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Managing is managing: be it baseball or the shop floor, operating at low decibels is a plus.

Read Joe Torre's latest book, The Yankee Years, and you'll find that a baseball team is a lot like running a manufacturing shop floor--except for the salaries paid.

Torre went to work managing the New York Yankees in 1996, putting his unique management style to work.

Before hiring Torte, team owner George Steinbrenner went without a title for 17 years, a period during which the incorrigible owner had fired 18 managers. After a successful 12-year stay--six pennants and four World Series titles--Torre left to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers.

During the Torre era, he forged a Yankee team, many of whom were prima donnas and hard to manage, to once again become legendary.

However, no matter how it looks to the fans, it was not easy. Many of his players had talent but many things got in the way, challenging his leadership and managerial philosophy. There was the meddling from the front-office executives, tension between the superstars and the rookies, the jealousy of the free agents looking for a bigger buck, and the distraction of the night life in the Big Apple.

In a way, but perhaps not to the same extent, it's the same basic set of distractions with which factory shop workers face and that managers have to deal:

* Shrinking insurance coverage

* Salaries

* Work rules that interfere with doing the job

* Bully bosses

* Distractions of family and home

* Jealousy and bruised feelings as fellow workers are promoted and treated better

* Young managers with new degrees moving in to tell veterans how to do their job

* Meddling from the front office.


Key to success

Perhaps part of Steinbrenner's lack of success was his divide-and-conquer leadership style. Torre was just the opposite. He preferred "operating at low decibels," without confronting people. His method was to trust people and communicate in even, measured tones.

That's not to say he didn't get angry when one of his players screwed up--and he had plenty of those. If possible, he would let it settle overnight to cool off before confronting the player.

"I may have trouble when I have to tell someone the truth if it is not a pleasant thing, but I won't lie to them," he said. "The only way you can get commitment is through trust, and you have to earn that trust.

"What I try to do is treat everyone fairly," he explained. "That doesn't mean I treat every one the same, but everyone deserves a fair shake.

"That's the only right way to do it," he added. "I'd rather be wrong trusting somebody than to never trust them at all."

If they are doing something wrong, you tell them, but I try to make it instructive rather than robotic," he is quoted in the book. "The only thing I want them to think about is what our goal is ... Whether you like me or believe me you have to understand ... that in order to succeed we have to work together. And somebody has to point us in that direction."

After his first team meeting, 1999 perfect game pitcher David Cone was reported to have said, "I remember right off the bat that calming influence that he had, the way he conducted team meetings, the way he talked to people. You could sense he was going to be a calming influence."

Shrunken, uneasy workforce

With managements being forced to cut their workforce and millions unemployed due to the recession, it is more important than ever to keep a calming influence on the shrunken work force you still have. Their productivity is distracted as they worry if they will be next out the door. And yet productivity is the only way to stay in the game.

Regardless of the current recession, it is important for employers "to demonstrate to your employees that they are important to you," said human relations director Kathleen Stecky at the Cleveland Foundation. That becomes more difficult in light of layoffs due to the slumping economy. The comment came in a newspaper article on the importance of corporate wellness programs.

"These programs keep employees feeling valued and somewhat nurtured ... they will be more engaged at work," added another human-health director.

As a successful manager of people, Joe Torre believes that the game belongs to the players and you have to facilitate that the best you can.

"The only thing I want them to think about is what our goal is and what the at-bats are supposed to represent," Torre said. "And that simply is this: 'What can I do to help us win the game?'"

Especially in these trying economic times with unemployment soaring as jobs are lost to a sagging economy and companies are being forced to close their doors, managing the people still around is more critical than ever. When was the last time you checked if your employees feel valued?
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Title Annotation:straight talk
Author:Modic, Stan
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:May 1, 2009
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