First Rule of Leadership: Everything is Your Fault!

This is Part 2 of my essay (ok, yes, this part is long enough it might almost qualify as a novel) concerning the Twins’ need for Leadership and Accountability heading in to the last couple of months of the season. If you missed Part 1 and care to catch up with the rest of the class, you can find it here.

As was the case with Part 1, extra credit goes to the first person to correctly identify the movie from which the quote serving as this post’s Title is taken (no fair Googling!) - JC

UPDATE: No guesses on the movie quote providing this post’s title, but you can find it by clicking here.

When last we left off, I was bemoaning the fact that we have no larger-than-life John Wayne type figure to step up and assure all of Twins Territory that everything is under control… that all this whining and yelling and cursing and otherwise uncivilized behavior in Twinsville (especially the blogdom neighborhood) needs to cease.

To me, that’s a problem that goes well beyond keeping us blogheads civil. It goes to the heart of the problems on the field. It appears to me that this team lacks leadership. I don’t know who, if anyone, are the “clubhouse leaders” on this team, but I do know that nobody in this organization is out front projecting to the public that he’s got a handle on things and that while there may be challenges right now, they are being addressed.

It’s called leadership and virtually every successful organization has it.

It doesn’t have to just come from the CEO. In fact, it’s better if it is found at various levels of the organization. But you need people who step up and say, in words and deeds, “don’t worry about it, I’ve got this,” then go out and lead the effort to solve the problem.

To my mind, there appears to be a huge leadership void in the Twins organization, at least where actual baseball matters are concerned. (Clearly Target Field is evidence that there are people in other areas of the organization that can get the job done.)

So let’s talk accountability. I’m calling out the following people specifically. These people need to step up and do their jobs or the Twins need to find someone else who can.

Bill Smith had a nice offseason. Yes, he had the benefit of increased revenue projections that no Twins GM has had in the past so he had more freedom to sign players like Pavano, Hudson and Thome. He ended up assembling a roster that looked better on paper than all but a couple of teams in the American League.

But, as the Yankees have often demonstrated, assembling a team that looks good on paper before Spring Training opens is only half the job of a GM. Every team inevitably finds itself with new needs at mid season and teams that are willing and able to address those needs are the teams that will be playing ball in October. Last year, Smith did a decent job of picking up a few key additions on the cheap when he added Orlando Cabrera, Ron Mahay and Jon Rauch.

I know the Twins keep their mouths shut when it comes to deals they are considering and that’s fine. But the public perception is that Smith is 0 for 1 so far in terms of making moves that would help set the Twins back on course to the postseason, since he couldn’t close a deal with the Mariners for Cliff Lee.

Granted, his job won’t be easy. Half of Twins fans don’t want to see him overpay for a 2-3 month rental. But Smith’s options may be limited if he’s trying to acquire players that have contracts extending beyond the end of this season. His allowable 2011 payroll is pretty much spoken for already thanks to arbitration raises due several players next year and contract extensions given to a number of others, in particular the extra $10 million or so going to Joe Mauer.

It’s time for Bill Smith to step up and declare what direction he is going to take this team’s roster. Show some leadership and take accountability for the decisions you make, Bill.

Which segues nicely to Joe Mauer. It’s time to grow up, Joe. It’s time to make this team yours. You’re going to be claiming somwhere between 20-25% of the team’s Major League payroll. You may not be totally comfortable with the role, but that kind of money brings with it some responsibility that goes beyond just hitting for a respectable average and deciding whether your pitcher should throw a two-seamer or a slider.

I sense that Mauer is trying to “lead by example”, rather than filling a more traditional leadership role. It’s possible that he feels “playing hurt” right now is how he’s most comfortable displaying leadership. But we’ve gotten through over half a season now and his performance is not at the level a team with championship asperations needs to get out of its #3 hitter.

