Opinion | This Baseball Manager Knows the Secret to Leadership Success

By: | December 3, 2018

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

For a Dodgers fan, it’s painful heaping praise on anything Red Sox after this year’s disastrous World Series defeat to Boston.

But Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s story is so inspiring, so wonderfully deserving of praise and in need of repeating. His winning traits should serve as an example for all leaders, including those managing workers’ compensation programs.

Cora’s story is about creative management, personally engaging those he is charged with motivating, constructing a winning culture, and then reaping world-championship results.

For me, Cora’s passion for uniting diverse people is encouraging at a time when I feel unsettled watching our nation increasingly pulled apart by a leadership capitalizing on racial animosity and political divisiveness.

Cora is now one of only five rookie managers to win a World Series and the first Puerto Rican manager to do so.

He took the job agreeing to one of the lowest manager’s salaries in professional baseball and only one additional demand. He asked that a planeload of relief supplies be delivered to his hometown in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria’s devastation.

The Red Sox agreed. Cora came on board and rebuilt team culture with a player-centric approach. His humanity and the bond he developed with players gained their trust, making it easy to bring their concerns to him.

That approach shares common themes with the advocacy-focused workers’ compensation claims-management style gaining ground among employers.

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Employers reshaping their companies’ workers’ compensation cultures with advocacy strategies report reduced litigation rates by engaging injured workers and cultivating trust by putting their needs first.

The correlation between building a winning baseball team and a successful workers’ compensation risk management culture doesn’t end there.

Cora’s World Series-winning management creativity reorganized traditional player roles. He disregarded baseball’s typical boundaries that separate starting pitchers from relievers, for example. He assigned individual pitchers to fulfill both roles and they succeeded.

Employers reshaping their companies’ workers’ compensation cultures with advocacy strategies report reduced litigation rates by engaging injured workers and cultivating trust by putting their needs first.

Workers’ comp management requires similar creativity. It takes innovation, for instance, to find new return-to-work roles when injured workers can’t perform normal duties. And we know there is no better way to improve overall workers’ comp results than by building a return-to-work program fitting the unique needs of a company and its workers.

There are other characteristics winning workers’ comp managers share with Cora’s style. For instance, he enhanced Boston’s use of analytics to find areas for program improvement.

As I write this column, sports reporters are asking whether Cora — who criticized President Trump’s handling of Hurricane Maria — and his team will visit the White House, a tradition for World Series winning teams.

The baseball world and readers can decide how they feel about that outcome.

Me, I’m enjoying that Cora’s story shows the amazing results possible when a leader knows the value of unifying ethnically, racially and culturally diverse players behind a common goal.
If only this was a Dodger story. &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]