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Despite falling to the Yankees in the playoffs, the Cleveland Indians baseball team had a great season, one in which they put together a winning streak of 22 games, the longest in American League history and second longest ever in Major League Baseball. While watching their games, I noticed a number of characteristics that organizations — businesses, government, non-profits, religious groups, teams, etc. — should strive to emulate:
- Clarity of purpose: Despite the widespread media attention and huge crowds that accompanied the streak, the team’s players and coaches insisted that they were focused on the ultimate objective of playing and winning the final game of the year. In 2016, the team overcame significant injuries and adversity and was never expected to reach the playoffs, much less the World Series. Having lost game seven of the fall classic — in extra innings — sharpened their focus on getting back to and winning the World Series. — In the movie City Slickers, cowboy Curly holds up his index finger and says the secret of life is “just one thing.”  What’s your one thing?
- Trusted and respected leader: I don’t have one-on-one access to baseball players and coaches, and I’m not a sportswriter (although I am willing to listen to offers). But by all professional accounts — broadcasters and writers at MLB Network, SportsTime Ohio, Akron Beacon Journal, The Plain Dealer, etc. — the Indians’ manager, Terry Francona, is a truly admired leader. He consistently praises the effort and performance of his players, rarely assigns blame, and seldom if ever puts the spotlight on himself. He appears to have created, in true Toyota fashion, a working atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. — Are your leaders respected throughout the organization?
- Total support: The front office may not don jerseys, but their role is critical to the team’s success. The Indians have often played well above their payroll. They relied on management’s ability to build a competitive farm system that could steadily deliver highly rated prospects. But this year and last, the front office also acquired key talent late in the season: relief pitcher Andrew Miller and outfielder Coco Crisp in 2016, and outfielder Jay Bruce and relief pitcher Joe Smith in 2017. These players were good cultural and performance fits for the team, but they also increased payroll. The acquisitions illustrate that Michael Chernoff, general manager; Chris Antonetti, president; and Paul Dolan, part-owner, chairman, and CEO, have the knowledge and courage to put up cash when they believe it can make a difference. — Are management and support functions fully engaged, skilled, and supportive?
- Next man up: For most of the streak, the team was without key players who have been All-Stars (Michael Brantley, outfield; Jason Kipnis, second base; and reliever Miller) as well as many others. Without exception, veterans and emerging minor leaguers stepped in and performed admirably. So well, in fact, that Kipnis is now playing the outfield, in part because of another injury and in part because the infield defense has been as good or better in his absence. — If key contributors to your group leave, who steps up?
- One day at a time: To some the baseball season seems endless, but I love its 162-game length. One bad day is simply that — a single bad day. There are many tomorrows to make amends or to push for improved performance. Manager Francona often talks about the mental durability necessary for the long season, how players’ past performances eventually play out as expected (i.e., don’t panic if things are momentarily not going well), and the need to approach each game individually. In every profession, blue collar to senior executive, we all received new opportunities each day, but do we treat them that way? — Do you and colleagues embrace each new day or remain stuck in yesterday’s glory or failure?
It’s not easy for any group to embody all five of these characteristics. But when they do, the results can be record-breaking
 City Slickers, directed by Ron Underwood, Castle Rock Entertainment et al, 1991.