Business and Baseball

Detailed job descriptions can actually make or break your business. Is this an overstatement?

Think of it this way: it is a beautiful spring day and the baseball team is ready to play. The players are the best that money can buy, but someone sneaks into the dugout, mixes up everyone’s gloves and then randomly hands them out. Each player has to play a position based on the glove he or she received. The right fielder is now pitching, the first baseman is in the outfield and the pitcher is at second. How will the game go?

Because the game involves professional athletes, chances are the ball will still get from the mound to the catcher. The ball will be hit and thrown. However, mistakes will be made. Less effective pitching will mean more walks and giving up more hits and runs. Randomly selected defensive positioning will increase the number of throwing errors and passed balls. In the short term, the players will function, but efficiency and effectiveness will be seriously compromised by the lack of expertise of each player in his or her current position.

How successful will this team be in the long run? As the year goes on and more games are played, the team might seem competitive and may even win occasionally when the players eventually improve and their success in their assigned positions grows simply through practice and professionalism. However, the players will never reach their full potentials because they are not playing the positions they are most skilled at and have spent thousands of hours training for. Over time, their frustrations will grow and they will become disenchanted as they will not be achieving their true potentials.

Like the baseball team, if people on your business team are not in the right positions, your business will still run and talented people will still function. Your star employees will still succeed and generate revenue. But your company will never reach its full potential. Skilled employees still bat and produce runs regardless of the positions they play. However, their levels of engagement will eventually plummet and their frustrations will skyrocket, ultimately resulting in your company losing money when employee frustration turns to apathy.

An effective job description is the solution to this problem and serves many important functions. It lets employees know what their roles and responsibilities are within the organization. When written effectively, it ties the employee’s general tasks, responsibilities, organizational relationships and competencies together. It helps the company hire employees with the necessary and desired skills.

So, without a proper job description and, as a result, the right employees in the right positions, what areas of your business will be impacted first? More than likely, the cost will be greatest in administration and operations — the areas of your business that control costs and ultimately influence profits. Your greatest challenge will be preventing the other team from scoring. Your employees will hit and run, but having people function in the wrong job will affect the defense the most: accounts payable, accounts receivable and the ability to fend off the competition. Administrative functions will also suffer.

Having people function in the wrong job will affect the business as a whole. The costs of running the business will increase and there will be more down time, less efficiency, more waste. Mistakes will be made, opportunities will be missed.

If you are experiencing the following frustrations, your players may be in the wrong positions:

  • Team members are quitting.
  • New team members don’t stay long. They perceive the team as inefficient.
  • Costs are rising and profits, if any, are falling. Your defense is decreasing.
  • You are losing sales and provide poor customer service.

If you send your employees to work without knowledge of their job expectations and the expertise to excel, your business will struggle to be reasonably profitable, let alone flourish and stand out against the competition. There will be no job satisfaction and no vision for the future with everyone bogged down in their job functions.

Back to the baseball analogy: what if the pitcher gets the right glove? The other eight players on the field are still in the wrong positions, but at least now you have a pitcher on the mound. This team would function too — probably better than the first team — but the struggle would continue. How would the team perform if the pitcher, catcher and middle infielder all played in their correct positions? You would have a third of the baseball team playing to their strengths, skills and knowledge. The improvement would be evident first through an increased defense, i.e., a decreased production in runs by the other team. Secondly, the rest of your team would feel an increase in self-confidence.

At the very least, if all you do as a business owner is determine which positions within your organization are the pitcher, catcher and middle infielder and then hire and train the best people for these jobs, your profits will start to increase almost immediately. Just like on the field, the other team would score less, dramatically increasing your team’s chance of winning.

In business and in sports, to have a winning team you need seven things:

Strong Leadership

  • Leadership with detailed objectives that feed into the larger objective of the company will inspire success with direction and purpose. Knowing that they are part of a larger effort beyond their job functions will keep employees engaged and enthusiastic.

A Common Goal

  • When the leader knows what the goal is and the steps to reach it, job descriptions will naturally follow. Each description will contribute to achieving the overall goal. Match the right person to the right job description and you will have a winning combination to reach your game-winning goal.

A Clear Understanding of the Rules of the Game

  • Job descriptions that clarify the roles and responsibilities of the employee give the business the best possible chance of short-term and long-term success.

An Action Plan

  • Job descriptions need to align with the functions of the organization, the game being played and the metrics being measured.

The Right Players

  • You need to have the right employees in the right positions, aligned with their skills and knowledge. If you have the wrong employees, e.g., football players not baseball players, don’t hesitate to get rid of them and recruit the right ones.

One Hundred Percent Enthusiasm

  • Your employees need to be skilled and knowledgeable, but they don’t need to be the best that money can buy. They need to be willing to learn and work hard. Top-notch engaged employees will take your business places you never could on your own.

A Great Coach

  • Finally, you need a coach who can see the larger picture and who is in a position to get the last 20 percent of performance out of you and your team.

An effective coach is the last piece of the puzzle. If you are the owner of an organization where nobody is playing to their strengths and the scoreboard indicates losses where profits should be, a coach can help you do the following:

  • Identify the key roles in your organization. On a baseball team it is likely the pitcher, the catcher and maybe a middle infielder like the short stop or second baseman. Who is it in your organization?

  • Define these roles and expectations through detailed job descriptions.

  • Assess your team and determine if you have the best people filling the roles.

  • Hire the best possible people and empower these employees to excel at their jobs.

  • Quantify what success in your organization means.

It’s time to see a great game of baseball. Work with a coach to determine which players have the skills you need, get the right gloves on them and shut out the competition. Play ball!