Posted by: Nancy | October 29, 2015

Lessons from Ned Yost

YostNYTNed Yost is the manager of the Kansas City Royals, currently leading 2-0 over the New York Me
ts in the 2015 World Series.

I’ve never met him. I’m not a baseball expert; I’m just a fan of my town’s team. I like the game, but even more, I like the way this team plays. Key word is “play.”

They have fun! There’s joy in this team, a genuine enjoyment and excitement in what they do. Certainly it comes from the players themselves, but I think part of it also comes from the leadership.

I found some evidence of this in a recent New York Times Magazine article on Yost (“How Ned Yost Made the Kansas City Royals Unstoppable”, Oct. 1, 2015). The article calls Yost “the most criticized manager in baseball” and its least respected. The author attempts to explain the Royals’ success.

From the article:

‘‘This is a very culturally diverse team,’’ says Ben Zobrist, a utility player who was traded to Kansas City from Oakland in July. ‘‘But these guys for sure feel comfortable with each other. When a clubhouse is that comfortable, it has started with the manager.’’

‘‘He allows us to be ourselves, on and off the field,’’ says Lorenzo Cain, the center fielder. ‘‘And we have a blast doing it. We laugh together, have a great time. The chemistry on this team is amazing. That reflects on a manager. And it matters.’’

So what is Ned’s secret? The article subhead pointedly notes what is NOT the answer: “The most criticized manager in the major leagues dismissed metrics and embraced failure — and broke his team’s three decade slump.”

It’s not the data or the analytics, then. It’s not the adherence to a long view, following a strategy that sometimes backfires in the short-term. It’s not just a drive to be the best. Here’s what I think is the real key, again quoting from the article:

‘‘I love these guys,’’ Yost told me. ‘‘I really love them. You have to, in order to understand them. And you have to understand them in order to manage them. If you understand their backgrounds, why they are the way they are, you can understand what motivates them.’’

A lesson not just for management or baseball. For living every day.

Start with love.

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