Contact Hitter

Tony Gwynn

I’ve been thinking a lot about baseball recently. More accurately, I’ve noticed myself using a lot of baseball metaphors. I think it started a few weeks back when I took a swing for the fences and ended up hitting a run-like-hell-and-barely-beat-the-throw-to-second double. Since then I’ve been working out some ideas on impact, progress and change. My conclusion is that real change only happens one single (one bunt?) at a time.

When it comes to lasting change – in an individual or in an organization – there is no such thing as a home run. One swing can certainly determine the final outcome of a ballgame but it’s all the pitches, catches, strikeouts, walks, steals, tags, slides, rundowns, pop-flys, groundouts, hits and errors taken together that make it a complete game. You don’t get the chance to end it unless you’ve gone through everything that must come before. And, sometimes, just when you think it’s about to end it just keeps on going (witness Yankees v. Angels in Game 2) and you need to find yet another way to bring it to a close.

Unlike a ballgame, however, for each of us and for any organization that is “built to last” there is no final out. Our ballgame is about sustainable results over time. Trying to accomplish that with one big swing is just poor strategy, a recipe for short term growth and long term decline.

My new mantra is to “hit for contact.” To develop as I hope to and to influence change in my company, I am focused on each distinct opportunity, each conversation and interaction. How can I advance this runner? Wha’s the best way to get on base in this situation? How can I just put the bat on the ball in this moment?

Post script: baseball actually is the best example…just think of what’s become of Bonds, McGwire and Canseco.

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