incredible trauma, and it all manifests in many different ways.

Having an understanding of what shaped the people you work with can give you new ways to access their greatness and effectiveness.

And, it will make you a much better leader.