by Marshall Goldsmith
Joe Girardi became the coach of the New York Yankees in 2008. I was recently asked what leadership advice I would give him. Think of this in the context of being a new leader, succeeding someone who was very successful. In this case, Joe Torre:
1. Bust your butt.
You have been given a once in a lifetime opportunity. Go for it. There is a time in life to have balance and be well-rounded. This is not that time for you. Do whatever you can to help the Yankees win. If they don’t, you will soon be gone. Young lawyers, investment bankers, and consultants work 80 hours a week to make it in the big leagues. Now it’s your turn.
2. Forget about life being fair.
The New York press has no interest in being fair and balanced in their reporting of your work. If the team loses, you are going to take the heat. If you get even a little defensive, it will only get worse. Take all the responsibility for any failures. It will be laid at your feet anyway.
3. Just smile at Hank Steinbrenner.
Yes, he may be your boss, but ignore his comments as much as you can. This family has no history of supporting its managers, so don’t expect it will start with you. Joe Torre was a wonderful role model for how to manage this relationship.
4. Recruit the veterans to help you out.
Your team has some of the most experienced and successful professionals in the history of the game. Recognize them for who they are. Be honest about what you need. Share your leadership responsibilities with the team.
5. Take it seriously, but have fun.
You have a tough act to follow. I got my PhD at UCLA when John Wooden was the basketball coach. Guess what happened to the next several coaches? They were all fired in short order because they “just weren’t him.” If you are not an instant success and you do get fired, nobody is going to be surprised, and neither should you.
In the great movie Twelve O’clock High, General Savage (played by Gregory Peck) sent a message to all of his fighter pilots (who were engaged in daylight precision bombing): “Assume you are dead. Forget about going home. Then it won’t be so hard.” My advice for you is the same: Assume you are dead. Forget about the keeping your job. Then it won’t be so hard.
6. Look at the upside.
Hank Steinbrenner has said, “What we’re looking for is a guy who’s maybe going to be one of the greatest managers of all time over a period of, oh, 10 to 20 years.” Maybe that manager will be you. Bear in mind you’ve been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Make the best of it.
It occurred to me as I was writing this that there are valuable lessons here for leaders in business, whether you’re in the Joe Torre position of having had great success somewhere and are in a new position, or whether, like Joe Girardi, you’re taking over from a legendary leader. And I am sure that many of you have some advice for either – or both – of these two Joes.
My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher’s Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.