The Confidence Of Tigers

By | October 7, 2009

The regular season for American baseball has come to an end and the post season build up to the ‘World Series’ has begun. The season finished a little late this year, as despite playing over 150 games, the American League Central had to go to a tiebreaker game at Minnesota.

The tiebreaker wasn’t expected. At the beginning of September the Detroit Tigers looked a safe shoo-in having led the league for some time, and with a seven game advantage at the beginning of September. The collapse was momentous, with the Tigers becoming the first team in Major League history to fail to reach the playoffs having had a three game lead with only four games to play.

Watching the collapse has been instructive not only for baseball fans, but for anyone interested in managing performance. The Tigers don’t have a great recent history, their League win was in 1987 and it’s 25 years since they’ve won the World Series, so this was a huge opportunity for them and one which they seem to have worked hard to lose.

So what can organisations learn from the disintegration of such a high performing team? Strategists will point to the rotation of players, wearing out the most successful pitcher too early in the closing games of the season, leaving him unable to contribute at the critical moment. Commentators will point to some unnecessary showboating as some players opted for riskily aggressive plays that would showcase their skills rather than more conservative actions that protected the team. Coaches will ponder whether they were too tolerant of the down time actions of big name players who may have performed well on field but brought unwelcome attention to the team through late night partying and fracas.

All of these elements damaged the confidence and self belief of the team, and they made enough mistakes in the last month to last a whole season; an expensive collapse for the franchise holder. Freezing at key moments affects teams in far less high profile situations and the ability to trust each others’ contribution, challenge damaging behaviours and building each others confidence, is key to consistent team success. To talk more about how you can develop high performing teams in your organisation contact us.