Joe Maddon wants his assistants to disagree with him. But, as any parent can attest, simply wanting something to happen doesn't make it happen. Creating an open dialogue amongst a coaching staff begins with the head coach encouraging dissenting opinions and establishing a culture where assistants are free to disagree without that disagreement being counted against them somewhere down the road.
Maddon appeared on the Charlie Rose Show earlier this month and, over a half hour discussion, explained his philosophy for leading his staff and his team.
Upon accepting the Chicago Cubs managerial job before the 2015 season, Maddon established three goals:
- Build relationships
- Build trust
- Allow for a free exchange of ideas
"It’s conversation with coaches, as an example," Maddon told FanGraphs. "When you are in a room with a coach, when you first get to know a new coaching staff, a lot of times they are afraid to come to me [with honest assessments]. Not that they don’t trust me, but they don’t feel comfortable in that situation. So they are going to hold back their ideas, which I don’t want.
"So we built that relationship first, and after a period of time, we start trusting each other… If you don’t nurture the first two items [relationships followed by trust], you will never arrive at a free exchange of ideas, without someone getting upset because you don’t agree with them. That’s the only way you get the best out of the group."
Though he established that culture in 2015, Maddon said it's just now beginning to manifest itself in 2017.
"I will have coaches coming to me now and tell me straight up what they are thinking more than they did two years ago. There is no question," Maddon told FanGraphs. "They will come in and disagree with me, which I absolutely love. That would not have happened two years ago."
Maddon told Rose he gives his players the same freedom he gives his staff -- and his players pay back that freedom with discipline.
"The more freedom I give them, the more respect and discipline I get in return," Maddon said. "I don’t have a dress code. If there are any rules to be made, I have players make them."
Maddon's techniques, counter-cultural as they may be, work. He's racked up a .534 winning percentage as the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs -- two clubs not exactly known for their winning histories prior to his arrival -- with an American League pennant in Tampa and a century-awaited World Series title in Chicago.
Watch the full interview below.