A recent World Series incident reminds me of a key leadership lesson that many young leaders tend to forget. The incident I’m referring to is Game 5 of the 2011 MLB World Series, where St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa miscommunicated TWICE with the bullpen and inadvertently sent the wrong relieving pitchers in the game.
The Texas fans that evening were so loud that TWO different phone calls to the bullpen were misheard and next thing La Russa knew he had contributed to what he would later call one of the “weirdest moments in baseball history.” USA Today said it was like La Russa called for Chinese takeout and the delivery man showed up with a large pepperoni pizza. Read about the story here and a follow up article here.
The incident brings to mind a common leadership snafu that I’ve seen countless young leaders experience, including yours truly. What happens is this: Leaders extend trust (good), but fail to verify that the trust should continue to be given (not so good). In other words, we as leaders give away responsibility, but fail to check in and make sure that things are being handled correctly, responsibly, etc.
The intent is great: Empower people. Give trust. Delegate. All good leadership practices. The downside is what happens next. Instead of following through and checking in, leaders make an assumption that things are going well without following up. Look at what La Russa said about the blunder in Game 5:
“All I had to do was look out to the bullpen to make sure,” La Russa said, talking to a handful of news reporters outside his office after the Cardinals departed a voluntary workout.
All La Russa had to do was look up and he would have caught the blunders and avoided what may have contributed to the Cardinals loosing Game 5 to the Texas Rangers. The leadership lesson we are reminded of is as follows: Trust, but Verify. Always verify.
Extend trust to those you lead, and help them and serve them by following up to make sure they are set up for success. Trusting without verifying is blind trust and is setting those you lead up for failure. To trust those you lead without verifying their follow through is leadership suicide. You will probably make it by for awhile, but eventually you will get burned and they will not grow as an individual or leader.
In real estate, I’ve seen well intended relationships go south due to a lack of accountability. In business, I’ve seen countless deals go bad because one or more parties did not follow through on the details. In families, I’ve seen marriages destroyed because there was no accountability. In the church world, I’ve seen people deeply hurt because a leader extended trust, but did not verify the results or follow through.
We are not talking about micro-managing. We are not speaking about looking over a subordinate’s shoulder every day as they work. What I am encouraging is for you to be wise and serve those you lead by following up and discussing expectations and follow through. Love them enough to be honest. Serve them by helping them grow and overcome blind spots. Set the bar high for your organization so that everyone knows that excellence (not perfection, but excellence) is expected from all. Trust, but Verify.
A big reason this is important is for the performance of your organization and the results that await. A bigger reason is for the development of those you lead so that they can truly become who they were created to be! Trust, but Verify.