With the Mets Opening Day win in the books, we had a chance to get some business and sports lessons from Rick Peterson. Rick has coached some of baseball’s best pitchers in the past 20 years, including Cy Young Award winners and Hall of Famers. He was the Oakland Athletics’ pitching coach during the famed “Moneyball” era and served as a pitching coach with the Mets, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Milwaukee Brewers. He and Judd Hoekstra are the authors of “Crunch Time: How To Be Your Best When It Matters Most,” which you can check out at www.rickpetersoncoaching.com.
Here are Rick’s thoughts…
As one of the eternal rites of spring’ Opening Day in professional baseball across North America, comes into focus, I think back to my previous 30 years as a professional pitching coach, from Oakland to Milwaukee to Baltimore and New York–and remember both the optimism and the challenges we felt as the pomp and circumstance took place, the stands filled, and the first pitch hit the catcher’s glove.
Every team, every athlete, every fan, thinks this may be the year.
Then again as we settle in, multiple questions would bubble up: Did we have the right combination of a winning culture, strategy and execution? Did we have the pitching, fielding and hitting to go all the way? The right mix of youth and veteran leadership? Did we have the depth to overcome potential injuries? Did we have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset?
Are we really doing all we can to be successful?
If all that sounds familiar, it’s because executives and leaders in any field have to deal with the same core opportunities, issues and challenges; Opening Day takes on a different meaning in every business.
The feelings are similar prior to initiating a sales year, launching a new marketing campaign or managing a multinational project. The prospects seem limitless, yet the pressures can be daunting and uncertain.
Coaching, teaching and learning are no different in any realm of business; from the board room to the locker room. After all, a major-league pitching coach is the ultimate One-Minute Manager, as described in Ken Blanchard’s best-seller. The pitching coach is the only uniformed person in any sport who goes on the field during a game to turn around a pressure situation. And he has only one minute to do it! The pressure in business may or may not be as pressing, but the stakes are similar. Millions of dollars are riding on the decisions we make — decisions that impact people’s jobs, competitive advantage and market impact.
As you may know, we have a new book that deals with the parallels between coaching on the field and coaching in work/life, and here are five tips from our book; Crunch Time: How To Be Your Best When It Matters Most.
5 Tips for Performing Your Best on your Personal Opening Day, and throughout your season of life:
1. Mindset is EVERYTHING
Your mindset profoundly affects the way you lead your life, and the success you will or will not achieve.
We all have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is one in which you view your perspective, opinions, talents and abilities as fixed. In other words, you are who you are, your point of view, intelligence and talents are fixed, and your mind is closed to new possibilities. Your fate is to go through life being “right” and avoiding challenge and failure. A growth mindset, on the other hand, is one in which you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress. Having a growth mindset encourages learning and effort. It leads you to embrace challenges and new opportunities.
With a growth mindset you can learn to reframe pressure or threatening situations into opportunities for success. Reframing is the skill of consciously and intentionally thinking about a situation in a new or different way. In “Crunch Time,” coauthor Judd Hoekstra and I share many examples of how reframing is used to overcome pressure situations.
2. Identify your Motivation
Our motivation is the precursor to our actions. Why we do something is more important than what we do. What we do is important, but why we do it is MOST important.
Motivation (n.): “the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.”
I try to challenge the people I coach to consider their motivations. We can ask ourselves, why am I doing this? Is my motivation to help or is it self-serving? Is my motivation to win or is it to be the best of who I am? Is it to make money only, or can we make money and make a difference in others’ lives? By asking ourselves these questions we can create a clearer pathway for our success.
3. Practice Chunking
Chunking refers to the process of breaking down a seemingly overwhelming lofty goal into smaller, bite-sized pieces. By creating a series of simple, short-term process goals linked to the larger outcome goal, you get to recognize success more frequently, which helps you relax in pressure situations. It’s the power of small wins. Small wins can boost our work/ life fulfillment tremendously.
In baseball, I would instruct my pitchers not to worry about the number of wins they wanted to achieve by the end of the season, but rather executing the very next pitch. Hit the Glove!! was our mantra.
Chunking is equally applicable in business. Take sales as just one example. Rather than focusing on the annual or quarterly quota, salespeople should instead think of the daily goal being the appropriate number of high-quality interactions with customers and prospects required to achieve the quota. A high-quality interaction is any interaction with a current or prospective customer that advances a sale and/or the relationship. That’s the salesperson’s Hit the Glove goal. If the salesperson simply focuses on having high-quality interactions with customers daily, he or she would make great progress toward putting a dent on the quota. Try chunking your goals and celebrate the small wins!
4. Relax your mind
All successful people — whether in business or sports — are calm and focused when pressure hits.
I use “mindfulness” as the umbrella term that includes a wide range of practices used to calm the mind and gain clarity of thought. Mindful practices can include guided meditation, prayer, journaling, physical exercise, even walking on a beach. Google offers a course called Search Inside Yourself which has become their most popular course for employees. They call the practice Relaxed
Concentration. Whether you call it mindfulness or relaxed concentration, the focus is on the level of our awareness or “being” not on what we are “doing”.
The busier we are, the more we need these practices. Just as an athlete needs down time to recover physically, so does the mind. Mindfulness allows our mind to relax from our chronic busyness, everyday pressures and helps us to think more clearly. Studies show that when we regularly practice mindfulness, we make better decisions, experience more calm and focus, sleep better and can even lower our blood pressure.
5. Acknowledge Successes
Many of us are so focused on what we haven’t done or need to do that we lose sight on what we have already achieved. Take time to acknowledge and celebrate the small progress you make. Make a list of what you’ve accomplished at the end of each day. You’ll probably be amazed at what you’ve done. This simple practice helps keep our minds focused on the positive. It boosts our confidence and happiness factor and goes a long way to contribute to our success.
So there you have it. Millions will go out and enjoy the Thrill of the Grass in the coming weeks, from Little League to the Big leagues. We all strive for success and hope to witness greatness in whatever we do and we hope these tips can help you score in whatever games you are taking on.