The Old Perfessor

I’ve been going through a bunch of old baseball cards, trying to figure out their values.  The exercise is generating a wave of nostalgia as old names, faces, and statistics surface.  There are an awful lot of cards here from the N.Y. Mets in particular, and of course no discussion of the Mutts (as I lovingly call them) would be complete without mentioning one Charles Dillon Stengel, their first manager.

English: New York Yankees manager Casey Stenge...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Casey Stengel was a decent ballplayer himself (batting .284 over 14 major league seasons) but he was a Hall of Fame manager. We can argue about whether any idiot could have made it to Cooperstown managing the Yankees during the 1949-1960 dynasty era but one can’t deny the achievement of winning the World Series five times in a row.  After managing the best team in baseball, Casey did a 180 and went to manage the worst.  The 1962 Mets were just as world-class as the Yankees except they were a world-class comedy act.

It’s 50 years later and Casey probably isn’t the most-quoted Mets manager.  That would probably Yogi Berra, although most of his famous quotes come from his days as a player, not a manager.  Casey was renowned for his monologues on baseball history and tactics which became known as “Stengelese” to sportswriters. This was also why he was called  “The Old Professor”.

I think we in business can learn a lot from a few of Casey’s key quotes.  The first one is one of my favorites:

Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.

This is probably the biggest challenges managers – baseball and otherwise – face.  In fact, I think this is the entire nature of the managerial job in a single phrase.  Next, a lesson on social media and customer service:

The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.

In other words, reputation management is something we can’t ignore.  Today it’s almost impossible to keep those two segments apart so controlling the message and minimizing the first segment is critical.

You gotta lose ’em some of the time. When you do, lose ’em right.

The Yankees were always spoken of as a “classy”organization.  I’ve always felt that a big measure in business is your reputation among people who choose not to buy from you at a particular point but who come back and do business with you later.  If you “lose ’em right” there will be quite a few of those, probably more than you’re doing business with at any particular time.  It also speaks to group morale and how we as managers keep our team focused.

Finally, a reminder to any of us who have ever taken a paycheck for managing:

Managing is getting paid for home runs that someone else hits.

A big determinant of our success as managers is our ability to keep those home-run hitters happy and productive.  We need to appreciate that the folks who are actually doing the grunt work are the ones who make the organization hum, not the folks in the big offices.  I’ve never seen an owner win a pennant without players and I never saw a CEO make a dime without people to support him in some way.

The Old Perfessor’s lessons aren’t so old, are they?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Thinking Aloud

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