Sunday, June 6, 2010

The big forgive

Many friends and colleagues have asked me the leadership lesson to be learned from the “imperfect game” thrown by Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga. It was clear from the video replay that veteran umpire Jim Joyce blew the call at first base causing Galarraga to miss a chance at baseball greatness by throwing a perfect game (MSF – that would be 27 consecutive outs).

The problem was I could not find the lesson. Joyce immediately stepped up and took full responsibility for the error and apologized. The media made mania out of the “theft” to no avail. Baseball’s commissioner confirmed the umpire’s field decision would not be reversed. It all seemed cut and dry until a colleague from Bangalore emailed me the ESPN phone interview with Armando Galarraga. Baseball immortality was stolen from this guy and he completely forgave the umpire and said he could have made the same error given the high level of intensity at the moment.

I can only hope to act the with the same dignity when my chance at greatest is taken from me. His maturity and ability to forgive should be a lesson for all leaders.

Have you ever made a significant error and you boss forgive you? How did you feel?


Human Energy Programmes said...

My world was once rocked when my boss handed out our payslips to his team and accidental gave them to the wrong people. Mine was given to a junior member of the team and when he opened it up he shouted out the number on the slip before he realized it was not his. It took ages for me to understand this and deal with the issues that arose from having my salary disclosed to the entire team.
But Forgiveness has been granted to my boss the the other staff member. Funny how small things can become such huge issues in such a short time. Good lessons to learn.

davidburkus said...

Forgiveness is such a a big issue in leadership. It's what stood out to be most when watching Invictus. Like a larger scale version of the pitcher-in-question, Mandela somehow found the ability to forgive his oppressors for 30 years of imprisonment in order to unify a nation.

Gareth Hatch said...

The decency displayed by Mr. Galarraga is sadly the exception these days, when once it was the rule. This incident highlights how low expectations have fallen when it comes to general human behavior in the face of an honest mistake.

Karel Goodwin said...

I wish I could say that I've had a boss who would forgive me for a major error. But the truth is that everyone, including Bosses, react emotionally to errors, and tend to never forget. I could tell lots of stories about this issue, but I don't see the point in repeating the past. All I can do is try to prevent myself from getting into no-win situations and be brave enough to exit the problem before it gets to that point. The world would be a better place if everyone could learn how to forgive. Honestly, in the long run of life, what does it really matter if someone makes a mistake or responds inappropriately to a situation? As long as the mistake doesn't violate any known laws, why can't we just chalk it up to being human?

Howard R. Berger said...

Yes, I have made mistakes. Some big, some not so. Nevertheless, whenever so and the apology is mine to give, it is without hesitation. Let it go and then move on.

Douglas Halliday said...

Forgiving Frees the Forgiver often even more than the Forgiven

Unforgiveness eats away inside you, drains your energy, destroys your focus, damages your relationships, reduces your own effectiveness, disturbs all those around you and in the end could even destroy you

Forgiving releases you and others from this self imposed bondage and enables you to harness not only your own energies more productively but also those of the person / people you have forgiven

As your own example demonstrated, forgiving showed maturity and earned respect and admiration

It takes courage to admit you are wrong and compassion to forgive another -- two great leadership qualities

This is the leadership lesson, I believe, to be learned

Dave Wineinger said...

Douglas I totally agree with you- this is a timely and refreshing discussion!

Peter Dawson said...

"It all seemed cut and dry until a colleague from Bangalore emailed me the ESPN phone interview " ;

The world has certainly turned flat... of all places Bangalore - City of beans! ! :)-

Jon Axell said...

The story of Armando Galarraga's "imperfect game" can, perhaps unfairly, be summarized with the old saying: "nobody's perfect." Though Jim Joyce's mistake was an honest one, he will never be able to forget what he took from Galarraga, nor will he ever be able to give it back. Nor is it likely that Galarraga will ever be so close to history again (there have only been 22 perfect games in the history of Major League Baseball). But both men have addressed their imperfections with perfection, showing how life, like baseball, isn't fair, yet forgiving and forgetting are two very different things.

The night after the "imperfect game," Jim Joyce was behind home plate to call balls and strikes. These were the same teams as the night before, in front of what was sure to be a hostile crowd that seethed from the injustice of the previous night. When the time came for Tigers manager Jim Leyland to deliver the lineup card, Joyce instead saw Armando Galarraga come off the top step of the dugout. He smiled as he delivered the lineup to Joyce, who took off his mask and wiped away tears. They shook hands.

