Grand slam home run is a term from baseball. When a batter hits the ball out of the park (and not in foul territory), this is called a home run. The batter then gets to run the bases and collect a run, or one point. If there are any players already on a base (first, second, and/or third base), they get to run to home base too and collect a run. When a batter hits a home run and the bases are loaded (all three bases have runners), this is called a grand slam home run because it results in the highest possible number of points - four runs or four points. The grand slam home run makes the most out of the team’s efforts and has an added benefit of creating a feeling of success throughout the organization.
I like using the grand slam home run as a benchmark for managerial results because everything we do ought to have a positive and additive affect on our teams, peers, and the organization. If you are going to do something, make it a grand slam! If we are going to engage people in meaningful work, let’s do work that makes everyone feel like a winner.
Sounds nice, I know, but let’s take this metaphor and put it to work. To do this, you should start by having a conversation with your manager. Ask your manager to clarify the results you and your team need to product over the next year. For each key result, ask him or her what a grand slam home run would look like. For example, if a key result is to successfully implement the new accounting system within budget by August 1st, a grand slam home run might be to:
- Complete the implementation by July 1, before the busy season
- Involve the accounting team in the project such that ownership and acceptance is high
- Implement the project while improving accountant computer skills (so they can better use the new system’s features)
- Develop robust contingency plans to cover any potential project setbacks
- Find a way to do all this and reduce the costs spent on the project – harness the creativity of the group to find the best way to transition to the new system
There’s getting a project done and then there’s doing a project such that many other aspects of the work are improved as well – that’s great planning and management. As a driven and talented manager, you want to know what excellence looks like. Define and strive for the grand slam home run to have the deepest and broadest positive impact on the organization.
Some of you might be thinking that talking about grand slams will set you up for failure because the boss will then expect nothing but grand slams. Sure, I will admit that openly discussing grand slams changes expectations – yours and your boss’s. But, BUT, this is a good thing. My goal with this step is to help set you and your team up for amazing contribution. Identifying what great looks like is an important part of this. Think about the above example. If you don’t identify what a grand slam looks like, what are the chances that you will go for this higher level of performance? The chances are low because we get what we focus on.
Take some time to go over your major projects and tasks with your manager and define what a grand slam home run would look like for each and every one.