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Trillion Dollar Coach – Installment #2

In my last post, I introduced a few notes about one of my favorite books. Trillion Dollar Coach was written about Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle. If you have never read the book, and aspire to be a strong manger or leader of teams, I could not recommend it more highly. Bill “coached” many of the top entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. This after he was a CEO (both successful and failed) and a football coach (by wins and losses not a huge success). The lore is that many young buck CEOs would bristle at the idea of a “coach” to help them and their business succeed. That is until they met and worked with Bill.

You, As A Manager, Have To Think Like A Coach

You may not have the luxury of a coach, or a board member, investor or mentor who behaves like a coach. So you may have to figure it out on your own. In the world of Bill C, what were some of the things that he focused on and taught people?

  • As a Coach, you must work with individuals AND with the team to…
    • Smooth out tension
    • Continuously nurture community
    • Make sure all are aligned around a common vision and set of goals
  • You must strive to move beyond controlling – beyond evaluating, supervising, rewarding, punishing – and TOWARD a climate of communication, respect, feedback and trust. And you can do this all through thinking like a coach.

There are numerous places in the book where they point out one of Bill’s super skills. At every point in his career, Bill had a knack for identifying tensions among teammates and figuring out how to resolve them.

Learn To Ring Out Politics & Provide Feedback The Right Way

You cannot accomplish much in business, or in any type of organization, without a team. And whether you call it tension, or politics, or differences – interpersonal barriers between teammates are all obstacles to trust, communication and performance. Bill was well known for identifying those types of issues, bringing them out and helping to move past them. He would fill in the gaps in communication between people. As he sat in a meeting, if he observed someone not seeming to get what was being communicated, or not seeing the “why”, he would follow-up and fill in the gaps. This helped keep everyone on the same page.

He was positive, level headed and constructive. He would identify problems, but he stayed positive and would praise people, he would hug people. But he was always striving to get to the heart of the problem in a positive way.  He taught others to be constructive in their feedback and to focus immediately on what you are going to do about it. Not what happened and whose to blame, but rather what are we going to do about it. He was relentlessly positive. If people started to complain / bitch, he would wouldn’t let it go on too long. He’d let them get it out, and then redirect to identifying the issue, working toward a next step or solution, and then moving on.

Build Trust & Put The Team First

Reading between the lines, you can see that Bill strived to build trust in the organization. He viewed the world as a network of people, with trust at the center of effective collaboration and execution. A team in particular is a network set upon producing some kind of results. Individuals on that team will have relative strengths and weaknesses, and they must learn to trust one another if they have any chance of fulfilling their potential execution capability together. Trust is a currency that must be fostered. You have to be discrete, loyal, and you must keep your word. If the manager / leader acts this way – the team will catch on. And if they don’t, they must be addressed.

As a leader or manager, you have to strive to build a team that allows you to work the team first, not the problem. If you find yourself having to continuously roll up your sleeves and dive in to solve problems – somethings broken. Start by looking yourself in the mirror. Challenge yourself to work the team first, not the problem. Helping to identify the problem is important, but ask questions as a way of challenging the team, or the individual, to solve the problem themselves.

In installment #3, I will attempt to provide some more concrete tools from the book to help you lead and coach in Bill Campbell fashion.

Trillion Dollar Coach – Install #1

I have been a student of management, strategy, organizational culture, leadership, personnel development, etc. for almost as long as I can remember. Questions like “What causes one team or one company to win when another in the same space fails or is average?” have been a curiosity mission of mine since I was a teenager. I have read many, many books and have been fortunate enough to have worked with / in many organizations and with many different types of managers and leaders. Sometimes I stumble onto something and it truly resonates with me. Trillion Dollar Coach, written by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle about Bill Campbell, was a book that hit that mark.

Over the next several posts, I will highlight a few of the things that really hit me that I feel are important for anyone who wants to be the best coach and leader they can be. This book would be at the top of my list for anyone who wants to lead and manage a team. To me, it has become like an organizational leadership bible. I took notes in the book, consolidated them in an Evernote note and share it often. And every time I pick it up, I see some nuance I hadn’t before. I wish I would’ve had an opportunity to meet Bill, but I have met some leaders who seem to be unknowing apostles, and man are they special people. Now onto to installment #1.

