Mojo – I Think We’re In Need of Finding Our Mojo (Ron Washington, & “Multiplier” Leadership)

Ron Washington (Brent Jennings) & Billy Beane (Brad Pitt)

David Justice: Scotty H.
Scott Hatteberg: Yo, what’s up, D.J.?
David Justice: Pickin’ machine.
[Scott laughs]
David Justice: How you likin’ first base, man?
Scott Hatteberg: It’s, uh… it’s coming along. Picking it up. You know, tough transition, but I’m starting to feel better with it.
David Justice: Yeah?
Scott Hatteberg: Yeah.
David Justice: What’s your biggest fear?
Scott Hatteberg: A baseball being hit in my general direction
[Hatteberg and Justice share a laugh]
David Justice: That’s funny. Seriously, what is it?
Scott Hatteberg: No, seriously, that is.
[uncomfortable pause; Hatteberg leaves]
David Justice: Well, hey, good luck with that.
(From the movie, Moneyball)


We have a shortage in this country.  Let’s call it a “Mojo” shortage.  We’re just not quite sure about our future.  We’re seeming a little unsure that we are up to the task.  And it is draining our energy, all around us.

The reasons are plentiful.  This morning, Research in Motion (BlackBerry) announced their first round of layoffs.  Hewlitt Packard has recently implemented a major round of layoffs.  JCPenney has just gotten rid of its President – the turn around is going a little slower than hoped, and things look a little shaky.  American Airlines; well, the very name kind of just makes you sad at the moment.  And that list is just off the top of my head from what I remember the last few days.

But we still have well over 150 million folks showing up to work in this country every day.  And they need to be at their best.  And then, they need to get better in the days to come – better, more capable, smarter.  Liz Wiseman, in her book Multipliers:  How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, writes that the best leaders are Multipliers, not diminishers.  From the book:

“People actually get smarter and more capable around Multipliers.  That is, people don’t just feel smarter; they actually become smarter.  They can solve harder problems, adapt more quickly, and take more intelligent action.”

I’m not sure we have enough Multiplier leaders to go around at the moment.    I think we’ve got a Mojo deficiency, a Mojo shortage that must be addressed.

And I think we all need to be Mojo strengtheners, not Mojo stealers, Mojo diminishers.

Consider Ron Washington, the manager of the Texas Rangers.  The Texas Rangers are currently on a roll, but his strengths were evident much earlier.  His Multiplier abilities are described really well by Michael Lewis in Moneyball – The Art of Winning an Unfair Game:

Ron Washington was the infield coach because he had a gift for making players want to be better than they were — though he would never allow himself such a pretentious thought.

Billy Beane, with little money to work with, had to turn ball players with little potential in critical aspects of their job into functioning big leaguers.  Now, by definition, “big leaguers” are the true “A players.”  But even those good enough to get to the big leagues are not “A” players in every aspect of the game.  One case was Scott Hatteberg, a former catcher whose body would no longer perform the catcher’s role, had to be turned into a first baseman.  He was terrified at the challenge.  (see the dialogue from the movie, above).  But a first baseman has to be able to perform, play after play after play.  So the infield coach, Ron Washington, had to turn him into a big league first baseman.  Fast.

From the book, Moneyball:

The more he (Scott Hatteberg) went out to play first base, the more comfortable he felt there.  By late June, he could say with a smile that “the difference between spring training and now is that when a ground ball comes at me now, my blood pressure doesn’t go through the roof.”  A large part of the change was due to Wash.  Wash got inside your head because  — well, because you wanted Wash inside your head.  Every play Hatty made, including throws he took from other infielders, he came back to the dugout and discussed with Wash.  His coach was creating an alternative scale on which Hatty could judge his performance.  He might be an absolute D but on Wash’s curve, he felt like a B, and rising.  “He knew what looked like a routine play wasn’t a routine play for me,” said Hatty.  Wash was helping him fool himself, to make him feel better than he was, until he actually became better than he was.  At the Coliseum it was a long way from the A’s dugout to first base, but every time Hatty picked a throw out of the dirt – a play most first basemen made with their eyes closed – he’d hear Wash shout out from the dugout:  “Pickin’ Machine!”  He’d look over and see Wash with his fighting face on.  “Pickin’ Machine!”  He began to relax.  He began to want the ball to be hit to him.

“He began to want the ball to be hit to him.”  He found his Mojo.  He was ready for work.  He was ready for his work.  He was up to the task.  And much of the credit was due to a Multiplier leader like Ron Washington.

The books are filled with the advice.  Look for the good.  Build on strengths.  Praise often.  Tell the stories of success far and wide.  They all boil down to this:  don’t steal anyone’s MojoStrengthen it.  Because until a person “begins to want the ball hit to him,” there is little chance of the success we all want, and need.

So, are you in a leadership position?  Consider the people around you – are you stealing their Mojo, or strengthening it?  This may be the ultimate test, the ultimate trait, of good leadership.

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