I recently took in a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. I hadn’t been to Wrigley in about four years, but it didn’t take long for me to remember why it’s such a special place.
The Place: First, it’s the overwhelming feeling of familiarity we get the moment the train or Uber or cab pulls into Wrigleyville. It’s just the right amount of neighborhood familiarity with a slight sense of big city hustle. Whether fans are seven years of age, forty-seven, or sixty-seven, people are excited to be there because of what Wrigley Field means to Chicago’s northside, the game of baseball, and even popular culture.
The People: Next, it’s the conversations with everyone – fellow fans, the beer guy or girl, the concession stand attendant, ushers, and even the merchandise vendors outside the stadium. Everyone is nice!
While getting a quick beer, the attendant told me a brief story about how so few people buy Old Style anymore, yet back in the day it was all they sold at Wrigley. Coming back from a restroom break or a second (or third) concession stand run, though my seat was in the middle of a row (in section 220…great section because it’s in the shade!), fellow fans had no issues standing up to let me pass through to my seat. Quite the contrary. People made conversation as I passed by them! We’d talk about the drastic weather change in Chicago, how well Javy Baez is playing, and one person even made sure I didn’t slip on a spilled cup of beer!
The Players: Every game at Wrigley is special to both fans and the players. Grown men instantly become boys playing with each other on the sandlot. In recent years, especially with Joe Maddon’s leadership, it’s apparent the Chicago Cubs players relish playing with one another, but they also play for one another and the faithful Cubs fanbase.
Throughout the game I watched time and again, whether it was an outfielder making a great throw for an out at second base, a base runner outrunning an infield ground ball, or even when pitchers threw strikes, players showed each other love. They point to one another with a child-like smile. Infielders point to outfielders all the way at the ivy in center field, and I watched them point to the fans in the crowd when a great play was made, as if to say, “That was for you!”
The Passion: The game I attended recently was a make-up game from earlier this Spring when a game was postponed due to the lovely and frigid Chicago Spring weather. The game was on a lazy, late Monday afternoon / early evening, and while the day started out sunny and warm, it quickly turned chilly and windy as the game progressed. However, in the second inning, I looked up and scanned the stadium. It was packed in every section and on the rooftops towering above the outfield bleachers.
There were nearly 40,000 people chancing the weather to experience the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, cheering on the lovable Chicago Cubs. With each crack of a bat, hustle plays reaching extra bases, and with each run scored, the fans erupted as if it were already the playoffs late in October. It was merely the first week of June!
I thought to myself, “No wonder I fell in love with Wrigley Field in 1997 when my dad took me for the first time; and no wonder the first thing I want to do after seeing a game at Wrigley Field is go back and do it all over again and again.”
The friendly confines of the place, the people, the players, and the passion truly spark an emotional connection with Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs. It’s that connection which becomes the attraction, and that attraction keeps people engaged, passionate, and willing to do everything in their power to support the Chicago Cubs.
What does this have to leadership?
How do people feel about the place where you work? Is it welcoming, comfortable, and inviting? Is it a place where people feel they can lean into their own strengths, special talents, and do they feel safe enough to do so?
How would you rate the relationships among the people where you work? Do people on your team work with or against each other? Do people engage in conversations, connecting with one another, or do they shy away from the opportunity to give or receive feedback?
How well do the players on your team work together? Better yet, do the people on your team work for one another. Would your team say that you work for them, supporting them, encouraging them, and helping them?
How much passion do you have for your work? How passionate are the people on your team?
Bringing it all together
Create your own version of the friendly confines with your team, and inspire them to perform up to their highest potential.
- Create a comfortable, welcoming, and safe environment which allows them to lean into the best version of themselves. The more comfortable they become, the more they’ll put their talent on display.
- Inspire collaboration, connection, and old-fashioned conversations with and among the people you lead. The more people connect with conversations, early and often, the stronger your team’s relationships will become. Strong relationships build thriving workplace cultures, and thriving cultures always have and always will produce amazing results.
- Recognize and reward the players on your team who consistently help, encourage, support, and lift up their fellow teammates. The best teams are made up of individuals who understand that we never look bad making somebody else look good.
- If you’re passionate about your work and especially about leading your team, then simply open up and share your passions with those you lead. The more you share your passions, the more comfortable they will be in sharing their own passions with you and everyone else. Something amazing happens when we realize each other’s passions. We begin to understand the things we value most in this world, and when we understand each other’s personal values, new realms of respect and relationship begin to blossom.
Create your own friendly confines where you work. You’ll inspire and ignite a passion for possibility and productivity in the hearts and minds of those you lead. They will do anything in their power to support your collective cause, just like Cubs fans!
Have a great day.
(And Go Cubs Go…Hey, Chicago, whatd’ya say…the Cubs are gonna win today…)
For more ideas, thoughts, and strategies for turning your “job” into truly “meaningful work”, you or someone on your team may like my new book, Ballgames To Boardrooms: Leadership, Business, and Life Lessons From our Coaches We Never Knew We Needed.