Joe Girardi's firing proves that communication skill trumps competence
It came as a big surprise when the New York Yankees decided not to renew the contract of their manager, Joe Girardi, who had held the position since 2008. During his term, he had accumulated a regular season winning percentage of .562 and postseason winning percentage of .538. He had the fifth winningest record among the Yankees coaches. Under his leadership, the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, and everyone was surprised in 2017, when his team came within one game of beating the Houston Astros (the eventual world champion) to make it to the World Series. So by any standard, Joe Girardi was a highly competent manager.
So why did the Yankees upper management decide not to renew Joe Girardi's contract?
According to Brian Cashman, Yankees' general manager, Joe Girardi was fired because of his poor communication skills in relating to younger players on the team. The team wanted to go in a different direction. What Cashman was signaling is that competence alone is no longer sufficient to be a manager. Today, a baseball manager must differentiate himself through his communication skills.
When you think about it, this makes sense, since baseball no longer depends on the knowledge, experience, and insight of a manager as it did before the use of sabermetrics (an application of statistical analysis of baseball data to make decisions). Competence is now table stakes in baseball, since all teams are now playing "Moneyball." The advantage that the Oakland Athletics had when they started using analytics is over; the playing field is even now. A baseball manager today, as the Yankees have demonstrated, is judged highly on his ability to communicate effectively with players, upper management, media, fans, sponsors, charities, etc. Communication has now become a critical skill for success.
And the Yankees management was apparently using communication as their excuse for replacing Girardi, since they hired Aaron Boone, even though he had no managerial experience. Boone is an ex-player and comes from a baseball family, but he has never managed a baseball team at any level His latest experience evidently has prepared him well for what the New York Yankees are looking for, though: ESPN analyst. You don't get to be an analyst of the premier sports network unless you have proven communication skills.
Why hire Aaron Boone?
Hiring for excellent communication skills is not unique to baseball. We saw this in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump. He defeated Hillary Clinton, who probably had the best résumé of any presidential candidate who ran for office. The American people elected a person who had proven communication experience; they had seen him for many years on the TV show Apprentice and had watched him commenting on Fox News even though he did not have any political experience. People have a hard time judging you by the work you do, but they can easily judge you by your frequent appearance on traditional as well as social media. The more people see you as you want them to see you, the more they will think that you can also do the job.
I believe this is the new trend today, since right after Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was fired by Donald Trump, he did not join some prestigious law firm. Instead, he became a CNN senior legal analyst and started hosting his podcast discussing the Mueller investigation. By continuing to be visible, Bharara will have many more options open up for him than if he were not publicly visible. Today people and key decision makers have to see you working, and the only way they can see that is if you are communicating publicly often and well. Today communication is wealth whether it is financial, political, intellectual, or social.
You may say that having good communication skills applies only to high-profile people, but this is going to be the rule for all of us. Why? Emerging technologies such as Big Data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have made it essential that you know how to work with technology to solve problems quickly. As in baseball, everyone who is considered for a managerial position is comfortable with sabermetrics. Sabermetrics has become table stakes today. Similarly, what you are competent in is also table stakes to get or to keep a good high-paying job. You have to win the job and keep the job through your excellent communication skills.
If you want the job today, you must first identify all the people you will need to communicate with and then know how to communicate with them effectively so you can engage, connect, and influence. Otherwise, you will not be considered, let alone hired. And if you do have a good high-paying job right now, you’d better fix this fast, or you are likely to meet the same fate as Joe Girardi.
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Jay Oza is a writer, speaker, executive coach and a student. He has worked as a programmer, a technical sales consultant and an alliance manager before reinventing himself. He volunteers for Hire Heroes USA mentoring and coaching experienced military veterans get executive level jobs. He is an author of Winning Speech Moments: How to Achieve Your Objective With Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. Please download the free speech checklist and the free speech workbook to help you with your next high stakes speech. I will add you to my newsletter list so I can provide you tips, techniques and insights on speaking and other related subjects every two weeks. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.