Bridging the Gap

I am entering my eighth year as a minor league coach for the San Francisco Giants. In my first three seasons our Major League team won two World Series and the organization rewarded all the staff members with championship rings. In my seven seasons coaching in the Arizona Rookie League we have won nearly 60 percent of our games and played in three championship series. It goes without saying that I have been blessed with good fortune and a wonderful job.

In my playing days my work ethic was better than my talent and I was always looking for ways to improve my craft. One of the greatest joys in coaching is teaching and watching the players get better. However, I realized early on in my professional career that there was a disconnect between me and the Latin players. The biggest chasm between us was verbal communication. I took Spanish classes in high school and college, but over the past 20 years I have not used it on a regular basis. I knew that I needed to re-learn the language in order to be a better coach.

Taking the first step

I started by learning what I call “baseish”- Baseball Spanish. I learned how to say our batting practice routine in Spanish and then moved on to body parts that are used in the hitter’s swing mechanics. I asked the players a lot of questions and they were more than happy to help me. According to a report I read recently, close to 30% of the players in pro baseball are Latin American. If I want to be able to communicate with my whole team, learning their language is very important.

The funny thing is that when I first started down this road it was for job security. I wanted to make myself more valuable to the organization. What it turned into was a bridge between me and the players. I showed them effort in learning their language and they appreciated that. They saw I cared about them and our relationships grew.

You see as a leader I needed to show the men that I was entrusted with, that I was willing to take the first step towards improving our communication. They in turn trusted me and were willing to make adjustments in their game. By me realizing what I needed to do on my end to improve communication, the players met me half way. I believe the best leaders are confident, competent, humble, and they lead by example.

So how can you apply this to your life. Let’s go beyond your job. How about those you love. Is their a gap in your marriage? What about your relationship with your kids? Has it been months since you spoke to your siblings, because they irritated you at Thanksgiving? Are you being stubborn and thinking that everyone needs to come to your first? Maybe sticking to a “my way, or the highway” mantra?

I can tell you this. If you want to have a better communication in all areas of your life, you need to be the person to make the first step. In times of conflict, you are called to be the peacemaker. Lead by example and those around you will see your effort and more than likely, be drawn to you.

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