Joyce is an honest man who will live with the mistake he made forever, and yet he has already been forgiven. Neither he nor Galarraga nor any of us will forget what happened, but these two men have shown that people, though imperfect, have chance to be perfect in the shadow of imperfection. We may forgive and never forget, but they have decided what it is exactly that will never be forgotten - character. When fans see the video footage of the blown call, they will remember the tearful handshake between Galarraga and Joyce the next night.

Through all of our mistakes, we should all hope to be remembered like this.

Bob Lee said...

Maturity is one thing, understanding the process and following it is another.
Why didn't Jim Leyland protest the play/call the same way one would a flyball tag up? Anyone who has played baseball understands this must be followed to the end to get the umpires reaction. In this case the umpires never huddled on this call nor were they requested???? As much as I want to call Bud Selig every name in the book for not over-turning this. He has followed the process and once the game is over it is over ...too late. Maybe Galarraga should be admitted to the Hall of Fame with an * next to his name. For Bud Selig/ Jim Joyce its time to allow the instant replay be part of the game.

In this case Jim Joyce made the error his boss Bud Selig neither said he was wrong or right. Galarraga was the victim and he chose to rise above it .

Fred Szibdat said...

Hey John,

I think that in the end, forgiveness is only part of the big lesson from this story.

I could and shoul wax poetic about a few bosses. But they'd all start to sound the same. And its definitely a "George" story. He, odd to realize now, was my biggest mentor, and while I'm still in touch with him, also my biggest supported.

Ours is a relationship based on trust and honesty. Because of that, we had the great opportunity to share a good deal about life, and about work.

What I took from the baseball story, though, was a lot more than forgiveness. I played the game from the age of 7, until I was 18. Still a huge fan, and I love what it says about America. A game with some rather precise rules (Infield Fly rule, anyone?) and yet, the strike zone is well defined, but inconsistently applied.

Baseball is like life. Some folks play by the rules, precisely, and others try to bend and twist them. Some players are proud and others are prideful. And in this game, it reflects the vagaries of Life and culture. For every Derek Jeter, there is a Jose Conseco. For Every Ted WIlliams, a Joe Dimaggio (yes an obvious Yankees fan here, guilty as charged).

So as a former auditor you might be confused that I didn't want them to overturn the obviously wrong call. Because it reflects our America.

What I took from the incident, was the passion for the game. How the Umpire was in tears. How the Pitcher and Manager, were upset. And then, they came to an understanding. "It's Baseball". That's not the cop-out of "Everything is Everything" (but please do share if anyone knows what that comment really means).

And for me, I got the impression that the process is what matters, and not the results. I'm all about a fair and decent process. And in this case, though the answer to right the wrong was obvious, its an awful precedent, to want baseball to be a perfectly administered game. Not much in life is perfect. Try as I might in garden, some animal will eat my tomatoes. Or something at home will break. We learn not from being burdened and crushed by our adversities, but rather, how we react to them, and then the dignity for the game and others that exudes.

Its that shared dignity, that really came through for me. How the love for the game, outweighed the love to get the call right. There is no doubt that getting it right was high on the list. But it didn't change a win to a loss, and while its epic to throw a perfect game. Its rare.

And really, it was nice to see folks agree. Not to threaten a lawsuit, or where a game like basketball, is about personalities. Nope, baseball is still a great game. YOu play offense individually and you play defense as a team. I like that paradigm.

What I learned, was that honesty is really the root of all good relationships. And a belief in a higher order. Be that the love of the game, or a divine being.

It was humbling to see the Umpire breakdown and cry, realizing that his call had a profound affect on the pitcher's lifelong statistics. And while it was also epic for the manager and pitcher to so freely exhibit forgiveness. It was refreshing to see the focus not be internalize and about ME but about the game.

It also wasn't so bad that we stopped hearing about Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears. Not a bad thing at all.

Sherri Gallagher said...

There is hope for humanity.

Cynthia J. Starks said...

I think both Joyce and Gallarga acted with such humanity and kindness. They are both to be admired, especially in the face of the CEO of BP's inability to offer any apology that wa heartfelt or believable.

Good post, John.

Rolando said...