Teams Come Together To Produce Results

That header may seem obvious. But often I have found we in the business world, in the private equity world, seem to strive to overcomplicate things. Truly gifted coaches / leaders / managers know this tenet intrinsically. In any organization, a team comes together to produce results. Period. All too often, teams come together and they are smart, they are nice to one another, they do lots of “things” – but they are not focused on producing results. And they don’t. As Bill often noted to his teams – it’s easy to get off track – but a good leader keeps their team focused on results. Constantly.

Get Everyone On The Same Page

Getting your team focused on results is critical. Getting them on the same page is just as critical. Every meeting, every email, every interaction is an opportunity to reinforce where you are trying to go and what the most important things are. What will lead to results. As anyone who has ever managed knows, people often need help staying on focus with how and where they should spend their precious time. Relentlessly using your interactions to make sure everyone is on the same page about what you are doing as a team or organization and why is critical. As I often tell teams I work with – it’s really hard to over communicate important messages like what we stand for, where we are going, and why.

You Are There To Get More Out Of Them Then They Could Accomplish On Their Own

This may seem obvious as well, but if you haven’t ever thought about what a leader, or manager, or coach does – why they exist – this IS the answer. You are there for one thing – to facilitate the team to get more and better results than they would without you. Period. If you frame your interactions, meetings, etc. with that in mind, you can start to lead like Bill.

That’s it for installment #1. I would argue if you write those down somewhere and read them at the beginning of every day, or every meeting – you will start to understand what a real leader of organizations is supposed to do.

Staying Connected Is YOUR Responsibility

There has been plenty written during the pandemic about the physical and mental health benefits of staying connected to others. Much of it based on research, studies, etc. However, the connectedness I am writing of here is a one degree of separation curated network. You know who these people are. People who when you get together on the phone, Zoom, in person, etc. time passes differently. Your mind and ideas are stretched, you feel a “deep” connection. People who you think to yourself “In a different career or life path, I could’ve worked really well with that person…we seem to resonate.” They may indeed be people you work with, or they may be your friends. They are more likely “close colleagues” you don’t see very often. Maybe once or twice a year, or every 18 months. During the pandemic, I have had a few personal learnings about this group.

First, I realized it’s my responsibility to stay connected to them. People get busy. They have a family, a job, plenty of friends. And oftentimes, these tangential collegial relationships slip through the cracks. A strategy I have been using in 2021 is one I call “Occasionally Occurring Catch Up Meetings…” At the end of each call or meeting, I tell the other person “As long as you don’t mind, I’ll calendar our next call sometime in the next couple days for 5 – 7 weeks out … we can always move it, cancel, etc.” It has kept me connected in a much better rhythm. I’ve used it with small groups as well.

Second, I am amazed at the power and positive-mojo of these interactions. Invariably, when updates are swapped and the conversation heads down a path, some rich kernel of information or some way in which one of us can help one another percolates up. That may seem obvious, but I am continuously amazed at the reverberating waves of positive energy that emanate from these discussions.

Here are a few additional thoughts to the extent you may want to try this. You must be willing to be vulnerable. Surface level, positive ego enhancing only comments about yourself will not elicit deep conversation. Second – sit down with a clean sheet of paper and make the list of who, and then take control of a more consistent rhythm. Set up the next meeting right away, and check a couple days in advance if it still works hen you get there. Your life, and I would argue the lives of your friends, stand to be richer as a result.

The Four Agreements

The inspiration from this post comes from Super Bowl LV played on February 7, 2021. Or rather, from the background of the winning QB, Tom Brady who was completing his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. I’ve always been fascinated by the arc of Brady’s career. While many argue he has to be in the conversation for the GOAT, and others that he has been blessed with great owners, coaches, and teammates, most don’t remember his entre into the NFL.

Brady was drafted in the 6th round of the 2000 draft and was the 7th QB taken and 199th pick overall. There have been 308 QBs that have run the 40 in an NFL combine since his draft – and only 3 have run it slower than he did. So whether you like him or not, think he is the GOAT or not, he clearly has worked hard at being a success in his chosen career. And early in his career, Brady read a book titled The Four Agreements written by Don Miguel Ruiz. The book is short, but Brady claims to read it every couple of years and has indicated it has been a mantra for his life, having helped him immensely both personally and professionally.

