4 Signs Leaders Should Go For a Base Hit, Not a Grand Slam

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Updated from August 26, 2013 post

Baseball season is back, and each spring when the first sound of ‘Play Ball!’ is heard, my mind goes back to a leadership lesson I learned years ago.

A wise, older colleague named Jack would watch as several of us young bucks would expend enormous energy to come up with a huge win for our organization.

Then, with a nod to the baseball season, Jack would often remind us that wise leaders know that you don’t always win with a grand slam. Sometimes your best strategy is to play ‘small ball’.

In baseball, Small Ball is a strategy in which a team strives to win not by making big extra base hits, but merely by methodically, and consistently, getting on base and advancing runners.

Sometimes leaders need to recognize when it’s time to set aside the grand slam, and to focus on Small Ball; moving forward by regularly and consistently racking up small “wins”.

It means knowing when to cling to a goal to “Plant 20 new churches by 2020!” (grand slam), versus “Growing our existing church every year by 10%” (Small Ball).

It means knowing when to hang on to the plan to “Hold a stadium outreach event by next summer” (grand slam), versus “Training every adult in our church in personal evangelism” (Small Ball)

When should you consider a Small Ball strategy? There’s no hard rule on this, but you should at least consider a Small Ball approach when:

  • Your grand slam play just isn’t galvanizing your people,
  • Your grand slam play is distracting your team from immediate opportunities,
  • You haven’t seen meaningful progress towards your grand slam play in some time.
  • You are already seeing more momentum being generated from small wins than you are from your grand slam play

Grand slams can be very important, so don’t drop yours on a whim or at the first sign of struggle. But if your grand slam just isn’t catching fire with your people, consider whether now may be the time for a change in tact.

Because your biggest wins might not come from a grand slam, but from just getting on base.

How have you leveraged small wins to generate momentum?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

2 comments

  1. You know I love this post. Baseball has far too many great analogies for ministry 🙂

    I think we can look at consistent Sunday-to-Sunday improvement as a great example of small ball. Of course every Sunday is significant and meaningful and worth our investment. If your team can focus on making even ONE improvement (a transition, a tech glitch, choosing the right song for the right moment, etc) from the week before that is a HUGE cumulative change over the course of the year.

    Before you know it, 52 weeks of small ball gets you a grand slam of a win!

  2. Chris, we could use nothing but baseball analogies and never run out of blog ideas! 🙂

    Your comment reminds me of a Bill Hybels leadership challenge; He calls on leaders to be “incessant tinkerers”, always looking for a way to make something successful 2% better.

    If that approach was applied to the weekend service, even aiming for 2% improvement per month, in less than a year the quality of the weekend service could improve 20%.

    Not a bad way to do church small ball.

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