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How The Chicago Cubs Became A Winning Organization Again

After 108 years of heartache and failure, baseball’s Chicago Cubs have become world champions again.

For an organization that has such a loyal following, the 10-plus decades between championships has been filled with much failure that the team itself had inherited the moniker “Lovable Losers” who were afflicted with a “curse”. Not a brand that any organization would want to be known by.

But in the past 5 years, the Cubs have undergone a transformative change to their entire organization that has culminated in reaching the pinnacle of their industry.

Want some pointers in how to take a struggling organization and become a winning one? Here are a few key principles that the team employed:

Hire the Right Change Agents. Cubs ownership sought to attain lasting success, then went after some of the best in the industry. By hiring Theo Epstein as President, Jeb Hoyer as General Manager, and Joe Maddon as Manager, the team placed key people with proven success in the spots that would make the most impact to the entire organization.

Create A Model For Success. Shortly after being hired, Epstein introduced a large tome that was the blueprint for the team’s new direction. It covered everything from culture, scouting, how their minor league affiliates operated, and what type of players they would seek out. Without a written down plan, success becomes an elusive dream.

Seek Great Talent And Let Them Do Their Thing. The Cubs knew that great talent wasn’t necessarily great numbers. They sought after team players, players that had youth and burgeoning talent coupled with veteran players that had experience winning. They also knew the culture they wanted to adopt and made sure their players had the character talent to match it. Talent comes in a variety of flavors, so seek out those that align with your goals.

Take The Time For Your Model To Resolve. Many organizations make drastic decisions to success as quickly as possible; the great organizations stick to the plan and let the pieces settle in and gel over time. The Cubs were patient in letting their plan do it’s thing and riding out the rough patches in order to achieve what seems to be a trajectory of lasting success.

Create A Can-Do Culture. Both in the National League Championship Series and the World Series, the Cubs faced a deficit and had to win the remainder of their games in order to keep going. Neither the players or the coaching staff showed any signs of worry when they were down 3 games to 1, or even when the deciding game of the Series became tied and the momentum shifted away from them.

Creating a culture that instills confidence and calmness in spite of overwhelming circumstances will allow them to persevere and eventually succeed.

Make The Most Of Lucky Breaks. A 17-minute rain delay before the game went to extra innings may have been a lucky break for Chicago. But in the course of the Series, so did an opposing pitchers missed pitch, or a poor fielding play. So many variables can happen on the way to an organization’s goal – some beneficial and some detrimental. When the ball bounces your way, it’s wise to leverage those breaks to maximize the opportunity that’s been presented to you.

Let Your People Lead. Coach Maddon’s philosophy is to allow the veteran players to help lead and motivate the team. Great speeches are not his forte, and he feels that if the players do so organically, greater impact is made. This is exactly what happened during the rain delay – one of the players who struggled to hit all night rallied the team to keep believing in themselves even though they just gave up the lead. As a result, the players refocused their confidence in one another and scored the winning runs when the game resumed. When your people are allowed to lead by sensing the needs of their teammates, great result often occur.

Any organization can turn it around. It takes time, talent, and technique. And if the “Lovable Losers” can break a long-standing :curse” and set their organization on a winning path, you can do the same.

Believe. Set the culture. Determine to succeed over time.

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