As a father of 4, including 2 boys, I have found myself attending a Little League baseball game on more than one occasion. Sometimes I am simply a parent spectator cheering my child on and trying to stop myself from giving too much advice from the bleachers. Other times I’ve allowed my guilt to get the better of me, and volunteered to help coach the team. This brings me to the story I want to talk about – how I learned a lesson in effective communication at a Little League baseball game.

Starting Strong at Bat

It was spring and I was the assistant coach of my son Dexton’s baseball team. It was our first game of the year and there were the normal fears that accompanied it. Up to that point, we had had a number of practices and tried to work on basic baseball fundamentals. Yet, we wouldn’t know how good we really were until that first pitch was thrown.

We were the visiting team and so we were up first. We had worked a lot on hitting and were hopeful our boys would be able to apply the things that we had taught them. Luckily for us, the first boy hit the ball well, and then the next and the next. Things were looking good and soon we had scored a couple of runs and we were feeling pretty good about our team.

The Fledgling Opposing Team

The other team’s coach wasn’t having the same experience. He was not happy with his team’s performance, to say the least. They were not able to perform simple tasks such as picking up a ground ball and throwing it to first base. Even if they had, the first baseman couldn’t catch the ball. It was a mess and the coach was frustrated.

It hit a boiling point when in the middle of the inning, the coach came out of the dugout and just started yelling, “Guys!!! Just play baseball!!” over and over again.

Of course, the boys were thinking, “Aren’t we doing that right now?”

But every time they screwed up, the coach would yell over and over again, “Guys, just play baseball!!”

His communication missed the mark.

Focus on the Fundamentals

As a coach, I knew what he was saying. He wanted them to focus on the fundamentals and just do what they are supposed to do when playing baseball. However, to these young kids, they had no idea what “just play baseball” meant. They thought they were playing baseball. Needless to say, nothing improved and frustration grew.

A Lesson Learned – Effective Communication is Crucial

When I think back on this story I chuckle a bit, yet I also realize that many times with our co-workers or our vendor partners we don’t give the feedback needed to see real improvement. We just say, “Do better!!” or “You need to improve!!” which is equivalent to yelling, “Guys!! Just play baseball!!” It isn’t helpful and doesn’t give any direction on how we are to accomplish the goals we have set.

This can be solved by communicating what needs to improve and why, and then what we need to do to improve it. Whether you are a manager trying to get a member of your team to reach their potential, or a business working with a vendor who is not meeting expectations, be specific and communicate clearly. Otherwise, you will find yourself just like that baseball coach, yelling at everyone and getting the same result.