Baseball teams rise and fall on a pitcher’s skill at mixing up speeds and locations from the mound. When choosing a pitch, it’s crucial to predict how the batter will respond. The difference at the office is that you’re all on the same team. When you propose something new, it’s helpful to think through how it’s going to come across the plate.
Pitches fly every day, whether for movie screenplays, product ideas, organizational changes. In each case, the basic skill remains the same. A leader who can garner buy-in, motivate, and stay transparent will win the day.
Let’s look at how leaders recommend changes at work through the lens of four pitches: the fastball, the curve, the off-speed, and the sinker.
Fastball: You use the fastball pitch when you need your team to be in lightning response mode. In this scenario, the task is clear and unsurprising, but will require intense work on deadline. Your role is to support the team through the push. Show your confidence in them. Set a calm tone as you map out tasks against the racing clock. Clear off any unprioritized work. Regroup regularly. Offer snacks and other perks.
Curve: You are throwing the curveball when you introduce an unexpected change that might catch people off guard. This kind of pitch requires a shift in your team’s mindset. So be transparent. Tell them what you know and what you don’t about the change. Open communication in the face of unanticipated news will help them adjust. This includes inviting the team to offer solutions. “Catchers tend to respond well if they are made to feel that they are participating in an idea’s development,” notes Harvard Business Review.
Off-speed: This pitch can be deceiving at first glance. The ask seems straightforward, but you foresee unpredictable outcomes. You can help by framing the work as an attainable challenge, one that your team can hit out of the park. Paint a picture of what short-term success looks like. Break the process into small, achievable intervals. Chalk up some easy wins early to instill faith and fuel momentum for the more complex corrections to come.
Sinker: This pitch can cause grief, so be prepared. You are presenting a tough challenge that’s unlikely to result in a homerun. More than any other pitch, this one needs its benefits to the team to be articulated in advance. You are asking more than usual. Come to the game with motivating rewards. Model your role in bringing all you have to the plate when conditions are rough.
Walk your team members through all that’s needed, then listen to their ideas. Be optimistic, but realistic. After throwing the sinker “you may still need to make a hard decision that folks don’t agree with, but they will respect you and the process you took them through,” writes Inc.
Whatever your pitch, make sure to practice it in advance. Then stand tall, wind up, and let ’er fly.