I was watching the film Million Dollar Arm, which is about the search for the first Indian athletes to play Major League Baseball, and there was a great leadership lesson in the film.
It’s such an important lesson, I thought I would share it here, because it is often one of the key differences between success and failure.
Many leaders seem to believe that when we bring together talented teams, success is a foregone conclusion. It’s almost as if talent alone is enough for success to be guaranteed.
But the truth is, that as leaders, we need to set up our teams so that they can be successful, even when they are very talented. We need to make sure that the environment is right, that they have everything that they need, that they are well motivated and when we do that we significantly increase the probability of success.
In the film, JB Bernstein travels to India, with a scout, to look for athletes who have the speed and accuracy to be Pitchers in baseball. They are looking for players who can throw the ball over 80mph and who can hit the target, the plate, consistently.
They find two player Dinesh and Rinku with that talent, who they then bring from rural India to the US. This alone is a significant cultural change, as well las taking them away from their friends and family. They are then put up first in a hotel which doesn’t work, and then they stay with JB, but he doesn’t really take a significant interest in them. They receive coaching at University of Southern California but he rarely goes to see them play
It’s as if he believes they have the talent and the process will lead them to success. The process being 9-10 months of coaching followed by a try out for the professional leagues.
Dinesh and Rinku fail to adapt to life in the US, they feel homesick, they don’t really integrate with their team mates, and consequently don’t make the expected progress.
JB ignores all of this information and still organizes the tryouts.
To compound matters the tryouts and done in a completely alien environment, not at the college where they training, but in an artificial environment set up in a car park.
Result? They fail!
They do not even show a fraction of the talent they had at the start, let alone after 9 months of coaching and training.
Both Dinesh and Rinku are despondent, feeling that they have let JB down.
It’s at this point that JB sees that the reality is this, it’s not them that has failed, but him.
He has let them down. He has just left them with their talents to succeed or fail. He has not put them in the best position to be successful.
So now he looks to rectify his mistakes. He looks to make them feel more at home in his home, and more connected with him. He attends their trainings, ensures that they have fun and are actually enjoying the process.
He organizes a second tryout, but this time instead of it being in an alien environment he holds it at their training facility. Now they feel comfortable and relaxed, they are in a familiar environment, so less stress.
The result? Success.
Both of them pitch the ball at over 90mph, and with accuracy. Not only do they show their natural talents, but they show the benefits of the coaching which has now taken them to a level where they are good enough to play in the Major League.
Why were they successful? Because their leader had taken the time to set them up for success. He had put them into a safe environment, one where they could thrive and demonstrate their abilities to the maximum extent.
As leaders if we want our teams to be successful, then we must do the same!
Teams and individuals succeed in the right environments, ones which allows their talents to flourish.
Even the most talented struggle when they are just thrown in the deep end with little or no leadership support.
I highly recommend the film as it really does a great job of demonstrating both what not to do, and also what to do, in order to be successful.
We all know very talented people. The gifted athlete, rich business owner, articulate public speaker, class valedictorian are all examples of talented people. Likewise, we all know very talented people who are not always “successful” or achieve great things. There are many “smart” or “wealthy” people who are unhappy, unfulfilled, and who obviously have not reached their full potential nor achieved anything of merit.
While pondering this question, I came across a book by John C. Maxwell entitled Talent Is Never Enough. The title appears to answer my question, but I wanted to know why, and what other attributes in addition to talent are necessary to succeed and find personal and professional fulfillment.
One of the keys to success is belief. Have you ever noticed how successful people have a supreme confidence, and who absolutely, positively believe in their potential and endeavor. Entrepreneurs persist, seemingly at odds with their industry or even common logic, and become wildly more successful than anyone could have imagined. It is their belief in themselves and what they are attempting to accomplish that sees them through.
I can honestly say that I have never met a person of great achievement, or even one who I believe someday will achieve greatness, who has not possessed a bounty of passion. This “fire within” sustains people to continue, never giving up their hopes and dreams. Without it, they may have quit or moved on to something else where they would have been merely average. Passion provides them energy and willpower to work long hours. It is also infectious, and people with passion spread it around their work place, homes, and communities. Are you following your passion? What do you want to accomplish in your lifetime?
Passionate people have an abundance of initiative. This does not come easily to most people, and therefore the successful person with this trait is rare. But initiative is the first step to achieving goals, opening doors that otherwise would remain closed, and often is the deciding factor between failure, mediocrity and overwhelming success.
Are some people simply born with talent? I think not. Michael Jordan, the former NBA basketball superstar, was cut from his 8th grade basketball team. He practiced long and hard and went on to greatness. Even after achieving stardom, he would practice free throws long after his teammates had left for the locker room. Successful people practice, practice, practice. They give that little extra effort, conduct a little more research, pull one more espresso shot, and make one more phone call to a prospective customer.
One of the most powerful forces in achieving success is focus. Focus brings power, performance and results. Great people usually have a single-minded focus on one objective. Upon conquering that goal, they have a laser beam focus on one other purpose. Here’s what John Maxwell suggests you do to increase your focus:
Be intentional – make every action count
Challenge your excuses
Don’t let yesterday hijack your attention
Focus on the present
Stay focused on results
Successful people finish things. They have perseverance and the ability to sustain hard work until the job is done. They never give up. They know there is no success without it.
Of all the attributes inherent in successful people, I believe character is the most important. Why? Because none of us can succeed beyond the limits of our character. It acts as a ceiling to our accomplishments. All of us are sometimes tempted to take shortcuts, or do things that are not entirely ethical. Sometimes only you know about it, anyway, so why not just do it? Our character and integrity prevents that. It helps us to do the right thing. Character provides us with a foundation on which we base our decisions and actions. Character does not make one successful, but it helps talented people realize their full potential.
Maxwell also adds responsibility, courage and teamwork to the mix of attributes required for success. The key is discipline, respect for others, fairness and a healthy dose of old-fashioned stick-to-it-iveness. Yes, you have talent. But do you have what it takes to turn your talent into success?