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Leadership Thought #317 – You Have To Learn To Hit Curve Balls Or Find Someone Who Can

March 13, 2012

Free Baseball Player Batting Photography Stock Photo

There comes a time in every young baseball player‘s career where he must learn to hit curve balls.  It isn’t easy to learn this skill and most kids struggle.  With fastballs it’s just a matter of focus, timing, and reflexes.  Curve balls are often unpredictable and anticipating ball movement can be quite difficult.  The same thing happens in business.  First you just need to pick up the fundamentals.  Much of this knowledge is easily acquired and it is just a matter of applying what you learn.  With certain skills sets, practice will make perfect.  However, as you become more successful and the stakes get higher, the level of complexity will tend to increase in proportion to your level of success.  It no longer becomes about fundamentals.

If you want to grow your company to the next level, then your thinking and actions need to be both dynamic and proactive.   You need to outthink the competition, anticipate market changes, build more sophisticated delivery systems, make strategic financial decisions, and focus on building high performance work cultures rather than relying on interpersonal relationships.  You need to be focused, but you also need to be quick on your feet and adaptable to shifting internal and external variables.  You must get all the parts of your organization working in harmonious fashion towards a common objective regardless of what happens.  You need to be able to hit whatever pitches are thrown your way.

It can be hard to accept that you’ve grown your organization beyond your own capacity to lead it.   What’s worked in the past may no longer apply to the future.  If you are not careful you will end up becoming the biggest barrier to your organization’s success.  Some leaders can move beyond hitting fastballs to managing curveballs, but then they also must learn how to hit sliders, sinkers, knuckle balls, off speed pitches, etc.  There is a reason, so few people make the major leagues.   Think about it.  What other profession are you considered great at if you are only successful 30% of the time?  There is a similar reason very few businesses ever grown above $5M and maintain consistent and reliable growth rates after that point.  It is not just about hard work.  It also requires skill and natural ability.  Some things you can learn, others you cannot.

There is a difference between being the owner and being the CEO.   As an owner you want to receive the highest return on your investment given your mission objectives.  As the CEO you are required to build and maintain the business model to get you there. Some people can wear both hats effectively for a long time while many others reach their talent plateau much sooner.   Once you find yourself unable to consistently hit the pitches necessary to grow your company, then find someone else who can and/or field a management team of people who make up for your own shortcomings.  It’s also okay if you decide you want only to play the game at a certain level.  Not everyone can hit a curveball, but everyone can keep score.