Reaching Your Key Players

It’s rare that a movie about sports is actually very good. For every “Hoosiers” and “Rudy” there are countless bombs like Caddyshack II, The Air Up There, and Rocky V.

Movies about sports are usually terrible because the production company has to find good actors who are also good athletes.

This is harder than it sounds because in high school; the people on stage for the sophomore production of “Twelfth Night” are very rarely the same people receiving varsity letters for wrestling.

Because of this challenge, sports movies often tip in one of two directions; well acted films filled with overly choreographed, turbocharged sports montages (The Blind Side) or believable action sequences tastefully rendered against a backdrop of acting makes the “Mighty Ducks” look like a shoe-in for the Palme D’or.

“The Cutting Edge” anybody?

On the outside chance that a casting director can find someone with the ability to act AND punch at Hilary Swank levels, they still have to pair them with a good director and a great script… which only guarantees that a picture can still be as bad as “He Got Game”.

Which is why I didn’t go see Moneyball when it hit theaters last fall.

It didn’t help that I didn’t have a good feeling about the actors involved in the movie.

When I found out that Jonah Hill would be starring in a movie that wasn’t supposed to be funny, I figured I’d skip it, because I saw a movie where Jonah Hill was trying to be funny and it turned out to be “Evan Almighty”.

When you couple that with the understanding that there are only two kinds of Brad Pitt movies;

A.) Constantly eating snacks and taking his shirt off movies
“Ocean’s 11-13”, “Troy”, “Fight Club…”

Or

2.) Making women cry movies
“Meet Joe Black’s Legend of the Tree of Buttons…”

It seemed to me like this would be a category #2 film about a divorcee who spends her nights crying after discovering that her doe-eyed husband had gambled away their fortune with a love-able bookie.

What I didn’t know is that Moneyball was written by Mr. Aaron Sorkin, the man who made a movie about Facebook that was more interesting than every movie featuring Nicholas Cage.

Aaron Sorkin is such a good writer that, even if you hate baseball, you’ll probably enjoy this movie about a broken-hearted man who uses math, and a nerd, to successfully create a budget-conscious baseball team of misfits.

You’ll probably also be able learn a few things about leadership along the way.

I certainly did.

Plot spoilers about wins and losses will follow, but they won’t ruin your enjoyment of the movie.

Because it isn’t about wins and losses.

Moneyball centers around the general manager of a financially strapped baseball team, desperately trying to find a way to win games without spending a lot of money on star players.

This means that he has to do things differently than 100 years of professional baseball history dictates.

It also means that people get really mad at him for doing things differently than how “they’ve always been done.”

Not surprisingly, the angry people are the people most invested, and highly trained, in the old ways.

Since the angry people work for him, he only has to give them orders that they can choose to take… or be fired. They don’t have to like his new way of doing things, they just have to do them.

He just has to have thick skin.

As he puts his strategies into play, he finds that they aren’t successful. His plan is sound, and while they don’t approve, his executives understand it.

The problem is that his theories don’t translate to wins.

Then the general manager realizes that while the “leadership level” understands the new strategy, none of the players do. They’re still trying to play baseball the old way: by hitting home-runs and striking people out.

He needs them to get walked, steal bases, get hit by pitches, and wear the other team out.

Which bring me to what I learned about leadership.

Good leadership doesn’t stop after convincing the paid staff to buy-in to the “new way” of doing things. Those people are paid to do what they’re told. Their obedience only affects a small percentage of overall buy in.

Good leadership goes the extra mile to lead the “Key Players” and volunteers into the new plan as well.

It takes key players to lead the other players into following the leadership as it attempts something new.

When the people you are trying to lead understand where they’re going, they tend to find success more quickly, producing more enduring results.

The Moneyball results eventually show up on the field, but only after the key players buyy-in.

What are you trying to accomplish? Who’s help do you need to get it done?

Moneyball showed me the trailers.

Moneyball showed me the reviews.

Moneyball showed me the box office receipts.

I didn’t see Moneyball until my wife brought it home and put it on the coffee table.

Moneyball got me when they got to the key player in my life.

Moneyball is rated PG-13 for two uses of the F-Word, and scenes of extreme violence against locker room equipment.

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