Before the 2016 World Series is a distant memory, I want to share my observations about what made the Chicago Cubs so great and how those qualities translate to great meetings and events teams.
1. During the locker room celebration, Cubs executive Crane Kenney proudly proclaimed that culture eats strategy for lunch. Culture starts from the top, with leadership setting the tone for willing followers. There can be great strategy, but without inspired people who genuinely love their jobs and who are empowered to execute, strategy is nothing more than an idea.
2. But…strategy is important! You have to have a grand vision (what you aspire to be) and a well-articulated plan for how to get there. Culture and strategy work in tandem: With a poor culture, the plan is going nowhere fast. Both are key to any organizations success, and meeting planning is no exception.
3. Pay attention to the details. In baseball, players simply need to react to the ball. However, those who rely on Sabermetrics—baseball’s version of Big Data—have a better chance at success. Good planners combine an eye for the big picture with a knack for knowing the details.
4. Balance matters. The Cubs, by design, had a good mix of veterans and rookies. There was a group of players who had been there before and knew what to do and those who were curious to know what it means to win it all. Experience and exuberance continually proves itself to be a worthy combination. Successful meetings teams aren’t comprised just of seasoned professionals.
5. Luck is not an accident. And neither is success. Sometimes the ball bounces in funny ways, or the rain comes at an opportune (or inopportune) time. Great teams seem to get the breaks, but the reality is they are prepared for any situation that comes their way. They are resilient and are rarely caught off-guard.
6. Shedding is growing. The Cubs had to let go of a lot of talented players over the years to get the right people in place and in the right order. Great meetings and event teams are not those that continually try to do the same thing, but those that take calculated risks and dare to be different. Letting go of the right things creates new opportunities and keeps events fresh.
7. Good things often take time—well, not usually 108 years!—and sometimes it is the journey, rather than the destination, that matters the most. Quality and success do not happen overnight. There is no such thing as the perfect meeting. Planners learn from their mistakes. Sometimes having a few bad events makes the great ones more satisfying.
8. Many Cubs played multiple positions during the year and didn’t complain, although they may have had expertise at one position. Versatility is valuable. The most valued meeting professionals may be great at one thing while simultaneously demonstrating their breadth by adapting to virtually any situation.
9. Relax and have fun. Nobody performs well when they are stressed. Cubs manager Joe Maddon often created dress-up themes for road trips to keep the players loose. Meeting planning may be among the most stressful professions, but at least you don’t have a 90-mph fastball coming at your head!
10. Celebrate your successes. The Cubs celebrated every victory in their locker room. When the event ends, does everyone pack up the boxes and head to the airport? If so, you’re missing an important part: the celebration of a job well done.
11. Cubs employees get the best of everything. The organization flew all of its employees to Game 7 of the World Series. You can call it their incentive trip! Everyone will receive a World Series ring. The Cubs spared no expense because they knew the rewards in the future will pay dividends in employee retention and loyalty. Find a way to convince your leadership to support your efforts in big ways.
12. You need loyal, passionate customers. None of this matters without appreciative fans—or, for meeting planners, attendees. Fortunately your participants don’t have to wait a century for a great event!