“Come on team, lets knock one out of the park!” 

Sound familiar?  This is starting to sound like one of the buzz phrases from the 90’s like “synergy” or some crap like that.  So what does it mean?  What are we really saying when we are told to “knock one out of the park”?

Recently, I heard a relatively new and inexperienced manager implore her team to do just that, knock it out of the park.  Nice way to motivate, but the problem with little phrases such as this is that it feels like eating a chinese meal, an hour later you are hungry again and wanting more.  Why is that?  Because it doesn’t give any real direction.  When managers drop this line, they fail to define how they want it to happen.  Or they are masking the reality that they are micromanaging but by asking everyone to knock it out of the park,  the manager is hoping that everyone feels part of the solution.

People need to be empowered to hold the bat and take a swing.   Yes, some will fail, but that is truly how we develop our people. And even though its like helping our children to ride a bike; we hate to see them fall and skin their knee, it is part of the process and we need to let it happen.  We aren’t protecting anyone by not allowing them to try.

No one will push themselves if they don’t have any ownership in it.  Why would anyone try for the fence if someone will come along and claim the ball as theirs?  And if you have never been told what to watch for and how to hit it, then can you be expected to succeed?  Pretty easy to encourage you to achieve greatness but even easier to pick you apart if you haven’t been told how to get there.

So next time you are trying to rally the troops, think for a second about your role.  Have you coached your teammates on the finer points?  Have you defined the goal?  And if they fail at bat, the question isn’t just “what could they have done better?”  The question is also “what could you have done better?