The agreements themselves are simple: (1) Be impeccable with your word (2) Don’t take anything personally (3) Don’t make assumptions and (4) Always do your best. The book encourages us to work on ourselves and our thinking in these areas as a way to improve how we feel about ourselves, how we interact with others, and how we tackle our tasks and our world on a daily basis. So how can these concepts be applied to business? To investing in or operating a company? I recently offered the following in an internal memo to a company I am involved with:

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word  Our customers and teammates expect each of us to do our jobs. To keep our word. Our customers want to place an order and then forget about it. It’s a great way to build trust with ourself, and with one another. If we each strive to do so, we can continue to succeed.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally  We all occasionally make mistakes. And sometimes those around us (either our teammates or our customers) are just having a bad day. Mistakes are to be learned from and hopefully not repeated, and if we can learn to not assume others questionable behaviors are directed at us, we can continue to succeed.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions  None of us are mind readers. If you have a question, or if a customer or teammate has given you vague direction – or no direction – ask questions. By asking questions to clarify objectives and avoid mistakes, we can continue to succeed. Better to ask than to have to redo.
  4. Always Do Your Best  This one seems obvious. But the book reminds us this strongly intersects with the above agreements and can help quiet our internal judge. It also reminds us it is impossible to be “on” or perfect 100% of the time. We all occasionally stray, or are tired, or frustrated. But if we try to redirect and remind ourselves to do our best in the moment for ourselves, for our teammates and our customers, we can continue to succeed. Being accountable is the only way we can win as a team.

Each of you, and each of your roles, play an important part in our success as a team. And if we can keep these agreements in mind, we can continue to succeed.

Simply put, if it’s good enough for an athlete some consider the GOAT at one of the most challenging positions in football to succeed at over an extended period of time, maybe there’s something we can all take learn from those agreements.

The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, but it Bends Toward Justice

The quote used as the title of this post – “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” – is such a great MLK quote. While it would be true to say it’s my favorite MLK quote, I’m not well read enough on his work to really have that opinion. That said, you may recognize it as President Obama re-popularized this phrase during both his campaign and presidency. It supposedly meant so much to him, he had the quote inscribed into a rug in the Oval Office. So what, you may be asking, does this quote have to do with a blog post from an investor? Well if you’ll allow me some latitude, I’ll weave my own arc of how I got there.

I was fortunate on a recent vacation to actually be able to take some time and unplug. To read. To think. And to think about what I / we do, and what we want to do. Looking back at what we have done, and what I have done now for 20+ years of my career, those activities has been heavily focused on working with people and teams in an effort to help organizations grow and to (hopefully) create increasing enterprise values over time. It hasn’t always gone perfectly, in fact in some cases it hasn’t even gone well (well that’s not entirely true, it almost always goes well for some of the time, but over the duration there have been a few stinkers in the end…). And a big part of our fundamental first principal beliefs is that in order for a company or organization to grow – it has to be focused on growth oriented activities (e.g. strategic planning, hiring and retaining top talent, developing that talent, developing a strong culture, investing in change, innovation and growth, etc.). Most organizations are not focused on these activities.

So when I intersected this quote again recently, as excellent as it is, I noticed that people are quick to point out that on it’s own, it can be misleading. And I would agree with that. On it’s own, it seems to imply that the arc is bending whether people are leaning into making change or not. And to me it’s obvious, the arc is indeed always bending, but it doesn’t always bend towards justice, and it damn sure doesn’t bend towards justice all on its own over the long-term. In this way, a company’s growth is similar.

A company’s growth is not pre-determined just because it always used to grow, or because leadership thinks it should or will continue to grow. Growth requires work. Bending in the right direction requires work. In fact, in later speeches, Obama actually said: “The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency.” Amen – and it’s the same for the arc of a company or any other organization. If you aren’t focusing on growth and improvement, you’re likely evolving and bending in the wrong direction: toward decay, toward atrophy. You are not sitting still. Ever.

For some additional interesting (to me anyway) historical perspective, it turns out MLK cribbed the whole concept from a gent named Theodore Parker. Parker was around in the first half of the 19th century and was a Transcendentalist and Unitarian church minister. There’s another entire rat hole of Internet pages to click through to explore those concepts. Interesting stuff. Anyway, Parker, in speaking of his belief for the long-term success of the abolitionist movement, said “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.” So it turns out that he, Obama, and MLK all indeed understood that you have to lean in to try and bend it the right way. What are you leaning into it with your company or organization and which direction is it bending?

