I’m a baseball mom. And this summer, I’ve been a traveling baseball mom. I’ve been watching Peter (my soon-to-be high school senior) pitch in his competitive summer league.

The experience got me to thinking that baseball has a lot in common with business aviation teams.

Particularly when it comes to talent management and recruitment.

 

Know Your Players

On every team—in both baseball and bizav— there’s a variety of slots on the team. And not every “player” is interchangeable.

You can’t cover all the bases with short stops. You’ve got to have first and second basemen, catchers, third basemen and, let’s not forget, outfielders too.

I realized that, as a pitcher, my son is a specialist. He’s focused on doing one thing, and he does that one thing really well.

By the same token, as a bizav leader, you have people on your team who command some very specialized skills. They know how to perform with a high degree of proficiency. Then you also have others on the team who have many skills and can do a lot of different things.

Carrying the analogy further, a pilot is quite often the centerpiece of the “game.” He or she fills the stadium (or the seats) and gets you wherever you’re going and back again, every trip.

 

How Deep is Your Bench?

Whether it’s in the dugout or the bullpen, the most successful baseball teams are those that recruit a strong—and deep—bench. Taking that tack in aviation is a precaution worth exercising. When something comes out of left field, you’ll be ready for it!

And just like in baseball, in aviation, you never know when you’re going to have to go “deep.” When it turns out to be a 10+-inning game, who can you turn to? Who can you summon to the pitcher’s mound when the other team’s up, there are two outs and the bases are loaded?

This season, one of the best pitchers for the San Francisco Giants, Johnny Cueto, is on the disabled list because he needed some elbow surgery. He’s out for a year-plus. That meant that, for a while, BOTH of the team’s pitching aces were out, because their other phenom, Madison Bumgarner, was also on the DL.

It left the Giants struggling to fill the void.

The same scenario holds true for a flight department. How deep is your bench?

What if you have a U.S. armed forces reservist who gets deployed? Or a pilot who’s out for medical reasons? Or, even yet, a key team member on maternity or paternity leave?

 

Be a Great Coach

Again, just like in baseball, for any of these unplanned-for instances, you need a leader, a coach. It’s got to be someone who understands how to help people get the best out of themselves. Whether it’s on the playing field or in the hangar.

He or she needs to be someone who shows up every day a little bit better that he or she was the day before. Somebody who can help us celebrate our wins and take our losses in stride and learn from them.

After all, we know we can’t win every game, but when we do, we ought to celebrate it. And when we lose? Well, we need to learn how to look at that loss and ask ourselves ‘Where did we go wrong?’

 

Recruit for the Right Fit

So, following are a few more reminders to make sure that when you recruit, you do so for the right fit, the right player for the position.

Aim for diversity

Baseball teams are made up of players from every walk of life and nearly every ethnicity. Establishing that sort of cultural diversity ought to be encouraged for aviation teams as well. Bottom line: recruit for skill and cultural fit, and look for players with passion and potential.

Pick a strong team captain

Leadership is all about putting on your cleats, pitching in and working well with others. A great team captain doesn’t rally his players from the broadcasting booth—he’s right there on the field, mixing it up with his team. This is especially true during a “losing streak.” Boosting morale, looking ahead and putting the losses behind you are a team captain’s stock in trade.

Let your players “own” their positions

A team manager knows exactly when to step back and let his players do what they do best. And when they do it with a sense of ownership, it’s all for the better. The catcher behind the plate owns that position, just as the pitcher does the mound. Aviation teams are no different—team members need to sense the pride of controlling their piece of the process.

Work hard & rest harder

Unrelenting toil on the field or in the hangar will burn out a player or a team member. (No pitcher ever starts two games in a row.) Great team managers in both disciplines—baseball and aviation—know how to fill a game roster. They do so by varying their players whenever possible. Plus, they work the schedule, giving them some well-deserved R&R on a regular basis.

 

Post-Game Wrap-up

I realize that I’m having a bit of fun with these proverbial baseball metaphors. But I hope I’ve made the case that the parallels are real and right there, front and center.

We ought to heed them as much as possible. Especially as we contemplate building a high-functioning—a “winning”—team. If you have any thoughts of your own about the similarities between sports teams and aviation teams, I’d love to hear from you . . . so—yer on deck!

 

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