Joe, if you are not hurt, you need to step up and do your job (and that dinger last night against the Orioles was a nice start). If you ARE hurt, step up and tell Ron Gardenhire that you can not currently perform at the necessary level. Get rest if that’s what’s needed. If rest won’t fix your problem, then you and your manager need to conclude that it’s best for the team for you to be dropped in the order to a spot more in line with your current performance.

Which conveniently brings us to you, Ron Gardenhire. There’s a reason they call the guy in charge of a professional baseball team on the field a “manager” instead of a “head coach”, like they do in high school and college. It’s because “managing” is at the top of his responsibilities.

If I hear, “Gardy isn’t responsible because he’s not the one pitching/hitting/fielding,” one more time, I’ll pull out what limited amount of hair I still have. I manage a staff of people approximately the same size as a Major League roster. I didn’t hire all of these people personally, but I am responsible for assuring that they perform as a group at or above expected levels. If my staff is not performing well, it reflects on my performance as a manager.

The question is whether this roster, as currently constituted, will perform at sufficient levels to meet everyone’s high expectations. Good managers, in baseball as in business, sometimes lose their effectiveness with a particular “staff”.  Good managers can make changes to their approach to bring improvements to the performance of the charges under them. Can Gardy change his approach to managing to improve his team’s performance?

When performance is substandard, an organization can do one of two things… lower expectations to align with actual performance or make changes to try to improve performance to expected levels. Not many successful organizations choose the former. So let’s assume the Twins want to actually improve their performance. There are a few changes that need to be made.

  • Players need to play better. People like Mauer and Scott Baker, the guys who have been given job security that indicates they are expected to be the nucleus of the team for years to come, need to show some leadership skills AND improve their own personal performance levels.
  • The Manager needs to change his management approach and find a way to motivate or otherwise improve the performance of players who are not playing well.
  • The GM needs to decide what direction this team is going to take the rest of this year and in 2011 and 2012, take ownership of that decision and communicate it, then set a course to be successful over whatever timeline he deterimines is appropriate.

Insanity, they say, is defined as doing the same things the same ways and expecting different results. Absent a demonstration of leadership by some of these people and the necessary changes being made by them, it’s insane for any of us to expect this team to have better results the rest of the season than they have had so far.

People making $40,000 a year are held accountable by those who pay their salaries for performing up to reasonable expectations. It is not unreasonable to expect those making exponentially more money to be held accountable for doing the same thing. – JC

15 thoughts on “First Rule of Leadership: Everything is Your Fault!

  1. Get ready to pull out that hair because, for the most part, I disagree with at least HALF of what you have here.

    You can say what you want about leadership but leadership is not a responsibility that lies with a title just because that person has a job. They do their job and that is where that lies. Fault for a job not done lies only with that individual. To give up the responsibility for individual performance to someone else is a COP OUT. I don’t care what your job is – to say that your lack of performance in your job – no matter what it is – is the responsibility of your supervisor? B as is B, S as in S. A player that isn’t performing is on that player. A coach that screws up is on that coach.

    The problems come in who gets to define what that individual’s job is – guess what. Fans don’t really get to make that definition. That happens within the organization. When everyone is doing their job, you have a smoothly operating machine. That doesn’t mean a win, it just means a smoothly operating club that plays each game.

    Leadership is something comes in ADDITION to the job and has nothing to do with how much that person is payed, what their title is or what their individual responsibilities are. Leadership belongs to the person who goes above and beyond their responsibilities to lift those who are struggling up to the level they need to be. There can be multiple people doing this at any given moment and in many different areas. Yes, there is always one or two guys in a clubhouse that are the most common go-to in a certain arena. But to think they are now solely responsible for ‘leadership’ is yet another cop out. ALL the players should be stepping up when they are in the position to do so.

    No coach is responsible solely because some player isn’t living up to his JOB responsibilities. That’s primarily on the player. But there is almost always enough “blame” to go around.

