As the leader of a company, one of my biggest responsibilities centers around how to make people feel important.
How do I make everyone at Steiner Sports feel like they're an essential part of our business? How do I make sure the warehouse worker who puts a Mariano Rivera collectible into a box for shipping knows he or she is as essential as the guy who sat with Mariano while he signed it?
I've always felt that you can learn a ton about business, people and life in general from coaching Little League. I had the same "how to make people feel important" challenge when I coached my kids' teams. I needed to get the kids who didn't play that much feel as crucial as the "stars," so that when their time came to make a key play, they'd be ready.
To do this, I liked to tell a story at the beginning of every season. I picked it up from my friend Bruce Eagle.
Bruce told me that the first Little League championship game he ever coached ended in dramatic fashion.
The kid who played left field for him, a 12-year-old named Danny, hadn’t seen much action over the course of the season; balls were rarely hit to him, and as a batter, he rarely got on base. Bruce tried to engage him as much as possible during practice, always reminding him that on pickoff attempts at third, and balls hit to right field, Danny had to back up the third baseman in case of an overthrow.
When the title game came around, Danny didn't feel that important because he hadn't contributed in a major way to any of the team’s wins.
In that title game, Bruce’s team was leading by one run when they took the field in the bottom of the ninth. They got two quick outs, but the next kid up was the other team’s best player.
Sure enough, he mashed a ball to deep right, over the fielder’s head. Everyone knew it was at least a double right off the bat. But the hitter had other intentions, because he passed second base at full speed.
Meanwhile, the right fielder ran down the ball and fired it to his cutoff man, the second baseman. The second baseman then whipped around and threw to third, but his throw was clearly going to go over the third baseman's head. Seeing this, the third base coach waved the runner home, expecting to tie the game.
Just as he was accustomed to doing in practice, Danny had run down the left field line, to back up the third baseman.
So what looked like an overthrow to third ended up being a perfect relay to Danny.
With the runner charging home, Danny caught the ball and made the throw of his life. He fired a strike to the catcher, who tagged out the runner.
Bruce’s team had won the championship—with Danny getting the essential final out.
“Everyone here is important to this team,” I’d tell my team after wrapping up the story. “Whether they know it yet or not.”
At Steiner, whether you're answering a phone, or packing a box, or fixing a bug on our website, or you're a major executive, you're a vital part of getting our collectibles out. We need you.
How do you make people feel important? I'd love to hear new ideas!