I’m a baseball fan and I have been all my life. From little league through high school, I’ve played a variety of positions, everything from catcher to outfield. There’s something about the mental aspect of how the plays and strategy come together that I’ve always loved. Spring is here, bringing with it the sweet sound of cracking bats and cheering fans.
I’ve learned a lot from playing and watching this game. Sure, I’ve learned proper hand position on the bat and how best to steal second base, but I also learned the importance of risk taking, team work, decision making, mentor advice, and attention to detail. Like I said before, baseball is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one.
Once I started working in a business office, I realized the approaches I learned on the field made for good employee skills that had a lot of overlap with business-world ideals.
That might seem like a reach, but I’ll explain.
Here are 5 good employee skills I learned from baseball:
The Sandlot is a classic in my mind for a lot of reasons, but mainly for the lessons it teaches. Several times throughout the movie, various characters have to take a risk to get the reward. If that isn’t a timeless small business lesson, I don’t know what is! Whether you have to face the beast on the other side of the fence to get your ball back or you finally set up that meeting that could change your career, the idea is still the same.
Too often we forgo risks in order to keep comfort. We convince ourselves we’re waiting for the opportune moment to make our move. It’s called a risk for a reason!
⌈”…follow your heart kid, and you’ll never go wrong.” – The Sandlot⌋
In business, you will need to take risks in marketing campaigns, business ventures, technology integration, and so on. A healthy dose of risk helps keep you and your small business alive and active. Being open to some risk and change is what will help you think outside the box to find solutions in a meeting or develop better ways to fulfill your potential customers’ needs. It sets you apart and makes you memorable.
You should be making calculated risks in your business decisions, but sometimes there is no 100% guarantee that a new customer, strategy, or idea will work. But then again, there’s no guarantee that it won’t either.
Thankfully in our business world today, major decisions and risks are often decided on by a team of people working together.
This is a pretty obvious connection between sports and the office, and an essential good employee skill in any industry. If you’re working in any capacity with others, you need to be able to work together efficiently.
Teamwork binds you and your peers together, fostering relationships and trust in each other. With more hands on deck, you can get more accomplished and find new and innovative ways to solve problems. Everyone in the group should be equally tasked and held accountable, and everyone should play a role in reaching the goal of the team.
If you’re already comfortable with those you’re going to be working with, together you’ll move like a well-oiled machine. More people means more resources, more strengths, and more talents that can benefit the whole. Working with others will bring conversations, perspectives, and ideas that are new and can open your small business to new opportunities. Your co-workers and employees are your small business’ greatest resource. Use them!
3. Decision Making
When you’re under pressure and in the moment, you need to make the call and give direction to your team that’s relying on you. Sometimes those decisions come from a group of individuals or just one person, but it will always affect everybody.
If everyone on your team is working towards the same goal or outcome, your decisions need to reflect that.
Many times when I was a short stop, I had to make split second decisions. Was I going to tag the runner or try to throw them out at the next base? Luckily, there is protocol for what decisions should be made in certain situations. In business it’s the same way. At some point, you’re going to need to make hard decisions and rely on your training to make the best ones.
The only way you’ll be able to make the right call in intense situations is through practice and consistency. Make your company ideals and standards a part of your workday and integrate them into your company culture. Get everyone in the office involved and on the same page so expectations are clear.
Pretty soon, rapid fire decision making will become second nature.
4. Mentor Advice
In many cases, successful individuals attribute their rise and mastery of good employee skills, at least in part, to a valued mentor or coach who took the time to invest in them.
Mentors have been down the road ahead of you and act as guides for those coming after them. They provide informal training and support that builds confidence and dedication in younger employees. Mentor relationships are often a win-win for everyone. The mentor is held accountable to high standards, the younger employee is giving a strong resource and example to follow, and the business they both work for then saves money on formal training and production costs.
Find an individual you trust or admire even and make an effort to talk to them. People are more open to talking and offering helpful advice than you might think. Seasoned professionals can offer actionable tips and advice to help you progress in your career and avoid some of the common pitfalls that people fall into.
Having a dedicated mentor is also a great networking opportunity you can tap into. Your mentor can be the “designated hitter” you use to start a relationship and touch base with someone new. And that cycle can continue on from there.
5. Attention to Detail
My last point is how easy it often is to skip over the the finer points.
Read that sentence again. Did you notice the double ‘the’? Acute attention to detail is a skill that needs to continuously trained and honed.
In baseball, you need to know your own team’s plays and the other team’s strategy and code signs. If you know ahead of time that the batter’s going to bunt, you can readjust your defense strategy accordingly.
Similarly, if you’re aware of the ins and outs of what your competitors are doing, you’ll be able to better prepare your business and marketing campaigns. Competitor research is crucial in the business world. If you’re going to be successful as a business, you need to know how to best market your services. You do this by finding out what your direct competitors are doing and them improving or putting your own spin on it.
There are several tools available to help you with your research. SEMRush, Google Analytics, and Google Console are the resources I use the most.
SEMRush has so many applications that it’s be hard to list them all here, but for competitor research their “Keyword Gap” and “Domain Analytics” tools are amazing. These tools let you compare and analyze the direct rankings, dollar amounts, and results of your competitors all in one place. Google Analytics and Console help you analyze data and see how it’s performing, so you can see the direct results of the changes you are making to your campaigns.
Competitor research allows you to see what has and hasn’t worked in the past for your industry. It also helps to keep your small business fresh by not repeating similar campaigns that have been done before.
Competition is what keeps your business senses sharp and focused. When it comes down to it, you and your competition are competing for the sale and the expertise you exhibit is what will eventually close the deal.
If you focus on the small details, as well as the big picture, you’re guaranteed to provide the best service to a potential customer. Dedication to the small aspects in business provides that human connection so many people lack in business relationships.
Business is a competition; it’s a game you need to know the rules to if you’re going to come out on the winning side. I’m grateful for the good employee skills I developed when I was younger that I can actually apply to my career today. The last lesson I’ve learned is that yes, the business world may be a competition and may be stressful and intense at certain points, but ultimately the point is to actually enjoy what you’re doing. That’s how you win every day.