The Dog Days of Summer 2006

There are subtle, but critical differences between the winner and the also-ran. A great example is something we are all faced with every day in our business lives, and I had a recent reminder of this valuable lesson. It came to me when I was faced with one of those uncontrollable and vexing disasters that seem so much like the sky is falling. You know the kind of moment I mean.

It also happened to be a baseball moment (of course, you say?), but you’ll really get the point here, so hang in with me. It’s not really about baseball.

So my “sky is falling” moment happens one morning, and I turn on the Astros and Tigers game (really, I’m not making this up, I do this on XM Radio) and the great veteran pitcher Andy Pettitte of the Astros is on the mound in a tight game. With 2 outs and runners on first and third, he coaxes the perfect inning-ending ground ball, but the shortstop boots it. Run scores. Pettitte grinds his teeth and you know he’s steamed. Even the veteran, the former World Series star, struggles to maintain his concentration. He walks the next guy to load the bases. He goes to a full count on the next guy: 3 balls, 2 strikes, 2 outs, bases loaded. Now the test has arrived. What will happen next? How will Pettitte react? A bad pitch now and it could be a double to clear the bases and the game would totally slip away. He has to reach down deep to come up with the right pitch. No margin for error. But this is no also-ran, this is a winner. So, when it really counts, Andy Pettitte the winner comes up with a great 3 and 2 pitch – and it’s a weak grounder to end the inning. His team is still in the game.

I was struck by the parallel between this classic ballgame moment and the moments of truth we face every day. I realized that success in business, a world of uncontrollables like the shortstop’s error, is really all about making great 3 and 2 pitches when the bases are loaded. The difference between winning and frustration can often be traced to these key moments, these critical inflection points. It can be about making big go/no-go decisions, or maybe it’s that key opportunity when your insightful comment at the perfect time can create a breakthrough in understanding, or it might be saying just the right thing at the right moment to maintain trust and confidence in a personal relationship. It can be many things, but it all comes down to making great 3 and 2 pitches.

When we are faced with these “sky is falling” moments, the key to success is the very next step we take, it’s the perfect 3 and 2 pitch to save the game. We can’t make the shortstop’s error go away. All we can control is our own behavior and our own next step. Everybody is watching, and that next step really has to be good.

Thanks for sharing your time. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

A quick update on business – I had the pleasure of being recognized for having both the highest revenue and the most new search engagements among McDermott & Bull consultants for both the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2006. I would like to thank all of you who help make this possible through referrals, networking support, and helping to build a positive brand for me and our firm in the market. I will continue to do everything I can to continue trying to help all of you whenever possible. Thank you all!


Jeff Black
Principal Consultant, McDermott & Bull Executive Search
Cell: (714) 356-1949 Office: (949) 753-1700 ext. 310
2 Venture, Suite 100 Irvine, CA 92618