    But, GOD, I go insane with the “fire so and so” CRAP that is shoveled out on coaches because a particular pitcher is struggling with a slump or a hitter is a bit off rhythmn or some callup isn’t performing to the level that the freaking blogging community thinks they should be. Seriously? EVERY pitcher and hitter goes through occasions where doing their job is harder than it was the day before and EVERYONE fails to meet their responsibilities sometimes. There has to be room for that in people’s expectations. That doesn’t mean you excuse it, it just means you say ‘that was a mistake’ or ‘you didn’t do well today’ and move on to the next day.

    It’s fun to play “If I was manager” sometimes but fans really need to get over themselves when they set themselves up as Boss, Judge and Jury. There is a point, which all fans cross occasionally, where the assignment of responsibilities and whether that individual lived up to them is simply NOT THEIR JOB! The ego of fans and media to assume that they can do someone else’s job better than they can is hubris and at the root of so much negativity and angst when allowed to escalate without being checked.

    The real necessary sherriff is the one who says, “when we hire you for that, you can make all the bad/good decisions you want. Until then, share your opinion and then shut the bleep up.”

  2. Oh yeah, I forgot the quote – I have NO clue on this one so hopefully another one of our readers actually knows this one becaue now I’m curious.

  3. Sorry Babs, I just don’t buy what you’re saying, in particular about the manager’s role. Note that throughout your comment, you talked about players playing well and coaches coaching well. As I said in the post, there’s a reason Gardy is called a manager… not a coach. His job is to MANAGE… not coach.

    Every manager, regardless of the organization or business he/she is in, has the responsibility for assuring those people being managed perform up to expectations and every group of “employees” has its own personality and unique challenges that a manager has to consider. There is no “one size fits all” approach to managing people in business or in baseball.

    Good managers are able to evaluate and adopt an approach that will get the most of their staff. Sometimes it may work best to be “one of the boys/girls” and sometimes it takes being more of an authority figure… maybe even a bit of a hardass when everyone starts slacking off a bit. You have to take the time to figure out what works best for each person individually AND the group as a whole… and then have the ability to adapt your own style to do the job.

    I’m NOT calling for Ron Gardenhire to get fired… I’m calling for him to MANAGE better.
    But if he’s simply not capable of getting his people to perform well, then he has to be held accountable, just like any other manager of people.

    Clint Hurdle is a heck of a baseball man. He knows the game. He’s a very likable guy. But after 8 or so years, the Rockies felt his team wasn’t responding to his management style the way they should and they gave his job to Jim Tracy. Apparently, that turnaround they had last year, going from 10 games below .500 in May to 20 games above by September, was just a coincidence to you.

    Frankly, based on your comments, I’m not exactly sure HOW you would suggest Gardy’s performance this year be evaluated. If the team’s result on the field is all about the players’ individual performances, not the manager’s, then is he responsible for ANYTHING once the lineup card is turned in?

    It’s not fair to assign ALL responsibility for the team’s performance to the Manager (and I didn’t do that), but you and others in the “it’s not the manager’s fault” chorus are giving him a free pass and that’s as wrong-thinking as those saying it’s all his fault.

  4. heh.. I wasn’t talking about Gardy when I was talking about Coaches – I was talking about the COACHES. Sorry if by not listing off all positions, you thought I was leaving someone out.

    And this is just one area where we’ll have to agree to disagree. Because I think all those job responsibilities are limited to their own personal sphere – the JOB belongs to the individual and their responsibility ends where the next person’s responsibility begins. They can advise, manage, coach, teach, whatever and the final product is up to the player.

    And it’s NOT OUR JOB to evaluate Gardy’s performance!!! That was entirely my point. That’s the organization’s responsibility. We can say that we don’t think he is doing what we think he should be doing – everyone has an opinion it seems. BUT the evaluation of his job performance relies on much more than what we see during games and to be honest, fans, including you and me, don’t have a flipping clue about what his job performance is off the field. If the fans had any say whatsoever in who was coaching or managing, Scotty Ullger would be LONG out of a job. Obviously, the organization has a different list of expectations than we do. And for all the investment the fans make into the revenue stream, they don’t work for us.