I think this is one of the most positive stories coming from the professional sports world that I've seen in a long time. I noticed a couple of more angles that haven't been brought up so far. (1) Immediate & clear evidence. Wouldn't be nice if more things in life could be reviewed on instant replay. Many mistakes are often unreasonably defended and I wonder how many people would be willing to admit their mistakes if the mistakes were clearly exposed for everyone to see. (2) Individual vs team outcome. In this case the end result robbed Galarraga from reaching a tremendous personal achievement but the team still won the game - I have a feeling that if it had been a 9th inning call causing the team to lose the game, there would have been a much more heated reaction on and off the field.

Steven Weinrieb said...

Wouldn't it be nice if the Commissioner, Bud Selig, would show as much integrity, character, and responsibility as Joyce and Galarraga have demonstrated and do the right thing - award the perfect game to Galaragga whom everyone on the planet knows that he deserves it.

Think of this too - as was noted, there have only been 20 or 22 perfect games in the history of MLB, and no pitcher has ever pitched two perfect games in their entire careers - that means, from a statistical point of view, Galarraga will never ever have another perfect game - award him his perfect game and do the right thing!

Richard Tuthill said...

John, I think the lesson learned is the extraordinary self control exhibited by Galaraga. He will be remembered forever for that as well as his foregiveness. In the end it will pay big dividends for him.

Julian Blumenthal said...

Truth be told, you have to forgive yourself first for making the error. This means facing the fact you made the error, making what can make right, and then facing yourself, which is hard.

Per Olsson said...

A good leader doesn't forgive, he stand by his team and take the hit because being forgiven doesn't make the error undone.

With that said, yes I have made errors, the big boss have said "learn from this and try not doing it again" and it felt good to have that support from him.

Best regards

Diane Banhidi said...

What a wonderful, thought-provoking story! Yes, we all make mistakes...some big, some small. But, I think this a great example of how to carry yourself in both win and lose situations. It's easy to act gracious in a positive situation...But it is much more character defining to remain honest, composed and dignified during a stressful time, or after a mistake. Thank you for sharing this thread.

Ken Berkowitz said...

The FACT is Galarraga did pitch a perfect game. Bud Selig's refusal to acknowledge Joyce's admitted mistake is irrelevant. One's accomplishments do not require the approval of others, although it is nice to be recognized. Galarraga experienced pitching a perfect game and the memories of any one of us who have accomplished a similar feat, perhaps in our own careers, give us true pleasure, regardless of any outside recognition.

Steven Weinrieb said...


You are absolutely right in the FACT that Galarraga pitched a perfect game, and everyone knows it, but should he not ALSO be recognized for it - if awards or other recognitions were totally meaningless or irrelevant, why do we have a Hall of Fame, an Academy Award, whatever - yes, one can certainly take personal pride in having done their best and knowing it, but it is also quite meaningful when our peers recognize our rightful achievements for what they are.

Ken Berkowitz said...

Steve - True, but Selig is not Galarraga's peer. If Selig did play professional baseball then he most certainly recognizes Galarraga's feat, regardless of his, i.e., Selig's, political conundrum. In fact, Galarrga was recognized by his peers. The Tigers presented him with a new Corvette convertible which, as a practical matter, is more meaningful than any recognition Selig may or may not "bestow" on him.

Dave Ritzman said...

For well articulated lessons learned and an example of grace and compassion role modeled for children (and the rest of us), read Peggy Noonan's column about the matter and both gentleman's behavior in June 5-6 (weekend) edition of the WSJ. Article entitled, "Nobody's Perfect, But They Were Good." It's good.

Steven Weinrieb said...

Ken -

With all due respect, I am sure that Galarraga could buy 100 corvettes if he wanted to - you can't buy an official perfect game and the immortality it basically represents! As has been noted, only 20 or 22 pitchers have ever pitched a perfect game - THAT is baseball immortality forever - and sure, as we have both noted, Galarraga, and everyone else, KNOWS he pitched a perfect game but it is still not officially a perfect game - which is all the more reason Selig has no reason for NOT awarding him the perfect game - and yes, figuratively speaking, Selig is his peer - he's the Commissioner of Baseball! The people who vote players into the Hall of Fame are not all necessarily players or former players, or the people who vote for Academy Awards or People's Choice Awards, or whatever, are not all actors or former actors - it's still really nice to be officially recognized for the work you've done - especially when you in fact really deserve it and it is the right thing to do - Selig ought to get off his butt and give the guy his perfect game - and I don't believe he said he definitely would not, I believe he said he was thinking about it - well, when is he going to decide - make a special presentation during Game 7 of the World Series? Give me a break! And I don't think Selig has any political conundrum - if anything, he has a clear green light as everyone on the planet knows G pitched the perfect game - so there is in fact no controversy!

