How Many Jason Heywards* Do You Have on Your Team?

*Quite possibly the player who set the stage for the Cubs’ win in Game 7.

Imagine this situation: One of your experienced and highest paid direct reports is not performing.  And hasn’t been performing when your business needs him the most.  It’s late in the year and your team is moments away from achieving the extraordinary: maybe it’s launching a new product ahead of schedule; maybe it’s finishing the year ranked number 1 in sales in the country; maybe it’s the grand opening on a franchise you and a partner purchased.  As a leader, your responsibility is to field the most effective team.

Jason, your direct report, isn’t cutting it–despite his past high performance.  You decide to put him on a performance improvement plan; or promote a colleague to take his place in the final stretch of the project.  In effect, you bench him at one of the most high stakes times.

Now it’s the 11th hour on the project or the sales period.  Strong headwinds have conspired to frustrate and take away momentum from your team.  Maybe it’s a gritty competitor who is outplaying you; maybe it’s a mercurial customer who sets new expectations or goals; maybe is the misfortune of unforced errors; maybe it’s bad luck.  These contributors who gave and gave all year, who are so close to winning, are now stunned, despirited and wide-eyed because of events that put their achievement in jeopardy. Either way, you are on the cusp of living the turn-of-phrase: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

One of your employees is nearly in tears because of costly mistakes they made in the most recent customer interaction.  Two other team members have turned inward, eyes down, head down, shoulders slumped.

Now imagine: during a coffee break at a meeting, or on a spontaneously arranged t-con, your team–your direct reports–come together.  Not because you called the meeting, but because THEY did.  Should you say something as the leader to shift the momentum?  Should one of your assistant coaches say something?  Who is going to say something?

And the team mate who steps-up to speak-up?


The very person you benched.  The person in a slump. The person who hasn’t delivered in the ways you and the organization need. The person whose pride may have taken a beating when he wasn’t on the team named to visit the client or present to the Board.  The person who wouldn’t be blamed if had a bit of a chip on his shoulder.  The person who could have easily sat back at that coffee break or on that t-con and let one of the other all-stars speak up.

What does he say during that team meeting?

He says, “I’m proud of all of you.”  He reminds you and the team what they’re capable of, what you’ve achieved up to this point.  He says, “Let’s be there for the person next to us.”  He appeals to individuals’ higher sense of collective achievement.  As his inspiring words seep into your team’s psyche, dejection and nervousness turn to positive belief and action.

Jeez, what did you do as a leader to create a culture like that?  Can you imagine?


I may be guilty of stretching the application of events from last night’s World Series Game 7 to organizational life.  But I’m a sucker for stuff like this.  The situation I’ve asked you to imagine actually took place. Last night, during a rain delay, with the Cubs on the verge of blowing a 5 run lead, with all the momentum shifting to the Cleveland Indians, 27 year old, Jason Heyward made his voice–not his bat–heard.  Do you have a Jason Heyward on your team? Do I?  It’s a powerful question to consider.

Here is the post game interview with Jason Heyward, the Chicago Cubs right fielder.

The baseball context:  General Manager Joe Maddon (the leader) benched Jason for games 1, 2 and 3 of the World Series.  He had 5 hits in 48 at bats during the playoff season; he had 0 hits in 5 at bats in Game 7.  I’m not a baseball aficionado like others in my family, but I know this much: those stats are lousy.  With stats like that you wouldn’t think it, but in my mind Jason is an all star.

Here is a USA Today article providing more details.  What other organizational effectiveness applications do you see?



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