    And for the record, you may not be calling for firing people but many others are. I was referring to a much larger circle than just your comments.

  5. That’s fine, Babs. I’m used to those with wrong-minded thinking on a particular topic disagreeing with me at times. :)

  6. Not going to argue about whether Ron Gardenhire should be fired …. but doing the same things in the same old way is NOT working here. He seems incredibly bull-headed about not shaking things up. Then, when he does move players around for 1 game, the next day its back to the same-old, same-old regardless of what’s been effective.

    I know he likes his veteran players … but for the most part they are under-performing. They all look to me like they could use a good jolt.

  7. I agree with JC. If it’s a couple of players, it’s on the players. When it’s endemic, it’s the organization. Gardy runs that part of the organization. That doesn’t mean he should be fired right away,but he should take responsibility. He needs to find a way to motivate this team. Wins are a part of his job definition, and while it might not be part of our job def to criticize him, it is our right to do so. Maybe the team needs massive criticism so they can go to the old “us against them bunker mentality” if that’s all they can come up with.

  8. Also, there would be no MLB without passionate fans. Gardy wouldn’t have taken the job is he was too worried about criticism. I’m sure his paycheck soothes some of his anxiety.

  9. Don’t fans set themselves up as that by deciding whether to pay attention to the team?

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  11. Since you mentioned the Yankees . . .
    Seems to me you haven’t really talked about accountability (yet?). Hate the Yankees if you must (seems like a requirement for being a Twins fan), but one thing that organization has had is accountability. This quotation from a piece about George Steinbrenner in this week’s New Yorker sums it up perfectly:
    “His approach to managing the Yankees was to buy the best available player and—at least in his louder days—to hold that player, along with his manager, publicly accountable for the performance of the entire team.”

    GS would not hem and haw about whether or not he thought a misplaced bunt was a stupid thing to do. That player would be benched and publicly humiliated. The result: teams that work hard not to do stupid things (and tend to play nearly perfect baseball).

    [JC-You might also appreciate that GS "kept a life-size cutout of John Wayne in his suite at the Regency."]

    Unfortunately, I don’t hear fans demanding that the Twins work more on fundamentals, or learn how to focus their attention, or (a-hem) review the NL rules before playing an interleague game so they don’t make stupid errors. What I hear is “so-and-so SUCKS, get rid of him”.

    Is that the managing style you propose? Do you immediately fire anyone who isn’t performing up to your expectations? Or do you work on the specific things they are doing wrong?

    Frankly, I’m tired of all the screaming and whining and back seat driving. And surprised at what fair-weather fans the Twins fans seem to be. I really don’t understand baseball fans who are only happy when their team is in first place. You really have all picked the wrong sport. Or, you should all switch and become Yankees fans . . .

    Going back to just enjoying the game I love,
    dew

    You can read the full NewYorker story at: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2010/07/26/100726ta_talk_mcgrath

  12. thanks for the link and comments, dew.

    I don’t think you have to be bombastic about demanding accountability in order to express those expectations and I certainly don’t propose (or expect) that Jim Pohlad start going public with threats and criticism of Gardy and Mauer, though since he is ultimately their employer, based on some folks opinions that’s the only person who should feel entitled to express dissatisfaction with their performance since we’re “just fans” and not qualified or entitled to express our dissatisfaction.

    I agree that to do no more than demand a member of the organization be fired/traded/released/sent down reflects poorly on the fan making the comment. I see it as being lazy. I’ve tried to express WHY I feel certain people in the organization have underperformed and how I feel they could and should improve their performance. I feel doing so is something I’m entitled to do, given the amount of time, money and emotion I invest in being a Twins fan and I don’t believe anyone who expresses criticism is a fair-weather fan. A fair-weather fan, in my mind, simply stops caring about the team when they struggle.

  13. Surprised we’re not being told to be Flubs fans, really, then we wouldn’t have to worry about expectations…

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