Where baseball and the business of managing technology teams intersect

Whether or not the Blue Jays make it to the World Series, their success so far has been inspiring. Learn how to harness their best practices for the IT department


After 22 long years, Canada’s baseball team is finally back in the playoffs, and the whole country has erupted in Jays fever. The enthusiasm has ignited a city all too accustomed to professional sports let downs, while afternoon games take their toll on productivity this October.

But as you sneak out early to catch Wednesday’s game, blare sports radio at work or call in sick on game day, take some inspiration from the city’s first winning baseball team in a generation and consider what lessons you can draw from the Jays and apply to your own career.

Do whatever it takes to acquire the right talent

The Blue Jays postseason run has come to fruition thanks in large part to a number of key acquisitions. A number of major trades and acquisitions this year, including that of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, have led the team to their most successful season in over two decades. The hardest working general manager in the game, Alex Anthopoulos, put his team ahead of his own wellbeing in the days leading up to the trade deadline, sacrificing sleep to pull off two of the biggest trade deals in Blue Jays history. Though the Jays were in solid standing before the acquisitions of Tulowitzki and Price, Anthopoulos proved that few key additions to an already well-functioning team can make all the different.

Just like baseball, however, attracting the best in IT isn’t easy, even for large, well-known organizations. “In the competitive market for IT talent, candidates have their pick of firms and positions,” a recent post on Recruiting Trends said. “To stand out from competitors jockeying for the same talent, highlight the company’s mission and how the candidate will help contribute to it.”

Set your teammates up for success  

Lots of factors have contributed to the Blue Jays’ first appearance in the playoffs since the good ol’ days of Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter, but perhaps most notable of all is the team’s domination on the American League RBI leaders list. Their commitment to setting their teammates up for success has allowed three of the top four positions to be occupied by Toronto players, including Donaldson in first, Bautista in third and Encarnacion in fourth. While a number of key players stand out, the teamwork they exemplify demonstrates how shared success trumps personal glory, both on and off the field.

Want to achieve something similar within the IT department? Consider CIO.com’s recent profile of a social learning platform called Piazza and their way of using data to determine the strengths among individual team players that needed nurturing.

“A candidate who’s spent her free time on the platform helping others, demonstrates that she’s a leader,” it said, “and her participation in group projects can show that she works well with others and has great communication skills, for example.”

Leave the door open to former employees 

The Toronto Blue Jays have had an on-again-off-again relationship with its manager, John Gibbons. Though he may not have been the right man for the job when he was let go in 2008, repairing that relationship has brought the team to new levels of success since his return in 2013. In Baseball, just like in the workplace, the wrong manager today could very well prove to be the right manager tomorrow. In fact, more Canadian companies are embracing the phenomenon of “boomerang employees,” as they’re often referred to, exemplifying the importance of maintaining relationships with former team members, even after they’re gone.

The best managers walk the line between likable and firm

There has been much speculation on John Gibbons’ true management style, but one element analysts and fans can’t deny is his likability. According to Nick Ashbourne of BlueBirdBanter.com, “Gibby is ludicrously likeable and appears to have both the requisite fire and calm to be an excellent team leader.”

The same can be said about good managers in any field, including tech; the best seek to build strong personal relationships with their team, but are ready to push them in times of need.

photo credit: 072609 449 via photopin (license)

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