Effectiveness is Doing the Right Things Well

The title quote – Effectiveness is Doing the Right Things Well – is a Peter Drucker statement taken from The Essential Drucker, a compilation of a series of his works. If you don’t know who Peter Drucker is and you’ve stumbled onto this blog, I hope you will go do some research. Here’s an article to start if you’re interested. He was a highly regarded and inquisitive business researcher and a prolific writer. In The Essential Drucker, he is asked what the most important concepts are from his 39 books spanning decades studying managers, strategy and business. And this is the quote he comes up with: “Effectiveness is Doing the Right Things Well.”

It sounds very Yoda like and over simplified. But in my own experience, those seven words encapsulate the nature and focus of the very best executives I’ve been fortunate enough to work with. It is incredibly simple in concept, but the real challenge is deciding what the right things are – and sticking with them – every day. That, in my opinion, is what separates the average from the good, and the good from the great. Being able to distill the right things – and there cannot be too many – and then drilling them, over and over, that is the secret of being effective. Being an effective manager of course requires making sure everyone knows what the right things are for their role or function. Making an organization succeed and produce more than the sum of its parts can happen no other way. Though I suppose you can indeed be efficient in many things and still not succeed – efficiency and effectiveness are very different. To succeed, you must be effective – and to do that, you MUST do those right things well. Therein is the art.

With the company’s of the size we typically get involved with, we often find the founder / owner often naturally seems to push certain of the right buttons, focuses on many of the right things – up to a point. And then the company in many cases stalls, or reaches a stasis. It’s a fine business, but it isn’t undergoing rapid growth or evolution any longer. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But without evolution, things often start the slow drift downward. And new set of things needs to become the right things to do well.

It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top.

The title above is a quote from Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values. A book I read for the first time two summers ago, and to which I return from time-to-time to see what I missed. Each time I learn something new.

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On a snowy Sunday in a coffee shop, I went out to see the last time I blogged, and I noticed it had been over a year. I contemplated chipping away at 4 or 5 posts and back dating them (a strategy I’ve used before : o ) but instead I decided to post anew, face the gap, and recognize sometimes you just need to keep pushing forward for Quality – a major topic in the modern philosophical novel by Pirsig.

During the year gap, there have been a number of personal and professional ups and downs, and a myriad of change – some initiated and some thrust upon us. At our firm, we sold a position in on of our companies, increased our position in another, and purchased the assets of a business out of a chapter 7 bankruptcy process.

The pursuit of investing as an independent sponsor is a flexible and unique existence – and it is also much more entrepreneurial than most styles of private equity. Particularly in our end of the economy where we tend to focus on businesses with $1 – $3 million of EBITDA. They are a unique project, and tend to require deeper involvement from investors if one is inclined to be active. We have been forced to be active sometimes out of necessity, and sometimes I’m sure when we didn’t need to be quite as active.

So this year, I will intend to choose topics to write about that focus here – on some of the unique aspects of investing in true “lower-middle market” – or small businesses – particularly when one is not using mostly their own capital. A component of our model we have for the foreseeable future. I will also write a bit about Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition – or “ETA” – a way operators can choose to pursue buying a business to run and grow. This is an emerging segment of small company PE that I am particularly interested we need more operations minded people trying to buy and grow companies in my opinion.

Check back through 2019 if you want, and feel free to reach out if you have anything you’d like to discuss in these areas. We enjoy connecting with like minded investors and operators – we always seem to learn from one another.

The Renaissance of HR

Most of the companies we meet and interact with are small businesses.  Most do not have HR execs, and many do not employ basic HR tools such as training, reviews, vacation policies, conduct policies, etc.  And among the Fortune 500, HR has often gotten short shrift and is sometimes viewed with disdain as a “compliance” function.  Case in point, a friend of mine who was a senior exec involved in a recent high profile public company corporate break-up told me the executives in charge of the transaction were negotiating over who would get “stuck” with the HR group.  However, from what I can tell, some organizations, the smarter ones in my opinion, are beginning to rethink the role of what has traditionally been called “human resources” within their organizations.

Progressive companies who value culture, who understand turnover of high performance people is expensive, and those who want to attract and retain the best and brightest are leading the charge.  “HR” can, and should be, much more than a compliance function.  Perhaps its the rise of the millennials, or just common sense in an ever changing global landscape where a great team can mean the difference between success and mediocrity (or failure…).  And like it or not, you cannot build a great team without building a culture that attracts and keeps great teammates.

