With the final game of the season against the arch-rival Boston Red Sox, Derek Jeter finished a career that many feel will never be duplicated and will surely lead to a first-ballot election to baseball’s Hall of Fame. Along the way, Mr. Jeter set positive examples in a variety of areas that apply as much in business as they do on the field. To highlight one of these examples, business owners can learn 3 things in terms of managing their company’s reputations from Mr. Jeter’s career as a Yankee.
- Deliver a consistently excellent product – On the public side, Jeter’s product was his play on the field. His other product/service was his team leadership, most of which takes place out of the public eye. In both areas Jeter always delivered a consistently excellent product that earned respect from management, teammates, fans, and the press.
- Treat your co-workers, management, and target market/audience with respect – Beyond his play on the field and team leadership, throughout his career Jeter treated the game as well as everyone around him with respect, a commodity that often runs in short supply in the rarified air of professional sports and contracts in the tens of millions of dollars. For example, Jeter referred to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner as Mr. Steinbrenner and his first manager in the Big Leagues, Joe Torre, as Mr. Torre. Referring to both of them as “Mr.” didn’t end with his rookie season either – he addressed both people the same way throughout their time with the Yankees.
- Don’t get in trouble for issues that are outside the scope of your business – Athletes getting into trouble off of the field is almost a cliché, but these misadventures carry into the business world as well, with the firestorm started by Chick-fil-A President and COO Dan Cathy regarding gay marriage serving as one cautionary tale among many. While playing baseball under the bright lights of the “City that never sleeps” has proven to be too much of a temptation for celebrities of all kinds, Mr. Jeter’s off-field activities hardly raised an eyebrow if and when he was seen around town.
When it comes to athletes and reputation management, the word “problematic” can be applied to the vast majority of headlines. As a counterpoint, Derek Jeter’s 20 year career with the Yankees serves as the rare exception of an athlete who can provide positive examples rather than cautionary tales.