Five Things Agencies Should Learn From The Washington Nationals
I love the Washington Nationals. From their first game in 2005, and from the old RFK stadium to “new” Nats Park to 106.7 FM, our family has watched or listened to every game we could.
As my daughters will attest as they perhaps roll their eyes, many of our dinner conversations during the season revolve around how they played the night before, how they simply must keep Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg, why Manager Davey Martinez made the decisions he did, and when the pillars of the team like Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer, Howie Kendrick, Juan Soto, Matt Adams, and others would be healthy and back from the Injured List (IL). We also often wonder at how we are so lucky to have Charlie Slowes, Dave Jageler, Bob Carpenter, and FP Santangelo calling the games and how we love Dan Kolko and Bo Porter but miss Johnny Halliday and tells-it-like-he-sees-it Ray Knight.
The Nationals have long been a talented team, and a classy, well-managed organization from day one. But this season has been noticeably different. I think there’s a lot that agency professionals can learn by looking at how the Nationals turned a terrible start into the franchise’s most successful season ever.
- Resist impulse decisions. Early in the season, when fans and reporters were largely united in the opinion that Davey Martinez was not suited to manage the team and the Nats should start a “fire sale” to rebuild, the Lerners (who own the team) and Mike Rizzo (the general manager) shut out that buzz. They looked at the talent on the field, on the IL, and amongst the staff and said, “we believe in this group and in our plan.” It’s hard to ignore the chatter when times are tough, but disciplined adherence to a strong strategic plan—and capitalizing on opportunities as they present themselves—can reap big rewards for agencies and their clients.
- Embrace diversity. The Nationals helped each other learn Spanish and English, celebrated their different cultures and personality traits through music, found commonalities, such as a love for cars, and capitalized equally on the talent and experience of rookies and deeply experienced players. In doing so, they provided a wonderful example for how agencies can foster inclusion and embrace diversity by recognizing and appreciating the important role that every member of the team plays in achieving success.
- Have fun. Rose-colored sunglasses at night. Baby shark. Dugout dance parties. Group hugs. Calma. Lightsabers. The Nationals masterfully leveraged their diversity to create a team camaraderie that stands above the rest. Importantly, the contributions came from everyone, not just the manager. Sure, Davey encouraged homerun celebrations—but only in the dugout, not on the field taunting the opposing team. But the idea for those celebrations came from the players. So did many of their other quirky traditions. This is how a strong agency culture is built as well, with every member of the team contributing.
- Set egos aside. Well, the national announcers are making a big deal about this, though fans know the players on this team are not an ego-filled bunch. In any case, the Nats players approached each game with a “how can I help?” mentality, not complaining if they are replaced in the lineup with a hitter who’s had more success against a certain pitcher, or if they are asked to come out of the bullpen to get three crucial outs despite being an ace starting pitcher. This is exactly the type of teamwork that helps an agency excel and deliver strategic, creative, and innovative work for clients.
- Stay in the fight. Go 1 and 0 became the team’s mantra as Davey encouraged his team to focus on what they could do today to set themselves up for future success. Get robbed by a bad call in Game Six of the World Series? Fight back with a two-run home run during the next at bat. This is a helpful perspective for the constant pursuit of new business that agency professionals experience. Not all proposals will result in a win, but there are lessons to be learned and professional growth to be had from each one that can be applied to the next opportunity.
Win or not tonight—and I’m employing all my superstitions to help them do so—the Nationals have given their fans an exciting, laughter-filled, and awe-inspiring season. They have rewarded their forever fans and embraced “since today!” fans at the same time. And, they have simultaneously delivered a master class in organizational culture development and talent management for anyone watching closely. Thank you, Nationals.
President and Chief Executive Officer
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