As an example, I attended a conference at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business last month where the SVP of People at Chobani, Grace Zuncic, participated on a panel.  She discussed their use of modern digital-based tools such as Everwise (mentors outside the company) and Bonusly (peer-to-peer recognition app) in their business.  Grace reports directly to the CEO, and is involved in strategic decisions well outside the realm of traditional “HR” – my point being it would be difficult to assess this role as one of a stuffy compliance only functional head.  Similarly, McDonald’s has both a Chief People Officer and a Chief Talent Officer – neither of whom could be confused with with compliance police, non-strategic folks.

I’m personally excited about this change.  Tools that help asses, attract, train, engage, excite and retain talented people, properly deployed, should help progressive organizations continue to grow and evolve.


Tech Execs Should Be Leading Teen Technology Related Issues Discussion

This post is a bit of a departure from prior posts, but hopefully it fits together with the start of another school year and the responsibility of corporations, executives and investors to our communities.  Fair warning, it’s quite honestly a bit of a PSA that no one asked for, but I felt compelled to write.

A little background.  I have been investing in growing businesses for almost 20 years, am a recovering VC who still dabbles sporadically in tech angel investing, and I am a technofile.  I love progress, technology, software, content distribution platforms, etc. but as we all know advances like these can have unintended consequences.  At home, our family has had a front row seat to some of the challenges of modern teen anxiety and depression, devolving into sub-optimal coping behaviors, and leading to more personal things not appropriate to wade into in a (primarily) business blog.

The issue at hand for me is the clear evidence that something is happening to our teen and young adult populations shoving an increasing number of them down a thorny and spiraling off-ramp whose destinations can be anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide.  Let’s face it, junior high and high school can be difficult times for some, and in today’s world, pressures are often higher, and kids cannot escape.  Snapchat, Instagram, texting, etc. can be 24/7.  There is no evening, or weekend or summer distance / boundaries any longer – and kids often do not have the maturity or coping skills to create those boundaries.  There’s a myriad of issues from my perspective with these platforms, but at a high level, kids can easily and often find themselves in social situations that they do not have the coping skills to handle or ignore.  And from there they can find content to explore unhealthy coping choices and continue the downward spiral.  Developmentally, their young brains are just not equipped to deal with these things the way one hopes a mature adult might (and many adults don’t do such a great job either…).

The statistics, most of which are dated lagging indicators, show anxiety, depression, self harm and suicide among teens and young adults spiking.  I believe this is one key area in which the technology community should be engaging and leading with a loud voice, and I don’t see it.  At all.  It seems impossible to believe that mobile devices, content distribution platforms and social media aren’t somehow impacting the rates of anxiety, depression, self harm and suicide among teens and young adults.  This is of course a complex issue, and there are many contributing factors.  Factors many “experts” do not agree on.  I’ve read and learned first hand a lot on these subjects since my own deep dive, and while I will not link to the statistics here, you can find them easily.  If you’re looking for an good primer on the subject, this Atlantic article is a good start  Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

This is an issue for teens of both genders (suicide statistics worse for boys, self-harm worse for girls) and for young adults who are struggling with stress and destructive coping choices in college in increasing numbers.  Mobile devices, content and social media platforms are not the only factors – believe me I understand that.  Other’s likely include real and perceived pressure to succeed, helicopter parents who do not allow their children to self-advocate and fail often enough (according to an expert on that topic – me), general teen insecurity, anxiety, developmental challenges, learning disabilities, and much more.  However, the pressures of modern society are seemingly exacerbated by mobile technologies and services.  And specifically for teens, social media platforms and the proliferation of whatever kind of content you would like to find are proving addictive and likely problematic contributors.

I’m sure there is a role for parents, and I’m also sure I’ve made my share of mistakes.  But in this post I want to challenge the leaders of the technology industry to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves if they are doing enough.  What specifically am I suggesting?  My belief is that the CEOs of companies like Snapchat and Facebook (which owns Instagram) should be publicly beating the drum and advocating for the healthy and safe use of technology among children, teens and young adults.  More importantly, they should specifically acknowledge that the unhealthy or excessive use of social media may impact anxiety, depression, self harm and suicide in these populations.  Explain how it could happen so parents, legislators, their employees can begin talk about it more openly and to understand.  They should cite the frightening increases in these behaviors, and make sure the fabric of their company’s cultures understands they should care and worry about this.  There’s a lot more they could do, but they could start there.  Get the conversation moving with some momentum.  Hire an EVP of Healthy Use – a C level exec in charge of exploring and understanding how kids use and abuse these technologies, and how its impacting their mental health and stability.

