Well, well. The vaunted Yankees, with baseball’s largest payroll, went down in flames last night in Anaheim. No surprise, really. This really isn’t a team but, rather, an amalgamation of high-paid hit and pitch men.
As a longtime Mets fan who enjoyed seeing the Bronx Bombers’ demise, I still see the Yankees as a great image and reputation case study, especially when one views the uncertain status of Messrs. Cashman, Torre and Stottlemyer. When they inked their contracts with George Steinbrenner the three had, in effect, made a pact with the devil. Steinbrenner’s "win at all costs" mentality placed a tremendous strain on both managers and players. All knew that each game could be their last if the Yankees didn’t go all the way to the World Series and win it.
Steinbrenner’s abusive management style may achieve short-term gains but not long-term success. I know first hand; I once worked for a Steinbrenner-type executive at J. Walter Thompson. I agreed to join the firm because of the financial package that the CEO dangled in front of me.
That turned out to be a very bad move for me. And I have to believe that, deep down, Torre rues the day he made his pact with Steinbrenner.
Healthy organizations don’t rely on fear to motivate employees. They build talent from within and nurture it. The best organizations encourage risk-taking and see failure as a smart, healthy and productive way for employees to become better.
Shooting for the stars is fine as long as the organization is patient and empowering. Working for a CEO who screams, shouts and threatens is no way to live, especially when life is so short. In addition to poisoning the internal organizational culture, management-by-fear has a toxic effect on image and reputation. Who would want to work for a firm that emulated the Yanks’ style? What clients or customers would want to do business with employees who are paralyzed by fear? And what competitor wouldn’t delight in besting this sort of company at every opportunity?
I realized my mistake and left JWT after a short while. I hope Torre and company pack up their kits and head somewhere else. Money can’t buy love. As the Yankees are demonstrating on the national sports stage, it can’t buy security either.