This is Part 3 of My LinkedIn Series: Leadership Lessons from Little League
Baseball is interesting because players of all shapes and sizes can play any position. There can be a little bit of the body-sizing that happens in other sports, but not as much. When you see a baseball player, you tend to see a baseball player, not a type of player like a lineman or a wide receiver. To me, this translates into business as well. Physical appearance doesn’t mean much. As a society we’ve agreed that appearance should mean nothing. That doesn’t mean we don’t have biases; we just need to make sure we are aware of them, so they don’t trip us up. You might be able to “size someone up” but you can’t look into their heart and head to see their drive, their competence, or their enthusiasm.
What’s more, when someone is new at something, no one is competent. That takes time and effort. They may not even be “passionate” about that. It was Adam Grant who said, “Passion is a lagging indicator.” I agree with that. The kids learned to love their positions once they started getting good at them. Getting good at something is fun.
I do believe that sometimes this is where we have it backward. We talk about wanting to hire people who are passionate, but when you are building a team, especially a new team, passion might be the wrong thing to filter for. Wooden talked about enthusiasm and industriousness. Enthusiasm looks like the energy people bring to the task at hand. Are they engaged? Are they interested? Industriousness today could also be called grit, their willingness to work through difficulties and grow. To me, these are far more useful than passion as an indicator because they represent sustainable attitudes over time. Passion is, after all, an emotion, and it is hard to imagine building a team that only works when people “feel” a certain way.
As a result, we always assess kids every season by their attitude and their capability. We looked for raw ability, and attitude. People call this coachability. Do they have a drive to get better? How will the player respond positively to instruction, guidance, and feedback? Of course, it matters enormously how you give that feedback, but I’ll get to that.
The moral of the story: look for ability and attitude.
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