What does it take to hit a leadership home run?
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim manager Joe Maddon has a winning play combining real connection and service-mindedness, all mixed with a little – or maybe a lot – of fearlessness.
Maddon’s virtual class session was a unique end-of-year event coordinated by one of Chapman’s own: Nicole Provansal ’07 (MBA ’09), who literally made it to the major league and is now the director of corporate and community partnerships for Angels Baseball.
With baseball off the field for the season, Provansal got in touch with instructor Doug Aiken ’99, also Chapman’s associate director of athletics, asking if his previous students from his sports public relations class might want a special opportunity to connect with an industry leader. The answer was a resounding “yes.”
“When I heard that Doug had put this class together I was over the moon,” said Chloe de Vries ’20, communications major (and Angels fan).
Moderating the class was another Chapman alumnus, Trent Rush ’14, voice of the Angels Play-By-Play radio show. With Maddon Zoomed in and fielding questions, Chapman students got to talk shop with one of the most respected names in the game.
The experience was a hit with students, who said Maddon’s talk – which touched on empathetic listening, connected leadership and of course, sports and public relations – felt resonant during the era of coronavirus challenges.
Maddon may be best known for leading the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series win in 108 years in 2016. Lately, he’s been waiting out the COVID-19 quarantine by keeping busy with charity foundation work and remote engagements, making sure his team stays motivated and connected, and taking time to get more enmeshed in the community – from a digital distance of course.
Leading and Listening
A life in sports is destined to be busy. But Maddon told students that a little stillness is essential when you’re the manager. His key advice for effective leadership: “You need to be a good listener.”
“I treat people the way I want to be treated,” said Maddon.
In terms of the athletes, if they know you’re looking out for them, that allows them to stay focused on their job – the game. So what do you do when it’s time to be quiet, pay attention and give support?
“You give them everything you got,” said Maddon.
Meeting the Press and Publicly Relating
Maddon listens and leans on his public relations team, getting what he needs to succeed from their knowledge.
“I like to bounce things off them first before I take questions. I especially like to talk with them when I’m upset,” said Maddon.
Maddon picks people who aren’t going to say “Yes” to him. “I love when people tell me they don’t agree with me.”
However – there is one place where there is no room for arguing: positive connections to community. In the same way that community engagement plays a crucial role at Chapman, charitable works and deep community connections are vital to Maddon through his Respect 90 charitable foundation.
A big part of the success? A talented and motivated team public relations team – not unlike the students in attendance – saying yes to making the right, successful connections.
Run the Bases
So, what is it that makes a good student, and a good team, for that matter?
For Maddon, it’s the lack of fear that strengthens a team and builds camaraderie on and off the field – it’s what holds them together when it gets hard.
“Fearlessness,” Maddon says. “Courage is the quality that ensures the ability to have all the others – without courage, it’s hard to be loyal.”
For Doug Aiken, it’s dedication and a drive to do more – a hallmark of the Chapman students in attendance. Here’s the curveball of this class: none of the students were enrolled in an active course.
“I really feel it speaks to the quality and dedication of Chapman students that they came,” said Doug Aiken. “There was no class credit – and they are all past students of mine, who took the time to show up.”
And for De Vries? She feels that this unique class gave students a chance to boldly engage and be a part of something special.
The class has become a winning highlight for her final semester, she said.
“We all came together for that call – it was an extraordinary thing,” said De Vries.