Dave Dombrowski, President, CEO, and general manager of the Detroit Tigers major league baseball team was the most recent guest speaker in the Breakfast with Champions series “Dynamics of a Winning Team” sponsored by Dan Kane Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac Ltd.
During the event Dombrowski discussed building a winner, which every organization is striving for, by reminding us that there is no easy answer, no snap of the fingers, no set formula. We all deal with many moving pieces and intricacies, and a certain amount of luck.
If you want to be successful at your job and move up the company ladder you need to be passionate about your work. You must be motivated and driven to be the best you can be regardless of your job or your work. He shared a story about when he was at the University of Western Michigan, in 1978, one semester from graduating an accounting major, being offered a job right out of school, a guaranteed salary of $1,000/week versus an opportunity that came to him from the Chicago White Sox, to be an administrative and personal assistant to general manager Roland Hemond for $8,000/year. Baseball from a young age was my passion “the passion is yours; you should pursue it.”
After the passion comes getting the best people around, you can’t do everything yourself. People are the fundamental building block to any organization. Dombrowski puts his job on the line every time a new player is acquired – or for that matter traded. For the newly acquired players “I leave that to the scouts.” It is their job to get the best players and get to the ultimate goal – win the World Series in 2011! There are many different styles of leadership depending on the person, it is your job as a leader to get to know the person you put in charge of said task and respect them and their leadership style. Dombrowski shared a story about Jim Leyland, manager of the Detroit Tigers. People know and respect him. He is not afraid of making decisions and accepts responsibility for those decisions. “He cares about his team and they know it, he is focused on the process, and he does it his way, that is his style and I respect that.”
Motivating people is another key to good leadership. Give credit, recognize others when doing something well, it truly means a lot to them. On the other hand when an issue comes up deal with it behind closed doors – treat people the way you want to be treated, set examples at work and lead by those examples. “Your conduct always is a reflection on you and your organization, you need a thick skin, making decisions will get you criticized. Dombrowski’s decisions are very public, someone always has an opinion, it’s seen as well as debated in the papers, on the radio - especially when you trade the popular players you become very unpopular.”
Communication is key to any organization – it is a two-way street – not just telling but the listening aspect of communication as well. “I mentioned to Leyland that I wanted a big, tall, big-handed, someone who can throw hard pitches – the scout was recruiting short pitchers – everyone needs to know the guidelines and direction to building the organization.”
Worry about things you can control. In 1997 Dombrowski won the World Series with the Florida Marlins. They had a great team that was built to be successful – all players were in the prime of their careers but the owner wanted to bring payroll down, he wanted to sell the team! Baseball is the only sport of the big four North American pro sports to operate without a salary cap. “You can feel sorry for yourself or deal with what you have, be aware of doing the best job you can,” stated Dombrowski.
The breakfast was filled with many stories and highlights, some personal some professional, snapshots of a-day-in-the-life of Dave Dombrowski, President, CEO, and general manager of the Detroit Tigers. Departing words to the students, "I did finish my degree, give yourself an edge, we are growing globally, you need to be part of that, stats, math, computer work, learning a foreign language, take a position internationally, all will help set you apart."