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The Engaging Leader: Winning with Today's Free Agent Workforce

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During the summer of 1999, I was reading about the collapse of the Colorado Rockies baseball team under manager Jim Leyland. Leyland came to Colorado as a high-priced savior, but he and the team never meshed. Things got so bad that he announced his resignation before the first season was over. This came as a mystery to the sports world, because Leyland was commonly referred to as a “baseball genius.”

A genius in baseball is someone who gets more wins from his players than the payroll suggests. Leyland did this with a series of underpaid, overachieving Pittsburgh Pirates teams in the early 1990s. Claiming poverty like most small market teams—funny how St. Louis spends like a big market team and the Chicago teams pretend they’re in small markets—the Pirates traded away their players when they became stars and could demand more money.

Eventually, Leyland got tired of seeing Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and other talents leave, so he followed them out the door.

Hold on to your talent! To get the best and keep them, managers should hire and lead like good coaches do.

Business leaders struggling to attract and retain skilled employees can learn valuable lessons from veteran coaches and sports team managers. These pros have developed engaging leadership styles over years of dealing with a shortage of skilled talent, great mobility, and a younger generation demanding greater personal fulfillment.

So how do business leaders engage their employees? Just like winning coaches do: by hiring talented people who fit, setting ambitious goals for winning, and creating chemistry and trust among the team.

Examining the highly successful methods of coaching greats Lou Piniella, Dennis Green, Phil Jackson, Scotty Bowman, and many others, The Engaging Leader helps today's business leaders learn to build on their strengths, focus on the long term potential of employees, hold themselves accountable, take risks, and develop superb communications with team members.

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