Sales Coaching Blog

Put Your Team into Complexity: Leadership Lessons from Moneyball

Posted by Sarah Wirth

September 19, 2013

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Last night, I was watching one of my favorite movies, Moneyball.  Those of you that have been to an EcSell Institute summit know that our company is passionate about this movie as a great illustration of how to put an organization into complexity.  For those of you who are not familiar with the movie, it’s based on the true story of Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane who changed the face of his team through using quantitative player metrics (such as on base percentage) to build his roster, eschewing many traditional methods of evaluating players.  While Beane didn’t invent “sabermetrics,” as it is commonly known, he certainly was one of the early pioneers to successfully use it to transform his team and achieve significant success (a new consecutive wins record for baseball) as a result.

Why we like Moneyball so much here at EcSell Institute is precisely because of its lesson about trying something different.  When you push yourself and your organization into unknown territory like Beane did, you are putting yourself and others in complexity.  And complexity is absolutely essential to achieving exponential growth.  Simply stated, you cannot expect to see significant improvement in your results unless you do something significantly different.  Tweaks and process refinements can only get you so far.  If you want a big change in your results, then big change in your approach has to happen.

So as we look at the movie Moneyball, what are the things that Billy Beane did differently that led to different outcomes?  What lessons can you take away from his story?

  1. Surround yourself with people who think differently.  In the film, Beane hires an economics major from Yale to help him determine which players to acquire.  Using a statistical analysis model, this young man helps Beane think completely different about what really matters in evaluating players to create a winning team.  If you want to have some similar type of epiphanies, you also need to hire some people with experiences and talents that are completely unlike yours.  If you hire only people in your image, you will not get breakthrough idea.

  2. Once you commit to your idea, stay the course.  Simply put, change isn’t easy.  And it is particularly difficult when you are doing something that is radically different than has been done before.   People will doubt you.  Setbacks will happen.  You definitely see that in Moneyball as almost everyone thinks Beane’s ideas are ludicrous.  But if you made a thoughtful decision, you need to see it through like Beane did in order to see if it can really work.  Make adjustments as needed and learn as you go, but don’t be too quick in equating other’s natural resistance to change with your idea being a bad idea.

  3. Reach out to others to help build support for your idea.  In the movie, Beane initially pushed his new agenda without bothering to influence others to go along with it.  But his ideas didn’t really gain traction until he started reaching out to players to bring them on board.  Likewise when you are leading a significant change, you have to take the time to build support.  Help others see how the end result you are envisioning can benefit them.  Give them time to process the change you are asking of them and to figure out how it works in their favor.

Overall, if you haven’t seen Moneyball before, I encourage you to check it out for its lessons on leadership, courage and driving an organization into complexity in order to achieve significant growth.  And hey, even if you don’t take away these lessons, it’s still a good movie.

Topics: sales leadership, Leadership Culture, Motivation, Catalytic Factor, Complexity Theory, Innovation, sales team development, Leadership & Management, EcSELL Institute

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