Leadership Lessons from Terry Francona: Learn by Observation

I recently had the opportunity to see Terry Francona speak to a small group of IT professionals. Terry geared a lot of his conversation towards his approach to leadership. One of the key concepts that initially jumped out to me was the fact that he focuses a lot on creating a culture where the team “wants to come to the ballpark every day and do the right thing”.

When I first became a hiring manager, I focused too much on technical aptitude during the interview process. I asked detailed questions about a particular system or network but didn’t spend much time talking about how they approached situations or problems. While we ended up hiring folks that were experienced, in some cases, they lacked a genuine passion for technology. In more extreme instances, they didn’t work well with other team members. I obviously needed to make some sort of adjustment.

Fortunately, I heard Terry Francona speak at the right time in my career. I’ve focused more on hiring the qualities that can’t be easily coached or developed since that event. This has led me to work on finding individuals that are curious to find out how technology works as opposed to just technicians that have obtained massive amounts of knowledge. I also try to gauge whether or not the candidate operates with a level of integrity. These adjustment have helped create a culture where all of our team members that want to come to work every day and do the right thing for our customers.

Another lesson that I learned during this talk was to learn by observation. Terry Francona mentioned all of the managers that he coached with and played for during his career. He said that he learned a lot about how to be a great coach by playing for great coaches. You might not ever get the chance to sit down and have a career-focused conversation with someone that you admire. Fortunately, there is ample opportunity to learn from the example that they set and how they approach a particular situation.

Through observation, you can also learn valuable lessons about what not to do. This part of the conversation reminded me of times in my career where I worked for less than stellar bosses. I took the time to think about what they did in particular that I found demoralizing. It made me realize that I need to keep in mind not only what motivates a team but what could demotivate them as well.

I had hoped to just shake the hand of a future hall of famer but I walked away with some lessons in leadership that will hopefully serve me well for the rest of my career.

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