A Management Lesson from the World Series: “Know what you don’t know, then hire good people to do those jobs.”

Mike Rizzo with Nats manager Dave Martinez.

As the exciting Washington Nationals baseball team returns to DC after winning the first two games of the World Series in Houston and gets ready to play the third game tomorrow night, sports fans tonight have little to watch other than the NFL game between the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings.

The tale of those two franchises offers a management lesson as relevant to journalism as to sports.

Coverage of the Nationals often zeroes in on general manager Mike Rizzo, seen watching and sometimes taking notes. Coverage of the Redskins often shows owner Daniel Snyder sitting in the owner’s box watching his hapless team.

The Lerner family, which owns the Nationals, hired Rizzo to decide who the Nationals will draft or sign as free agents or trade for—Rizzo is a respected and experienced baseball man.

As for the Redskins, some insight from a previous post:

As Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder fires yet another coach in another losing season, a look back at another Redskins owner that makes a point as important to journalism as it is to sports.

Before Snyder, the Redskins were successfully owned by Jack Kent Cooke. He was a very visible Redskins owner, walking around practices like he was the man in charge.

But Cooke’s teams won three Super Bowls because he knew what he didn’t know. He hired Bobby Beathard as Redskins general manager and Joe Gibbs as coach. He was content to talk loudly and entertain important people in the owner’s box and pose with Super Bowl trophies while Beathard and Gibbs ran things.

Snyder had made lots of money as a businessman and when he bought the team in 1999 after Cooke died, he thought he was smart enough to run things himself without a Bobby Beathard kind of general manager. Year after year he decided who the Redskins would draft, usually going for a big name, figuring big names would excite the fans. One draft bust after another, one losing season after another.

The lesson for anyone in charge: Know what you don’t know, then hire good people to do those jobs. Cooke was smart enough to know it. Snyder still thinks he can pick Redskin players better than the general managers at other teams who really know what they’re doing. To add to the problem, he tends to surround himself with people who won’t say no to him.

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