A Lesson from Jon Lester and the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs about Focusing on Strengths

Honestly, I thought Jon Lester was strange when I saw him pitch during the World Series.

What is peculiar about Lester is that he will not throw to a base if he doesn’t have to. He’d even throw his entire glove and ball instead of just the ball if he must (see above). And his definition of “have to” was way different than my definition until today because I learned again the value of focus.

Lester won’t check the runner at first nor second and rarely gets off the mound to field a ball unless it practically hits him. Lester isn’t particularly bad at fielding, and in fact he’s just as good or better than ever.

But Jon Lester is his best when he is pitching. During the post season this year he pitched nearly his best of all time. He helped his team be more successful when he was doing what he had strengths to do.

I yearned for Lester to check the runner at first because 20 million people watching the game knew the runner was going to steal second. But when Lester decided to NOT check a runner at first during the World Series, it made me pause.

By examining how peculiar Lester is on the mound, we learn a valuable lesson. Lester focuses his energy where he has strengths, and that is pitching, not fielding.

When runners do get on base, they more easily steal on him because they get such a good jump on his pitch. And if Lester allows the runners to distract him or get him nervous it impacts his throwing.

What seemed alien to me when compared to my expectation of a pitcher’s behavior, was familiar, permitted, and even agreed upon by his team and management. Those who depend on him know his strengths and expect him to play where the numbers give them the best odds.

Likewise, what expectations should you have of each person on your team, of yourself? Are you playing to your strengths that give you the best chance of success, or are you playing to someone else’s expectations?