It’s no secret that when you’re having fun at work you perform better. In “Smarter, Faster, Better”, Charles Duhigg references a conversation he had with Laszlo Bock, the head of Google’s People Operations department. Bock states, “There’s a myth we all carry…we think we need super-stars (on a team). You can take a team of average performers, and if you teach them to interact the right way, they’ll do things no superstar could ever accomplish.” Although the Chicago Cubs do have a few superstars, their manager, Joe Maddon, is a master at getting all 25 of his players to interact the right way.
As an avid Chicago sports fan I can’t help but be excited about the Cubs right now. I’ve seen Chicago’s other teams (the Blackhawks, White Sox, and Bulls) have some winning seasons but the Cubs are a level above that right now. Some might credit their success to the amazing starting pitching; some might credit the front office for putting together a roster of young stars. While credit is due in each of those places, I think we should be talking about Joe Maddon. On and off the field, Maddon has created an environment where it’s okay to have some fun and try new things. Heck, he even had David Ross, a catcher, pitch for an inning last year.
In a profession where you’re on the road over 100 days of the year, away from your home, missing from your family, and sleeping on planes just to get a few hours of shut-eye before another game, it’s important to keep team morale and energy levels up. Joe Maddon has crafted the perfect plan to go back to the basics and have fun with his team. On their last long road trip, the team was assigned to wear “zany” suits much to the joy of the media and team members themselves. In the latest of long stretches away from home, the Cubs are sporting matching blue tracksuits with nicknames stitched on the back.
These zany suits and matching outfits aren’t just to show off their best record in baseball - Maddon is intentionally building camaraderie and a culture of fun among his players. “I know it’s a business; I know there’s a lot of money. But it’s a game. So play it like one,” Maddon says. With the intention of encouraging fun at work, the Chicago Cubs are displaying what a great organization can do with a unique culture outside the playing field.
Questions? Comments? Intentions?