How Do You Handle Spring Training?

Baseball is back, baby! I refer to Opening Day of the baseball season and Christmas Day for me. It is a gift I get to enjoy all season, especially when my Angels are winning. As is our tradition, I attended Opening Day with my dear friends Marla and Chuck and my cousin Trent (pictured above). It was so good to be at the stadium and feel “normal” after the last two years. 

During the preseason, there were several moments when we were not sure when and if baseball would be back this year due to the MLB lockout forcing the cancellation of Spring training games. When owners and the players’ union reached an agreement, it was announced that there would only be a four-week spring training instead of delaying the opening day. As you know, I am a sports enthusiast, but a shortened spring training season had my HR brain thinking, how would the teams handle this curveball when there is so much to do getting teams ready for the season? 

Functioning as a Team

Spring Training is a critical time in getting the team to function as a team. The coaches need to understand the strengths and challenges of each player working to make the team. Coaches and managers need to look at the outcome in the last few years and adjust their roster to create a team that will effectively work together to win games. This doesn’t consider the issues of securing visas for international players, establishing COVID protocols, free agency, and trades. Teams had to pivot and accomplish a lot in a shortened season; this included players, managers, coaches, and the support staff for each team. 

In the March newsletter, I wrote about the Four Stages of Competence Model and gave the example of driving to explain moving from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence. The only way to move to unconscious competence is through practice and repetition. In sports, that means drills – practicing the same plays and scenarios repeatedly until you automatically react to the situation. You know what to do without thinking about what needs to be done. This is commonly referred to as building muscle memory.

The foundation of a team’s ability to pivot when necessary is based on the players’ level of unconscious competence. While I used baseball analogies in this column, my HR brain replaced a few words, baseball team = your employees, manager/coach = business owner or supervisors. Did your company and team perform well the last two years under constant challenges, or were they “rained out” in the bottom of the second inning? 

What is the secret to a high-performing team? How do you build muscle memory for your employees? It is the same in business as it is in sports. Practice and repetition! You want your team to perform, so focus on their training. The one-and-done method doesn’t work and will never work. You can get results from one training session, but you need to build upon the newly acquired skills repeatedly. It’s the constant reinforcement that many companies forget about.

While baseball players have Spring Training as the official start of baseball, they are still working out, training, and making adjustments all season long. I get calls from clients who want us to train a new manager, which is a great start. But when there is no follow-up, it is as if you sent someone to play in the major leagues when they had one day of Spring Training. 

How do you train your team? What foundation have you established, and how will you build on that foundation to achieve your business goals? These are not always easy questions to answer since every organization has a unique set of challenges and team members. When you are ready to discuss your “spring training” goals, contact me, and together we can create a plan to get your team to the big leagues.