April 9, 2019

Spring has officially arrived and with it, my favorite sport – baseball! Beyond its status as our nation’s favorite pastime, there’s something about baseball that resonates deeply with me… and I believe it’s candor.

One of my favorite books is The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, a novel about baseball, boys in college, and so much more. Harbach writes:

“But baseball was different… You couldn’t storm around, snorting and slapping people, the way Schwartz did while playing football. You stood and waited and tried to still your mind. When your moment came, you had to be ready, because if you [expletive] up, everyone would know whose fault it was. What other sport not only kept a stat as cruel as the error but posted it on the scoreboard for everyone to see?”

You see, athletes make mistakes all the time and their mishaps are splashed all over the media in replay after replay. But only in baseball is it so fundamental to how the sport is played and followed that error stats are as much a part of the game as catching a ball. In other sports, the stats tally the positives – the touchdowns, goals, fastest time. In baseball, it’s an official part of the game to quantify and record the mistakes a player makes and to hold them in history.  That’s real candor about your performance.

Imagine if your boss kept a tally of everyone’s successes and mishaps in the front lobby. Would that feel embarrassing or cruel? If the culture is open and honest, mistakes aren’t something to be covered up and forgotten. They’re an important part of learning and growth. If we are uncomfortable talking about the errors, we’ve closed the door on improvement and we’ve set a benchmark for perfection that becomes unattainable.

If every organization were as candid about errors as baseball, we’d find more opportunity for collaboration, development and success. Let’s play ball!