As of the writing of this post, Snapchat’s market cap exceeded $17 billion and it’s cash position exceeded $2.8 billion.  Facebook ‘s market cap is $490+ billion, cash position $35+ billion.  Kids aren’t even good business for these platforms – advertisers don’t spend millions to target 13 and 14 year olds, and quite honestly at some point something new will come along and likely replace both these platforms with teens.  But for now, in  my opinion, the leaders of these companies and leaders in the tech industry in general are blissfully ignoring the collateral damage facilitated by their products and services.  I wonder quite honestly if they even see it or get it.

If not because it’s the right thing to do, then come out and lead before others come after you.  One need look no further backward than to cigarettes and the ad industry to see that ultimately, the government and interest groups will step in if there’s enough noise about children’s health.  But by then, likely millions of additional young people across the world will turn to dangerous and destructive coping mechanisms while the adults and leaders in their world ignore the issue.  As someone who has seen it firsthand, we’re screwing up kids lives and could be doing a much better job.  At the very least we should be talking about it.  I hope people in the tech industry step up and lead.  This post is one small step I’m taking, I plan to take others as well.

Iacocca & Epstein on Character

In my last post, I discussed the importance of having a nucleus of high performance players reporting to a high performance leader.  But are there other attributes outside of functional skills and intellect that matter when constructing the core of a high performance group?  I would argue emphatically yes!  You need people of good character if you want a long-term successful team and culture.  During a recent conversation with a serial entrepreneur friend of mine who is building an early stage business backed by blue chip VCs, I asked him what he’s doing differently this time.  He said he’s getting rid of people faster.   If they don’t fit the culture, regardless of their talent, they are moving on.  This may sound easy, but it’s difficult to do in practice.  Or, it may sound cruel to you, but its critical unless you want to take longer than necessary and take on more risk.

Hearkening back to the Iacocca autobiography I mentioned in my last post, he speaks pretty frankly about what he thinks it takes to succeed as a high performance team member and manager:

“There’s one phrase that I hate to see on any executive’s evaluation, no matter how talented he may be, and that’s the line: ‘He has trouble getting along with other people.’  To me, that’s the kiss of death.  ‘You’ve just destroyed the guy’ I always think…if he can’t get along with his peers, what good is he to the company?  As an executive, his whole function is to motivate other people.  If he can’t do that, he’s in the wrong place.”

As for Theo Epstein and the Cubs?  As mentioned in this Fortune article, and in even more detail in The Cubs Way:  The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, at the core of the Cubs rebuilding process was the desire to find four everyday field players as the pillars to build around.  Yet at this point in his career versus his time in Boston, the strategy of simply leveraging the Moneyball statistical tools  was no longer enough.  Everyone else was doing the same thing, and Theo had learned a thing or two.  So he turned to the locker room.  He turned to character.  To players that would exhibit the traits that made the difference outside of numbers – leadership, hard work, sportsmanship, teamwork, etc.  I’ll end this post with another (long, sorry) quote from the Iacocca book.  This excerpt is from a conversation Lee had with Vince Lombardi.  Iacocca asked him, based on his years of experience, what was his formula for success?

“You have to start by teaching the fundamentals.  A player’s got to know the basics of the game and how to play his position.  Next, you’ve got to keep him in line.  That’s discipline.  The men have to play as a team, not a bunch of individuals.

But there have been a lot of coaches with good ball clubs who know the fundamentals and have plenty of discipline but still don’t win the game.  Then you come to the third ingredient: if you’re going to play together as a team, you’ve got to care for one another.  You’ve got to love each other.

Each player has to be thinking about the next guy and saying to himself: ‘If I don’t block that man, Paul is going to get his legs broken.  I have to do my job well in order that he can do his.’  The difference between mediocrity and greatness is the feeling these guys have for each other.  Most people call it team spirit.  When the players are imbued with that special feeling, you know you’ve got yourself a winning team.”