The Performance Life
6 Managerial Lessons from Bobby Cox
Bobby Cox will retire as manager of the Atlanta Braves at the end of the 2010 season after a 30-year career that has included two stints in Atlanta and a four-year stop in Toronto, where he managed the Blue Jays. He also served as the Braves general manager from 1985-1990.
He'll retire with at least one World Series championships (1995), 14 consecutive division titles (1991-2005) and with more wins than all but three men ever to manage in Major League Baseball.
Cox knows baseball strategy, but his success and longevity have little to do with tactics and much to do with his uncanny ability to manage people and personalities. In that sense he's comparable to any corporate executive looking to manage a workplace.
Cox dismisses such talk, but those who have played for him believe others could benefit from his managerial wisdom. After all, baseball is the only sport where there's no head coach, just a manager. That's because baseball, perhaps more than other sports, is about managing people and personalities instead of players. Here's a look at the unofficial book of Bobby Cox Management 101.
1. Never Speak Poorly of Anyone
Cox has given thousands of interviews during his career and never criticized a player. If a pitcher gives up nine runs, Cox will remark that his "stuff" looked good and that he'll have a great outing the next time. If a player strikes out four times in a game, Cox will stress that he worked the count well and swung at good pitches. If reporters fail to ask about a certain player who deserves praise, Cox will bring that guy up. As a result, Cox inspires tremendous loyalty among his players.
2. Pay Attention to Detail
Matt Diaz, the Braves current left fielder, had bounced around baseball when he arrived with the Braves in 2006 and was no sure bet to stick with the team. Still, Cox made it a point to seek him out upon arrival to confirm the unusual pronunciation of his name (DYE-as). Taking that kind of interest with newcomers goes a long way.
3. It's Not About Me
Unlike contemporaries such as Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, who have written or cooperated with the writing of several books apiece, Cox has never sought out a literary agent. For all of his high-profile success, he's been the subject of precious few major magazine stories through the years, even though he's one of the greatest managers of all time. Cox is a true people person, unfailingly cordial with the media and everyone else, but has a knack for turning the conversation to any topic but Bobby Cox. That's a skill anyone can appreciate.
4. I've Got Your Back
Cox does not have a fiery temper, but he holds the Major League record for the most managerial ejections. That's because he's always ready to argue on behalf of his players. When employees know that the boss is willing to fight for them, it inspires loyalty.
5. Know How to Pick Up a Colleague
Dale Murphy, the great Braves outfielder of the 1980s, says Cox's greatest gift is dealing with a player who just cost the team a game. "You'll come off the field with your head down, having just booted a ball or something," Murphy says. "And there's Bobby saying, 'Man, that ball took a wicked hop, didn't it?' You're thinking you should have made the play and you should have. But the point is sometimes it's just a matter of how the ball bounces."
6. Be Consistent
Cox was just 36 when he became Braves manager for the first time early in 1978. He'll be 69 in May. He keeps up with modern technology, pecking away with his smart phone, and has seen every aspect change dramatically. But his managerial style has never wavered. "He's the same guy he was thirty years ago," say former Braves reliever Gene Garber, who played for Cox in the late '70s. "He's as consistent as they come."
About The Author
Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.