You may have heard me mention this – oh, one, two, three, seventy-five times – but my daughter, Grace, is a sophomore in high school and plays on the varsity softball team. Since she picked up the sport in fifth grade, I have enjoyed watching her skills and experience grow, and have loved watching how teams of girls come together.
This year, Grace decided to take on a new position – catcher – and while the role has its ups and downs (literally, up and down – gotta have good knees to play behind the plate), she quickly took to it and even learned to call pitches.
Sometimes in a game there’s an inning where everything falls apart. Balls are bobbled, throws are blown, the other team scores.
It feels horrible.
And yet, when you see a team on the brink of destruction who manages to get it under control, find their center and go on to win – it’s pretty impressive.
One day, I asked Grace about the energy on her team after such an inning. She said:
“Mom, this is what I’ve learned – if the catcher is calm then Kate (the pitcher) is calm. If Kate is calm then Izzy (the shortstop) is calm, and if Izzy’s calm then Joanna (second) and Lillian (first) are calm, too. And if they’re calm…” She paused. “I was going to say that if they’re calm then Charlotte (third) is also calm, but it takes a lot to rattle Charlotte.
“You know, it comes down to: if the infield has it together, the outfield will be fine, and we’re going to win.”
Helluva lesson to learn at age 16:
One person’s energy can completely shift the energy of a larger group of people, and move them toward success, or failure.
I didn’t learn this lesson fully until I worked at The White House. My job was to go ahead of The President and organize and execute his public events. I was an “advance man” – we’d land in a city and in five days, we’d have pulled together a Presidential event for 40,000 people.
In that kind of high pressure, high stakes situation, there is – literally – no time for someone to say, “It will take a month to build the stage” because it can’t take a month – the President is landing at the airport on Friday.
It was in that job that I learned how to build a solid coalition, negotiate successfully and how to convert a definite “no” into resounding “yes”.
I learned that:
One person’s commitment to positive “can-do” energy inspired everyone else to go above and beyond. And deliver.
Today, I am often called in to workplaces to help a team create a successful strategic plan. And I can tell when a team is in trouble – it’s usually because there is some powerful negative energy in the room:
Someone’s ticked off.
Someone’s focused on getting and/or keeping power.
Someone’s about to leave for another job and is settling scores.
Someone’s playing favorites.
Someone’s completely given up.
I’m thinking this may sound familiar to some of you.
So – analogy time – if the catcher doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about whether the ball lands in her glove or not, then the pitcher is going to freak out. When the pitcher is off her game, the infield falls apart. And when the infield falls apart, the outfield follows suit.
It’s at this critical moment that one person’s energy can make a huge difference.
Meaning… you. You can make a huge difference.
You can choose to step up to the plate, and be calm. To be kind. To ask good questions.
To audit your own energy and bring the best of it to the field.
Do it well, and you’ll win. Cuz you called the pitch.