October 12, 2020

The Unity of a Team (with SOUL)

Filed under: Leadership,Sports,Teamwork — Nathan @ 12:25 pm

I love baseball. I grew up playing it, had many “Field of Dreams” moments with my dad through the years (he coached at two colleges), and still continue to watch even after my own inauspicious┬ácareer at Duke. I confess, I fell asleep in the middle of the deciding fifth game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Yankees the other night and missed the drama of the well-played game with high stakes and drama, including an incredible eighth-inning at bat by Mike Brosseau that launched the Rays to the clinching win.

Ji-Man Choi, removed for Mike Brosseau, celebrates Brosseau's home run

Ji-Man Choi celebrates Mike Brosseau’s home run

In a professional career that had me building and studying teams up close (including watching our Buccaneers teams go from 9-7 to a Super Bowl then to 7-9 in consecutive seasons), I’ve been fascinated by the subject. That has taken even more of my attention ever since Tony Dungy and I first began working on “The Soul of a Team” (Tyndale House, 2019), including research, interviews with corporate and coaching leaders, and speaking and consulting on the topic.

With that backdrop, I was particularly drawn to several moments of the broadcast of Brosseau’s dramatic at bat against Aroldis Chapman…none of which directly involved Brosseau or Chapman. Instead, they can be glimpsed at the 2:06, 5:35, and 5:56 marks of this clip, when you see Ji-Man Choi first cheering, then later jumping the dugout fence and celebrating with Brosseau.

Why the big deal? Well, Choi was no longer in the game. More specifically, he started the game and was removed for Brosseau two innings earlier. That is, Choi could’ve been the one at bat, but wasn’t. It was Brosseau. And yet, Choi was one of the main cheerleaders. The moment wasn’t his, and he was okay with that. It was Brosseau’s. And the team’s.

The elements of “SOUL,” a critical foundation of a high-performance team, are challenging. But the level of unity shown by Choi is so impressive and runs so counter to our nature (or at least mine!) – to actually be so committed to the team that you are pulling for your replacement’s success.

Thanks to what appears to be a selfless, unified roster of players like Choi, the Rays have already gone far beyond what their salaries and name recognition would make you expect. For them, the whole is truly greater than the parts, exactly what you’re hoping for with a team.

I may start taking afternoon naps to make sure I don’t miss any repeat performances.

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