Together We are Champions: Lessons for Business from the 2012 World Champion San Francisco Giants

Marco ScutaroMarco Scutaro enjoys the driving rain at the NLCS Finale

Yesterday more than a million people lined the streets of San Francisco on Halloween..not for trick or treating, but for a celebration of Sunday’s San Francisco Giants 2012 World Series vistory.

The Giants, who waited more than 50 years for a World Series ring in San Francisco, brought home the championship for the second time in three years.

How fitting to celebrate the Orange & Black in the City by the Bay on Halloween. But the Giants victory was more than just a win for baseball fans and Bay Area residents. What this team did has lessons that are relevant to all of us in business:

Sergio RomoSergio Romo celebrates the deciding World Series save

  • Never give up. Never surrender.  The Giants were down to their last game on six different occasions, but they never gave up. They kept doing what they did best and focused on the path ahead of them.
  • Don’t get ahead of yourself.  Worry about the game you’re playing now, not what’s coming up tomorrow or the next day. We win in sports or in business one day at a time.
  • Play the role that’s needed–even if it’s not the one you signed up for.  Time and time again, this team took players like two-time Cy Young Award Winner Tim Lincecum and turned him into a middle reliever–because that’s what was needed. To Timmy’s credit, he did what was asked of him and did it well–no whining, no complaining.
  • Give it all you’ve got every time. Whether it was bunting for a sacrifice, making an outstanding catch or turning a complex double play, it was obvious that each player of this team did everything he possibly could to contribute to the cause. Players like Marco Scutaro jumped in midseason and never stopped playing hard to drive the team to victory. Pitcher Barry Zito, left off the 2010 post-season roster, stepped up and delivered one of the finest seasons in his career.
  • Don’t believe the competitive hype.  The Dodgers spent several hundred million dollars acquiring big name talent–but never made the playoffs. The St. Louis Cardinals were the reigning Champions–but couldn’t get past the NLCS. The Detroit Tigers had the first Triple Crown winner in more than 50 years–but couldn’t even score a run for 2 games in a row. The Giants chose to focus on how they could win, rather than be intimidated by who they were competing against–and wound up sweeping Detroit 4-0.
  • Adversity makes you stronger.  Catcher Buster Posey came back from a devastating ankle injury in 2011 to lead the league in hitting, be named Hank Aaron Player of the Year, receive the Willie McCovey Award, and likely be the National League MVP. Marco Scutaro was a journeyman infielder who’d changed uniforms on an annual basis–till he hit .362 as a Giant. He never flinched after being knocked over by Matt Holliday sliding into second base–playing well enough afterwards to be named NLCS MVP. And Pablo Sandoval overcame injuries to his hand and hamstring to hit 1.000 against the Tigers #1 pitcher, Justin Verlander, and be named the World Series MVP.
  • Add value no matter what you do.  Closer Brian Wilson was a key part of the team’s 2010 World Series run, but he was sidelined by elbow surgery in the beginning of the season. That didn’t stop him from showing up for each post season game as the team’s loudest and strongest cheerleader. Lincecum became a reliever; Madison Baumgarner reworked his pitching delivery in the midst of the playoffs; Jeremy Affelt and Javier Lopez were brought in only against lefties–but they all delivered what they could when they were asked.
  • Stay the course with a winning strategy.  Manager Bruce Bochy was calm, cool and collected throughout the 178 game season. He stuck with a winning strategy and never let himself be thrown off track by the happenings around him.
  • The success of the team is bigger than that of any one person.  Most of the other playoff teams had big name stars that captivated the media. The Giants instead had a team of young, hardworking ball players who put the team’s success ahead of their own personal gain. They internalized the team’s marketing slogan: Together We’re Giant.
  • Embrace the individual.  Even with that strong team focus, the Giants sported a squad that was full of fun-loving individuals who were recognized on field and off for their distinct personalities and the value they brought to the team. From Hunter Pence’s fiery clubhouse pep talks to Sergeo Romo’s pure exuberance every time he closed a game, it was obvious that this was a team that recognized and embraced each individual on the roster.
  • Recognize and appreciate what got you here. Having sold out every single home game for the last 2 seasons, the Giants recognize how important their fan base is. More than 3 million fans a year show up to each game in bright orange, sporting paraphernalia ranging from Panda hats to Lincecum hair and Wilson “Fear the Beards.” And the team and management make a point to thank the fans and give them credit for the Giants’ success. The celebration parade included every person who works in the Giants organization–from the front office staff to ushers, beer vendors and maintenance workers. The success belongs to everyone.

And, finally:

  • Have fun.  With a team full of characters like the Panda, the Giraffe, the Horse, Timmy and the hair, the Bullpen Beards, an Angel, a Buster, a Scutaro, and more–plus Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” playing every game, and the  “Gangnam Style” dance between innings, how can you not have fun? This was a team that enjoyed every minute of their run and weren’t afraid to let you enjoy the season with them–until Tony Bennett sang his trademark “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” live at City Hall Plaza yesterday afternoon in front of a million people.

We don’t usually get the chance to run the basepaths in a major league stadium, but the lessons learned from the 2012 Giants can help all of us hit the ball out of the park in our own lives. Together we can be champions.

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