Not Just a Piece of Metal: What Managers Can Learn from the Commissioner of Major League Baseball


It’s often easy to make snap judgments and think about things exclusively from our own perspective. Yes, your individual perspective is important, but you’ll run into trouble (especially as a leader) if you fail to account for the valuable perspectives of those around you.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued an apology for a comment he made calling the World Series Trophy “a piece of metal”. Manfred made the light-hearted comment while speaking about how he handled the cheating scandal of the 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros. Although he was trying to make rhetorical a point, Manfred completely devalued the 30-pound championship trophy (the “Commissioners Trophy”) in the eyes of many players and other individuals in and around the league. 

Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner had the following to say:

“The reason every guy is in this room, the reason every guy is working out all offseason, and showing up to camp early and putting in all the time and effort is specifically for that trophy. For him to devalue it the way he did yesterday just tells me how out of touch he is with the players in this game.”

Trevor Doolittle, who won the 2019 World Series as a member of the Washington Nationals, also shared his thoughts

“That’s the holy grail of our sport. That’s what we show up for at the beginning of February, thinking about and working towards. That’s a really special thing. It’s an iconic symbol of our game. Please don’t say that even off-hand, even tongue-in-cheek.”

The takeaway for managers

Similar to the players, employees (especially the best) want respect and admiration for their “wins”. Managers miss out on a great opportunity when they don’t prioritize the importance of employees’ aspirations of recognition. This is why it’s imperative to recognize the individual significance of those responsible for the great work happening in your business.

Awards and trophies serve as lasting indicators of success, accomplishments, and the journey required to get to that level. Employees hang on to awards they receive as reminders of the greatness within them and motivation for what they are capable of. Think about that when you show your employees how much you appreciate them.

Recognition and rewards have a powerful impact on individuals and in team environments. To them, it’s much more than a piece of metal.

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