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Maddonisms: How the Cubs’ Mellow Management Translates Off the Field

Topics: Work Culture

No matter which team you root for – or don’t – everyone can agree that the Chicago Cubs have done pretty well for themselves over the last few seasons. By winning their first World Series in over 100 years in 2016, they took the final step in completely turning around a team that seemed overcome by curses and bad luck. With a change in management – and attitudes – they found a way to succeed.

Image Credit: Pexels / Rachel Xiao

So how can you learn from their success? Try these tips from Cubs Manager Joe Maddon, whose famous “Maddonisms” have redefined how the Cubs approach the effort and stress that is professional baseball. They’re so good, in fact, they’ve inspired a series of tee-shirts that support his charitable causes.

These “Maddonisms” define a new, relaxed-but-inspiring way to approaching hard work, and they’re so perfectly inspiring, they translate easily from the diamond to the boardroom. 

“Don’t ever let the pressure exceed the pleasure.”

Before the start of his first season managing the Cubs in 2015, Maddon held a press conference where he first made famous his penchant for pithy sayings, speaking to the more than 100 years of championship drought he was inheriting as skipper of Chicago’s northside team.

“Don’t ever let the pressure exceed the pleasure,” Maddon said at the 2014 press meeting. “That’s on the top of my lineup card every night.”

He continued: “Don’t ever forget why we’re here. This is baseball. This is a game, and this is entertainment. So at the end of the day, when we’re playing these games that are very meaningful in September and October, I want them to go out there and play the game as though it were March 15, June 15, August 15 and then hopefully October 15. Don’t ever change the way you play the game.”

The Maddonism translates over to the business world, too, if you’re starting to feel your passion drain away from your daily work life. You might want to try to get out of your rut, and rekindle the passion you felt when you first chose your career.

“Do simple better.”

This Maddonism from the 2015 season expressed Maddon’s desire for the team to go back to the fundamentals, skills the players have been practicing since they first picked up the sport as kids. It was so succinct and inspiring, it motivated a refocusing of business fundamentals at all sorts of businesses, from sales to education.

Do you find your workplace overcomplicated these days? Get back to the basics of your job with some basic backtracking. What are your personal or team goals? Who are your primary targets or customers? What are your key tools to making your job successful? With all that we do day in and out, we can sometimes lose sight of our primary fundamental job truths.

“Try not to suck.”

Image Credit: Anne Holub

This was one of two Maddonisms for the team during the season the Cubs won the World Series.Though they had done well in 2015, their aim in 2016 was to do better. They had healthy, talented players, and if they just “tried not to suck” they’d probably succeed. It was a simple approach for shrugging off immense pressure: Just try not to be the worst. Sounds easier than “Win the World Series for the first time in 108 years,” right?

When you want to apply this Maddonism to your regular life, think about ditching that pressure to be “THE BEST” and instead focus on doing your job so that you don’t feel that heavy weight on your shoulders. Not everyone can win all the time, but if you get your head caught up in that brass ring race, you might just keep focusing on potential failure, not your accomplishments along the way.

“Embrace the target.”

The second Maddonism for 2016, this saying lead the team through the gauntlet of pressure they were facing as everyone hoped they’d make it to the big W at the end of the season. But they had to keep putting in that hard work towards the target every day.

“I’m really a big believer of running towards the fire as opposed to away from it,” Maddon said when asked about the expression as pitchers and catchers reported for spring training. “I really want our guys to get comfortable with the concept of everybody speaking so glowingly of us and embracing the target….the process needs to be the focus.”

If you’re killing yourself getting to a particular end goal, it might not matter where you end up. Burning out along the way doesn’t have to be the norm. Focus on the target and getting there with the most efficient effort as possible.

“If you look hot, wear it.” 

Created before the team took to the road for a stretch of away games in 2016, Maddon encouraged his players to feel comfortable with a little goofy “dress-up” time. They’ve been seen in pajamas, wild suits, and even disco fashions. The media loves it, and from the look of the videos of the players heading for the bus, they appear relaxed and as though they’re having fun. The result? Relaxed players who are focusing on having a good time, not stressing over a few away games.

Confidence is the name of the game here, and having some fun with what life throws you. Don’t groan when you’ve got to do some team building one afternoon…embrace the chance to let your guard down. Have to give a presentation at work? Find a way to bring out smiles in the crowd. You don’t have to clown around at work to find more confidence and joy in everyday tasks.

And the 2018 team Maddonism: “e2 = W”

Riffing on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, E = MC2, this Maddonism speaks to breaking down the effort of baseball into its most basic elements. “The two E’s stand for Energy and Enthusiasm,” writes Susan Tyler. “(And) of course we know what the W stands for: The winning W Flag that proudly flies over Wrigley every time the Cubs get a win.”

Of course, not everyone can be as smart as Einstein, but you can take his – and Joe Maddon’s – words to heart. Everything can be broken down into its elements, which is a great equalizer in our work world. Almost anything can be possible with these two elements: energy and enthusiasm. Most people that have succeeded in life would likely tell you that they had the same core values at the center of their career journey. Worth a shot, even if you’re not headed to a pennant race this year.

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How would you apply a Maddonism to your career or passion? We want to hear from you! Comment below or join the discussion on Twitter.

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