Win as a Team
In April, baseball experts would have laughed at the possibility of the Kansas City Royals competing in the World Series.
The team hadn’t made the playoffs since the Reagan administration. They recorded the fewest home runs of any team during the 2014 MLB regular season. Not a single pitcher won more than 15 games. And their salary cap of $91 million was just 38 percent of the league’s highest paid team.
So how did an understaffed, underfunded team rise to baseball’s biggest stage and set the longest-ever postseason winning streak?
In a word: teamwork.
Specifically, the Royals cultivated team loyalty and created a supportive environment for players to succeed. This model won them the pennant, and it can work for your organization too.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of a loyal, dedicated team, whether in baseball or the business world. Seven of the eight top run producers on the Royals have been with the team four years or more — exceptionally rare in a sport with frequent trades and acquisitions.
Companies have long recognized the importance of developing and retaining their own talent. A Wharton study found that internally promoted workers outperform external hires, even though the outside hires were paid 20 percent more on average. Furthermore, Linked In reports that the cost of losing an employee can be up to twice their annual salary.
Retaining team members requires more than just adequate compensation. Managers must create a sense of belonging and a shared vision of where the organization — and its members — are headed.
Create a Supportive Environment
Successful managers distribute workloads so that each team member can dedicate their full efforts to the task at hand. Consider the Royals’ pitching staff.
Every team asks its pitchers to give their very best. But the Royals make it possible for them to do so by creating a supportive environment.
Kansas City’s starting pitchers know they only have to make it through six innings until the bullpen takes over. From there, each reliever is asked to pitch just a single inning.
Fans heap credit on Kansas City’s dominant bullpen. But the credit equally belongs to Royals managers, who create a game plan that lets every team member give their all, secure in the knowledge that other teammates are there for support.
This model directly applies to the business world. Managers can and should set ambitious goals for their employees. But they must clearly define their expectations and provide employees with the appropriate support to achieve these goals.
By cultivating team loyalty and establishing a supportive environment, any organization can make the Royal’s model of teamwork work for them. And that’s nothing to laugh at.