Very few people get to throw the final pitch to win a World Series. Even fewer get to throw a called strike that wins the World Series. Kansas City Royals closer Wade Davis has done both, but the exhilarating moment of victorious glory comes to very few people in his position. Such is the merciless job of a major league closer. There are many positions in baseball that have ties to business philosophies: outfielders who can’t let the amount of time they spend standing around impede their ability to act quickly in high-stakes situations, first basemen needing to adjust to making the catch no matter where the ball is coming from, or managers needing to hire the best people, instill a team philosophy, measure results, and then get out of the way.
But the closer is in a unique position of having almost all of the responsibility with very little of the control. And there are things that anyone who wants to be on a winning team, in baseball or business, can learn from the way Wade Davis handles himself on a day-to-day basis.
Here are a few:
A) What’s not your fault can still be your problem.
Countless times in the Royals’ 162-game regular season, Wade Davis will be called into the game in tough situations, possibly with the winning run on, bases loaded and nobody out.
Is that situation Wade Davis’ fault? Nope, but it is his problem, and his team is looking for him to provide the solution.
When you begin to tackle an issue within your business, either for a client or internally, whether or not you are at fault is completely irrelevant. Wade Davis doesn’t ask Salvador Perez why he didn’t try to pick off the runner in the 4th, he doesn’t chide Lorenzo Cain for not diving for that playable catch in the bottom of the 7th, and he certainly doesn’t ask the day’s starter or middle relievers why they put him in this situation – he just goes in and throws strikes. The situation is whatever the situation is, and when a problem occurs in business, the job is to solve it, not explain or assign blame.
B) Do YOUR job, not everyone else’s job.
Davis doesn’t come into the game and try to be anything but a pitcher. He doesn’t take crazy fielding risks, or give instructions to the defense about how to position themselves. He’s not there to coach, he’s there to pitch, and he trusts the rest of his teammates to do their respective jobs as well. Within a business, sometimes trying to do too much confuses people. If it’s someone else’s job to follow up with clients, an email from you both removes someone else from their accountability and disrupts the group dynamic. If you do it once, whose responsibility is it next time? Be clear on YOUR role in the situation. It’s a fine line. Be willing to help, but don’t overstep. Professionals don’t like that, at any level.
C) Your save is someone else’s win.
At the end of the day, Wade Davis is not only responsible for solving problems that his teammates may have created, but also for preserving their successful offensive and defensive efforts throughout the game. A baseball game, or a work project, isn’t over until it’s over and it’s your responsibility to make sure that the early successes were not achieved in vain. True leaders love to see others succeed. Identifying a problem in the contract for a colleague? Your save, his/her win.
Sure, being a major league closer is often a thankless job, but the skills and discipline it requires are powerful, valuable, rewarding and necessary both on the diamond and in the office. And while contributing to the success of your business may never give you the opportunity to douse yourself in champagne and ride in a parade, it does offer you the chance to learn, grow, and triumph no matter what life brings to the plate.