Setting The Bar

The Yankees lost last week in the American League Championship Series.  They performed terribly and were swept by the Tigers in four games.  According to ownership, anything less than winning the World Series means that they didn't meet the goal set forth for the season.  Of course, it isn't realistic to win the World Series every year, but this is the bar that has been set. This Yankee team won 95 games in the regular season and won the American League East.  They accomplished this with the following players spending time on the disabled list: Mariano Rivera (for most of the season), CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner, Andy Pettitte, Mark Teixeira, Michael Pineda (never threw a pitch), and Joba Chamberlain.

The team was praised for its character.  Yet, those that watched the team every day knew this was a flawed team.  They relied too heavily on home runs, and more importantly, even with a typically immense payroll, they didn't do the little things right. They didn't get runners in from third with less than two outs, they couldn't steal a base, they didn't hit behind the runner at second and countless other small aspects of the game that many times get looked over.  Personally, there wasn't a time during this season that I thought this team would win the World Series.

At work, I set a similarly high bar.  When my team competes for business, we aren't happy unless we win.  And when we lose, I have been known to spend significant amounts of time soul searching, sometimes second guessing, and lots of asking, "what could we have done better?".  Some people are happy to be invited to compete; I am not one of those people.

If you've seen Glengarry Glen Ross, you might remember Alec Baldwin's speech where he says, "As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is your fired."  We feel the same way, except there's no prize for second place.  However, we typically learn more from losing than we do from winning.  Pat Summit, the amazing women's basketball coach from Tennessee said "Losing gives you a blue print of how to get better."  And I guess that's why the time I spend reflecting on our losses is time well spent.

We recently made a presentation to a company regarding the long term strategy for their headquarters.  We didn't get the assignment.  The feedback that we received was that they didn't like our strategy.  After thinking about the pitch and the process, I realized that while I would have gone in with the same strategy, there were some deficiencies in our process and absent those deficiencies, our presentation likely would have been much better.  Do you think I will make the same mistake again soon?

I hope the Yankees figure out why they lost and construct a more well rounded roster next year, one that can do the little things right.  In the office, we focus on the little things, knowing that if we don't get those right, we won't be asked to do the big things.  We set the bar high every day, always seeking to get better.

Do you think the Yankees should be happy with their season?  How do you set your bar?  Do you get caught up in the details or do you focus on the big picture?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.