Last night, I went to my nephew’s baseball game. From where I was sitting, in an elevated position on the third base side of the field, it looked like some of the batters were taking rather poor swings at the pitches. Of course, had I bothered to move to a position behind the plate and level with the batter, I would have noticed that the pitcher had a pretty impressive curve ball. I couldn’t see that from my vantage point however, all I could see were the swings. As a leader, are you aware of how many curve balls your team is being pitched on a daily basis, or do you only notice that they aren’t getting as many hits as you expected?
In all likelihood, your team is dealing with a fair number of curve balls, change-ups, and drop pitches. They know how to hit the fastball. They know how to adapt to fluxuations in the strike zone. But sometimes, that curve ball is going to get them. When that happens, do you as the leader/coach yell at them to keep their eye on the ball and try harder? Do you shout the standard words of encouragement from your perch on the hillside? Or, do you investigate what is really going on so you can help your team member respond more effectively in the next at bat.
It’s easy to say “of course” you would want to see first-hand what is going on, but do we really? After all, leaders have their own curve balls they are trying to deal with, they are working on the line-up for the next inning/big project, they are talking to players about how to adjust their position in the field, never mind all the chatter and advice from the crowd that is going on in the background. Can’t your players just figure it out and hit the stinking ball?
Sometimes, really seeing what your people are dealing with is hard. You have to put the four other things you are thinking about on hold to focus on helping your players identify the adjustments they can make to predict, and effectively respond to, the inevitable curve ball. That may mean you need to change your perspective so you can see the situation more clearly, or ask them about their experience rather than assume that you know what happened. There could be any number of variables affecting their performance that you could be totally unaware of unless you ask.
It is hard to see a curve ball from afar. So get in there, support your team, let them learn from your experience. Helping your players hit the tough pitches out of the park not only adds to the team’s score . . . it’s a leadership homerun as well.