Accountability: Lessons from a Baseball Coach

I don’t remember his real name but I do remember that he had a big laugh and a huge passion for baseball and for kids. Maybe he was a house painter, or a plumber, or a bus driver. I don’t know what he did when he wasn’t with us.

All I knew — and all I cared about — was that when someone asked for a volunteer to coach a group of eight year old boys, a big man with a big laugh stepped forward.

We called him Mr. G.

Mr. G. inspired me. He was the kind of person who would have made a great managing partner or CEO.

Mr. G. knew his stuff. He knew the value of discipline. He established standards that laid the foundation for success: show up on time; show up every time; show up ready to play ball. He set clear goals, expected us to achieve them, and worked hard to help us develop our skills. He treated us with respect and asked for our opinions. In return, we respected him, even revered him.

Mr. G. knew kids. He knew how to lean over and talk to us, quietly and patiently, with a sober tone that conveyed how important baseball was — to him and to us. By taking baseball seriously, he helped us take ourselves seriously, commit ourselves to achieving our goals and he always let us be kids.

When we messed up, Mr. G. didn’t yell. He didn’t scream. He never called us names, or threw down his cap in anger, as we saw other coaches do.

Mr. G. explained how and why we goofed, and insisted that we try again. He never raised his voice and he never made us feel wrong or bad about our mistakes.

In fact, his coaching only made us more eager to learn. “Oh Alan, I know you can do better than that,” he’d say. And when he said it, I knew it was true.

His confidence gave us confidence, and helped us step up to the plate. It takes courage to step into the batter’s box, especially when you struck out last time . . . and the time before. But when someone believes in you, you develop the courage to try again, try harder, and improve.

With Mr. G., I felt motivated, excited and inspired. Because of his strict rules, I had to come to practice — but I went because I really wanted to — and that made all the difference.

And so it is, as you’ve probably noticed, with CEO’s, Managing Partners and leaders of all types. The successful ones know their stuff. They take the game seriously, but not themselves. They set clear goals and enforce strict discipline, yet their people want to come to work, want to produce, want to succeed.

Successful leaders love people the way Mr. G. loved kids. Genuine affection shines through in all of their interactions. They smile, they laugh, they listen respectfully to the people in their firm or business. And when those people make mistakes, effective leaders notice, comment, and correct in a way that’s helpful rather than humiliating, supportive rather than stifling.

Mr. G. was a real person, not just a convenient illustration of my point. Because he was a real person, he wasn’t perfect. No one is. To me, Mr. G. didn’t have weaknesses because his strengths were so obvious and memorable and because he was so influential in my own young life.

You’re a real person and so am I; therefore, we’re not perfect. We’re going to make mistakes and forget to do things. When interacting with the people in your CPA or Law firm, you won’t always respond with the correct tone of voice. You won’t always plan well or say exactly the right thing.

I share the Mr. G. story with you because he showed me, at an early age, and in a very real and tangible way, how to hold people accountable for their own success. The lesson I took away from Mr. G. was that accountability is what it’s really all about.

If you want to succeed, you have to show up on time, show up every time, and show up ready to play.

You need to step up to the plate and to always be in the game.

Just like baseball, learning to hold others accountable takes practice. Just like baseball, accountability is a team game.

So, who’s the coach? It’s you!

I am urging you to step up to the plate to claim your leadership role and actively, effectively, and consistently coach your players to be accountable to achieve better business results for your firm.

The buck starts here . . . with you . . . now . . . today.

— The above is an excerpt from my latest book, The Buck Starts Here: Why Leadership Accountability Is The Key To Less Stress, More Time & A Better Bottom Line. To get your copy, click here.