The Power of the ELO Model Realized

Over the last few weeks we have explored an employee-led, leader supported, organization enabled (ELO) performance model.  Now let’s explore the tale of two organizations and the power behind an ELO performance based model.

We don’t have to go any further back than last week and to an organization that for the last 108 years suffered through one losing baseball season after another.  The Chicago Cubs last won the coveted World Series back in 1908.  But in 2016 they were looked at in the beginning of the year as a contender for the title and unlike past years they realized a century old dream.  So what changed? 

The Cubs owners and organization enabled the success.  They first brought in Theo Epstein, a 42-year-old baseball executive, as President of Baseball Operations.  Prior to the Cubs position, Epstein was youngest General Manager in baseball at the time and led the Boston Red Sox in 2004 to their first World Series title since 1918.  So what Theo Epstein brought to the Cubs organization was inspiration, energy and a long-term vision of player and organization development.  He inherited a team in 2011 with a record of 71-91 and would bottom out in 2012 with a 61-101 losing record and would finish last in the following two seasons.  Then in 2015 his vision started coming together and the goal was realized in 2016.  But the Cubs organization enabled a feeling of hope again in the team and the city of Chicago by his hiring.

Theo began a massive rebuild of the organization bringing in a mix of experienced talent with young prospects and a new manager in Joe Maddon with the leadership style and experience required to support a turnaround and a team built like this.   Joe Maddon doesn’t manage his players, he supports them. He creates an environment where players stay loose and feel empowered.  If something had to be said, he would say it, but as he has been quoted “I’d much rather the peers carry my message” and that leadership style and confidence in his team paid off in game seven when everything was on the line and seemed to be falling apart and the game getting away from them.  With only four outs standing between them and winning the World Series, the Cubs let a three-run lead disappear.  A miscalculation by Maddon on the capability of the relief pitchers to throw so many pitches the night before and come back in the final game as strong was catching up to him. 

After the ninth inning ended and heading into extra innings the skies opened up and the tarps came out on the field and the teams retreated to their clubhouses.  Maddon said he walked into the clubhouse and saw his team having a meeting.  He went upstairs to check on the weather.  The meeting was led by a veteran player, Jason Heyward.  That meeting, according to many of the players, is what changed Cubs history.  Management didn’t need to call the meeting; it was player (employee) led. In fact, as a manager that supports and doesn’t manage often, Maddon said “I hate meetings, I am not a meetings guy.  I love when players have meetings, I hate when I do.  So they had their meeting and the big part of it was, we don’t quit. We don’t quit.”

You can attribute what you want to that meeting, but the Cubs came out of the rain delay and put up two runs in the 10th to give them what turned out to be their margin of victory to claim the 2016 World Series trophy.

Now with an organization that enables success by providing clarity, alignment and the resources to win, a manager that supports and develops the leader in every player, and with players embracing and thriving as leaders, the Chicago Cubs have an opportunity to be good for a very long time. 

The Chicago Cubs, 2016 World Series Champions, the power of the ELO model. 

Next week the power of the ELO but with a completely different outcome.