May 13 was a normal day at the office until I got the chance to meet the entire lineup of the Detroit Tigers. The Detroit Economic Club had a lunch to celebrate the start of the season at MotorCity Casino in Detroit. Having that many phenomenal baseball players in one room was surreal. We heard from players, coaches, announcers, and one thing became evident right away – they have all the makings of a great team.
I’m not sure that they realized it that day but the Tigers taught us some very valuable lessons on team building. A few key themes stood out to me based on how they interacted with each other and with the audience.
Strong team leadership
Strong leadership is an essential part in building a great team. From team ownership down through coaching staff, it was clear that each Tigers leader knew their role and had a clear path forward. Chris Illitch, President and CEO of Illitch Holdings, commented on Tigers leadership saying coach “Brad Ausmus and [general manager] Dave Dombrowski together are integral to the quest for our fifth consecutive division title.”
Listening to Dombrowski and Ausmus speak after Ilitch you could tell that they were leaders, speaking directly, honestly and authoritatively. Ausmus seemed confident and calm. He said he has a strong comfort level with the team. “To me, it’s akin to a father trying to be friends with his kids,” said Ausmus. By that, he meant he knows how far he can push them and uses laughter frequently to keep the team close.
Ausmus uses laughter in keeping his team close, and that seems to be spread through every member. Whether it’s on the road or at home, the team seems to spend a great deal of time learning about each other and generally having a good time in between getting their job done.
While down in training camp, pitcher Anabel Sanchez began taking selfies with a few of his teammates such as Miguel Cabrera. Since then they began using the hashtag #wilddogs, which comes from a Spanish song, to describe each other. Fans love it and they are always looking for a chance to take the next #wilddogs selfie wherever they go.
On the field, they like to keep fun in the workplace too. Mario Impemba asked Miguel Cabrera what he talks to all the players on the field about. Miggy said “I try to get in their head.” He jokes with them about how they’re losing and tries to poke fun to get them to talk. With all of the on-field chatter he says he just wants “to have fun.”
David Price brought us a great example of how flexible you need to be to be a winner. Last year on the July 4th weekend, he was pitching against the Tigers. Three weeks later he was pitching for the Tigers. “It was crazy” he said. He received a call from his agent one night and the agent told Price that he would be traded in about thirty minutes to an hour. Price told the audience, “Imagine getting a call from your boss and having to move across the country with a thirty minute heads up.” Everyone laughed.
Each player on the Detroit Tigers know their strengths. They know what they should be doing and have a strong staff to keep them focused on their specific position. Miguel Cabrera knows he needs to continue belting out the home runs. Each of the team members, as they spoke, knew their roles and responsibilities. They knew what they needed to do to stay a winning team. How often can other teams you know, outside of baseball, say that?
One audience member asked Cy Young award-winning pitcher Justin Verlander whether he likes the designated hitter [DH] position or if he thinks all pitchers should hit. Verlander said, “Well, it took me 9 years to get my first hit.” Verlander clearly knows his role.
The Detroit Tigers are more than just a great baseball team. They are a great team in general. They work with each other. They build relationships. They trust their leadership. They have fun. What more can you ask for in a team? How does your team compare?
Image Copyright Mike Boening Photography