Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra passed away this month at the age of 90. In addition to being a great player for the perennial champion New York Yankees in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, Berra was also known as a type of clown-prince for his penchant for amusing malapropisms relating to baseball as well as life in general.
Many people probably don’t realize, however, that Yogi Berra’s frequently-quoted observations can also be viewed as astute critiques of the American workplace. His ability to reduce the complexities of life into humorous sound bites created a treasure trove of good counsel, especially on the importance of thoughtful evaluation and looking at the big picture, when he reminded us that you can “observe a lot by watching.”
Some of Berra’s shrewdest thoughts on the American workplace included:
- “Ninety percent of the game is mental. The other half is physical.” Berra understood that hiring workers and having them show up is only half the battle. You want a workforce that is motivated and engaged, and who takes pride and satisfaction in their jobs. That’s the other half of the equation and it is the far more significant half.
- “I never said half the things I said.” This was Berra’s great reminder of the importance of documentation for managers and supervisors. For all the times that employees claim that their supervisor said they could take the day off, or that a manager uttered a discriminatory remark, Berra knew that you have to be able to prove that you did not say what they claim you said.
- “It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.” Despite his sometimes befuddling remarks, Berra understood the importance of clear and effective communication. It is important that everybody be on the same page and work together toward the common goal, and you can’t achieve that unless there is a very clear voice coming from the leader.
- “There are some people who, if they don’t already know, you can’t tell ’em.” Berra saw a great number of baseball players come and go, and he understood that some of them just could not compete at a Major League level. In any workplace, there will be people who simply are not able to perform their job responsibilities capably. In those cases, Berra would tell you that at some point, if they haven’t caught on, they never will. Don’t avoid making the hard decision to let someone go if they simply can’t play the game.
- “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Innovation and creativity are often critical to success in business. You need employees who can think outside the box and come up with creative ways to increase productivity, reduce expenses and stay ahead of the competition. Berra reminded us of how important it is to distinguish yourself from the other guys.
Berra’s most enduring line may have been “It ain’t over until it’s over.” He is gone now, but Yogi Berra’s impact on the American workplace will never be over.