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The Performance Life

Joe Maddon's 5 Secrets to Success

imagesbyferg / flickr

It’s difficult to think of a sports team or company that engineered a more dramatic turnaround than what the Tampa Bay Rays accomplished in the 2008 baseball season. A year ago, they were the worst team in baseball. Then, this past season, they made a strong bid to become the first team in professional sports history to go from being the worst in its league to champions in just one year.

All of us would like to make such dramatic improvements in our performances. According to Rays manager Joe Maddon, it has less to do with your physical skills than it does operating under the following principles: accountability, integrity, attitude, consistency, and flexibility.

If those ideals seem to have little to do with baseball, that’s just the point. After all, they can help boost performance in the corporate world or in any walk of life.

1. Accountability

When Maddon took over the helm of the Rays prior to the 2006 season, nobody in the organization held themselves accountable for the team’s struggles on the field, as well as financially.

When you’ve been so bad for so long, to think that you can change the culture by just trying to become better physically is absolutely insane,” Maddon says. “We needed to change the way we think, period. And for me that is the accountability. That is about trust. Nothing - no group or organization - works without trust. So I thought we totally were a low-trust organization. There was no accountability whatsoever. There was no consistency from what I can gather. We managed to change that.”

2. Integrity

Maddon is fond of a quote by Albert Camus that he has posted in the Rays clubhouse. “Integrity has no need of rules.” “I’m not big on rules,” Maddon says. “I don’t believe in legislating how you’re supposed to act. I mean, just act right. Act like a professional. Have some integrity about what you’re doing and we don’t have to have any rules around here. If everybody could work properly, then this thing works really nice.”

3. Attitude

Another sign Maddon has posted in the clubhouse (in four languages) reads simply “Attitude is a decision.”

It’s not the first time Maddon posted such a sign. “It goes back to the ‘80s when I was a minor league instructor,'” Maddon says. “When you’re dealing with young players, a lot of the time you don’t know where their minds are going to be when they walk into the building. You just don’t. In the minors, it’s a big problem on a daily basis: who’s going to show up each day. So I put that up as a reminder that you are consciously making a decision to change your attitude right now and move on and have yourself a good day. Everything you do is a decision, and attitude is your decision.”

4. Consistency

During one of his daily bike rides before the 2008 season, Maddon was struck by the notion of nine players giving continuous effort for nine innings. If that happened, the Rays would become one of baseball’s eight playoff teams.
And the phrase 9 = 8 was born.

The idea that a player or employee could provide high-level performance every day is unrealistic. After all, even championship teams lose 30 percent of their games and even the most successful businesses have down quarters. But there’s no reason that athletes and employees cannot give high-level effort at all times.

You just can’t pick and choose when you put your effort out there,” Maddon says. “It has to be all the time. It just comes down to respect. Respect for yourself and respect for the organization.”

5. Flexibility

Maddon has been called innovative and cutting edge, a guy who doesn’t manage by the book. He prefers to think of himself as old school, someone who operates the way skippers did before managing-by-numbers became popular.

I draw from a lot of different experiences. I talked to a lot of different people and I’m really open. If you have a good thought, I’m really open to it. I believe the moment you think you’re done growing or you look at a 25-year-old and think he has nothing to offer, that’s the point that you might as well give it up.

I think remaining contemporary is important. I could go back to my days with Jimmy Reese with the Angels. Jimmy in his 90s had one of the most contemporary senses of humor I’ve ever been around. The guy demonstrated to me how important it was to remain contemporaneous in your thinking.

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Pressure, Attitude, Baseball