Business Leadership During COVID-19: Lessons from the Chicago Cubs


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Major League Baseball is playing a shortened 60-game season through the COVID-19 pandemic, and some teams are having a harder time than others. A few teams have suffered outbreaks of the virus and have had to postpone games, some players were disciplined for violating the league’s strict protocols and secretly went out to dinner with friends while their teammates followed the rules and stayed isolated at their hotel.

One team that has been a success story during the pandemic-affected baseball season is the Chicago Cubs. As of this writing, the Cubs were in first place in their division and have not had any coronavirus outbreaks on their team and no positive tests among their players.

Even if you’re a small business owner, there are some inspiring lessons that managers and entrepreneurs can take away from the Chicago Cubs’ success in 2020. Anyone who leads a team of people during this time of crisis can learn a few things from the Cubs:

Maintain Discipline Within the Team

Coronavirus is a contagious, tricky, sneaky virus that has proven to be very hard to stop. Even when people do all the right things, it’s still possible to catch the virus. However, the Chicago Cubs, compared to some other baseball teams, seem to have been more successful at maintaining discipline with their protocols against the virus. There haven’t been any outbreaks (so far) among the Cubs, there haven’t been any Cubs in the news for breaking the rules and sneaking out of the team hotel to go to bars.

No matter what kind of team you lead, no matter what business you run, your world has probably been turned upside down by COVID-19. Everyone is having to adapt to new ways of working. Sometimes it feels inconvenient or unfair or expensive to deal with the new realities of COVID-19, but we all have to do it. Denial is not an option. Choosing not to deal with the virus is not an option. The Chicago Cubs aren’t the only team that’s doing a great job with the challenges of coronavirus, and any team could suffer some bad luck at any time for reasons beyond their control, but one story from ESPN suggested that the Cubs seem to have a particularly strong sense of discipline within their team.

Hold Each Other Accountable

During times of crisis, teams can either fall apart, or come together and get stronger. The Cubs have been quoted as saying that their team is doing a good job of staying in communication with each other, holding each other accountable, and committing to the process. Cubs 3rd baseman Kris Bryant was told ESPN that this pandemic-shortened season is “a short amount of time to just hunker down and stay in your room and do what needs to be done.”

When everyone on the team trusts in the process and has buy-in for what they’re trying to accomplish, it’s easier to get better results – even during a time of crisis and confusion.

Share Credit With the Team

The Cubs have a new manager this year, David Ross, who is bringing a new attitude and energy to the team. Ross is a first-time manager, and so far he is taking the humble approach of praising his players and giving them all the credit for their accomplishments. He was quoted as saying in ESPN, simply, “I have a good team” and “We have good players.” He’s praised his players for embracing change and being accountable to each other and said “Their focus has been off the charts.”

Instead of praising himself and talking about what a great plan he had and what things he’s doing right as manager, Ross is putting all the focus on the players for their success in a difficult situation. This type of “humble leadership” is often most effective in other business settings, too. Good leaders share credit and take blame. They hold themselves accountable for their mistakes, while praising and uplifting the people on their team.

No matter what happens with the rest of the Cubs’ season, whether they win the World Series or miss the playoffs, the way they have handled the pandemic so far is a great example for other organizations. The COVID-19 crisis has forced many businesses of all sizes to change they way they operate. Even for those of us who have not been directly affected by the virus, the overall turmoil and grief has been a stressful, sad situation for everyone. Some people have found comfort in just doing their everyday work, one day at a time. In the same way, baseball – even more than most sports – is an “everyday” game. Fans often love baseball because it’s a steady presence: one game after another, one day at a time. Sometimes in time of crisis, the best thing to do is to keep working. Talk with your team about how to use this crisis as an opportunity to be better. Hold each other accountable, create a shared vision, and keep going, one day at a time.

Al Davidson
Al Davidson is the founder of Strategic Sales & Marketing, a "leading light" among lead generation companies, delivering B2B lead generation and b2b appointment setting services for clients ranging from local small businesses to the Fortune 100. Since 1989, the company's sales agents have generated over 7 million sales leads, and created millions of dollars for clients.


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