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Blog Post Transformational Leadership

Changeups in Business

“When a pitcher throws his best fastball, he puts more in it; the changeup is such that one throws something other than his best fastball. By having this mindset, the pitch will have less velocity on it in addition to the change in grips. This difference from what is expected by the arm action and the velocity can confuse the batter into swinging the bat far too early and thus receiving a strike, or not swinging at all. Should a batter be fooled on the timing of the pitch and still make contact, it will cause a foul ball or the ball being put into play weakly, usually resulting in an out. In addition to the unexpectedly slow velocity, the changeup can also possess a significant amount of movement, which can bewilder the batter even further. The very best changeups utilize both deception and movement.”

—Lee Mazzone, Pitching Coach Baltimore Orioles (2006-2007)

Changeups in Business

Everyone says it, and knows it is true: change is inevitable, and will continue to progress at an increasing rate. Whether driven by change, itself, e.g., a new US President; change in competition; or, change in customer demands, change will be a constant in the new year ahead. Already have Q12017 figured out? Accept that It will change.

Like great hitters in baseball, effective leaders handle changeups on the business play field, not because it is easy, but because they have the patience, discipline, and skill to handle whatever is thrown their way. They focus on the WIN—What’s Important Now—and direct their energies toward what they can control…what they think, what they say, and how they act. That’s it.

Dealing with Changeups

A visit to Google and a search on ‘dealing with change’ will offer you a long list of ‘tips’ to choose from, on how to handle change. Save yourself a visit. You already know what to do…stay positive; reframe; act vs. being acted upon; keep the big picture in mind; and, so forth. Hitters know how to hit a changeup; strike three, or a weak response (ground out, foul ball) occurs when they are not looking for a changeup—they are unprepared. Is there a hitter in professional baseball that cannot hit a changeup out of the park, if they are looking for it? The same is true in business. It’s not the change that draws us into depths of anxiety and despair, or a weak response; rather, it’s our unpreparedness to deal with change.

In a sport where an excellent success rate is 3 out of 10, it was interesting to read about the research of Dr. Peter Fadde, a professor at Southern Illinois University, who has researched pitch recognition for more than 15 years. His findings? It’s all about pitch recognition, which comes from practice in focusing on the pitcher’s release point and picking up cues. Preparation. Therein lies an addition to the list of tips for dealing with changeups in business, one I had not thought of and did not see on Google—prepare for changeups. Where is the change going to come from? What form will it take? In the high velocity, “fastball” game of business, how can you prepare for the inevitable changeup?

Timing is Everything

Like hitting a baseball, leadership can be thought of as the skill of timing—knowing when to act. In business, change is the pitcher, determined to upset your timing. In his book, “’The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” John Maxwell points to the importance of timing in his 19th Law, The Law of Timing, suggesting the following:

• The Wrong Action at the Wrong Time Leads to Disaster
• The Right Action at the Wrong Time Brings Resistance
• The Wrong Action at the Right Time is a Mistake
• The Right Action at the Right Time Results in Success 

Prepare for the changeup—it’s coming. Work on your timing, as all great leaders do, whether in business or sports. Embrace the challenge.

“What is life, after all, but a challenge? And what better challenge can there be than the one between the pitcher and the hitter.”

—Warren Spahn, MLB Hall of Famer, and Purple Heart Recipient

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