One of the richest traditions in baseball, a\n\ngame that by nature is tradition, is the idea of "talking baseball." It\n\nis a concept that is one part teaching, another part oral history. Ted\n\nWilliams, one of the game\u2019s greatest hitters, loved to talk about\n\nhitting and loved to share his insights with young players. Sandy\n\nKoufax travels regularly to Dodger spring training to talk about\n\npitching to young prospects. And managers, from stoic Joe Torre to the\n\nvoluble Don Zimmer, talk game situations and how to deal with them\n\nstrategically and tactically. Baseball, among all the major sports, is\n\nthe one that puts a premium on sharing knowledge player to player,\n\nmanager to player and manager to executive. Toss in sportswriters,\n\nbroadcasters and statisticians, and you have a soup of story and\n\ntradition that accounts for at least one reason the game is called the\n\nNational Pastime: It gives people a great deal to talk about.Share the lessonsAnd that\u2019s why baseball may be a good teacher for managers. Anytime\n\nyou get two or more people together from the same discipline--be it\n\nlaw, medicine or accounting--they will slip into dialogue about their\n\nprofession, the upside, the downside, and the "what can you do about\n\nit" mode. Less of this occurs on the management level; rarely do\n\nmanagers in business talk, as managers in baseball do, about the\n\npractice of management. Peter Drucker wrote a monumental book on the\n\ntopic a half century ago, but that was from the perspective of a\n\nconsultant advising business people. High profile CEO types from Jack\n\nWelch to Lou Gerstner write books about it, but seldom do managers\n\nspend time among themselves talking about what they do. That is too\n\nbad, because from such conversations emerge lessons that can be applied\n\nto any business. So borrowing a page from baseball, here\u2019s how to start\n\nthat conversation.Emphasize team. Baseball is a one to one sport, where one\n\nplay at a time typically involves one player at a time. But over the\n\ncourse of a game, and the season, it involves thousands and thousands\n\nof plays that include everyone on the team. And so it\u2019s important that\n\nmanagers communicate to everyone that baseball is a team sport and that\n\nplayers have to play as much for the team as for themselves. This rule\n\nis essential for any team that hopes to contend for a championship. And\n\nit is a critical lesson for managers in business. We preach team but\n\nreward individual performance, so employees go for what will benefit\n\nthem first, even if it might not benefit the team.Talk tactics. With two men on, a two two count and one run\n\nbehind, do you play hit and run? Questions such as this get to the\n\nfundamentals of baseball--what you do as a manager, a hitter, a fielder\n\nand a pitcher in every situation with players on base, off base, at the\n\nplate or on deck. Situations form the core of baseball; it is a game of\n\nreaction once the ball\u2019s in play, but prior to each pitch, every\n\nplayer, coach and manager thinks about what to do next. And good\n\nmanagers talk about this with their team before, during and after the\n\ngame. Managers in business can apply this lesson by talking with\n\nstaffers as well as each other about the discipline of their function;\n\nwhat they do, how they do it and what they can improve. Conversations\n\nsuch as these about "fundamentals" keep people focused and maybe will\n\neven spawn new ideas.Play the game the right way. The only rule that is posted on\n\nthe clubhouse door is "no gambling." It is something that legendary\n\nhitter and loudmouth Pete Rose never learned; it cost him a place in\n\nthe Hall of Fame. Aside from that rule, there is a spirit of how you\n\nplay the game that players from every age would recognize, and it comes\n\ndown to a single word: character. You play with your head--know the\n\nrules; you play with your heart--you care about what you do; and you\n\nplay with your spirit--you play with integrity and never show up\n\nanother player, and that includes an opponent. Character matters in\n\nbusiness, not simply in ethical matters, but also in how managers and\n\nemployees relate to each other. Expectations for the job should always\n\ninclude the "how" issues--that is, how employees cooperate, coordinate\n\nand collaborate. Putting a premium on the human relations ensures that\n\nyour employees play their games right, too.Keep a level headBaseball managers receive a scrutiny that managers in business do\n\nnot receive. Even the most celebrated CEOs do not have their decisions\n\nsecond- and triple-guessed each day in the media by others who\n\nsometimes care more about being clever than being correct. So managers\n\nlearn soon enough to maintain easy relations with the media, always\n\nkeeping an open door, but learning to speak a dialect that some call\n\n"coach speak," and public relations professionals call "smart." Such\n\nlanguage pats players on the back, speaks deferentially about those in\n\ncharge and always thanks the fans who buy the tickets. Smart indeed,\n\nand a lesson for any manager who must deal with the public. Team\n\nmatters, and anything that involves player\u2019s performance is reserved\n\nfor behind closed doors.It is has been said that baseball is the sport most similar to life.\n\nAfter all, the professional season spans six months, not including\n\nspring training and the postseason. Players average playing six games\n\nper week and spend off hours in motion from airport to airport, hotel\n\nto hotel, and back and forth to the ballpark. You get to know, if you\n\nchoose, the players on your team, if not as family, then certainly as\n\ncolleagues and fellow travelers.Above it all, there is the game, the one with the small "g" and what\n\nyou play on the field, as well as the one with the big "g" that\n\ninvolves the players, management, ownership and sponsorship. How a\n\nplayer performs on field and off says a great deal about who he is as a\n\nperformer, as well as a person. Often it falls to the manager to keep\n\nthe two halves of his players--personal and professional--in balance so\n\nhe can do his best when it matters most. Working with his team. And\n\nthat\u2019s not a bad lesson for all of us.