Tom Holmes said...

Yes, John, forgiveness is so very powerful. One of the most effective actions we can consider taking when confronted with people judging you, and the finger-pointing-that-has-a-bad-ending seems about to begin - is: "I was wrong - I am so sorry - please forgive me". It can have the most alarmingly positive results.

Ken Berkowitz said...

Steve -

I agree with everything you say. John Bishop who started this discussion has asked about "the leadership lesson to be learned from the “imperfect game” thrown by Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga" The lesson re-learned is that sometimes are leaders can act like A-Holes. Fortunately, baseball is just a game that many of us enjoy. Contrary to the loss of life resulting from the Iraq & Afghanistan wars our government leaders got us into. Galarraga pitches again tonight. I'm sure all fans will be rooting for him. P.S. he hasn't been in the majors that long and I doubt that he could buy 100 corvettes!

Steven Weinrieb said...

Ken -

Obviously the reference to 100 corvettes was an exaggeration - hey, you can only drive one at a time anyway. The point is if we're talking about integrity, sportsmanship, doing the right thing, demonstrating true character, Selig should step forward and award G the perfect game. As the old saying goes "When opportunity knocks, do NOT ask if it can come back at a later time!" This was most probably a once in a lifetime situation so the probability of G getting another opportunity at a perfect game, and actually completing a perfect game, are pretty slim. The latest news I have seen is that Selig has now said he will not reverse the call, will not award the perfect game, and that he is "comfortable" about it. He also has pretty much come out and said that he is against instant replay other than using it, as it is currently being used, for ruling on home runs/foul balls. I cannot possibly understand that position - I honestly believe that one of the best aspects of, for example, pro football or pro tennis, is that they judiciously use instant replay in an attempt to get the best call possible - meaning the right call on a close call - oftentimes in the NFL, you will see a great catch made, the receiver dives for it and catches it on his shoestrings, however, instant replay clearly shows that the ball touched the ground for a split second before the guy grabbed it, or in, for example, grand slam tennis, a ball will be shown to have been in or out by literally millimeters - again, the point is that all best efforts are made to make the right call and everyone is happy with that because you know that one time your shot may be shown to out by millimeters, and the next time you will get the call that it was in by millimeters - and everyone lives happily with that situation!

Ray Barredo said...

Yes, the erroneous call was heart breaking but what really made the situation remarkable was not just the act of forgiveness displayed by Gallaraga, but more importantly, the humbleness and humility of the umpire to accept his wrong call and ask for forgiveness. That's why it made it all the more easier for the player to forgive. The smile exhibited by Gallaraga after realizing the umpire made an opposite call that immediately cut his jump of joy showed his good nature.

In many occasions, particularly in business, some people in authority or power are way too proud to accept faults that others lose their respect on those people.

Rod Satre said...

in the inverse I had an engineer lay out a mirror image of a huge heat exchanger, possibly $50,000 cost and the two cooling water nozzels would not go in A-backwards! This was discovered when the crane was trying to set the 25 foot long equipment.
I put my arm around his shoulder and said, "congratulations, you got your big F-up over with and the rest of your carreer will be easier."

last time I looked he was an executive VP at the firm. We both moved on from that day forward without this incident ever being raised again. "forgive and forget" go hand in hand.

we all need to realize that errors occur, the separation of the pros from the amatures is the williness to buck-up, take care of business, and move on.

John Bushling said...

I'm reminded of a story attributed to Tom Watson, IBM.

As the story goes, a young engineer committed a significant error that cost IBM $2+M. He was called into Watson's office expecting to be fired. In fact, he asked Watson if that was the case. Watson is purported to have replied, Of course not, we just spent $2+M to teach you that lesson. Now go back to work and don't do it again.

How did it feel? Relief and gratitude. (Been there.)

Mike Stapleton (LION) said...

The people who have the courage to take responsibility for their actions are the people I want managing my company.

Angela Stauder said...

I agree that there is much to learn from these events. Yes, both men took the high road, and set a standard for professionalism. The public conversation was quite varied, and I noticed much more discourse on how Galarraga was 'robbed', a predominant focus on the 'screw-up', etc.

I appreciate you bringing this up for us to take a look at, to continue our learning through conversation. What I notice through all of this is an assumption that 'the perfect game' is more meaningful than behaving honorably and with grace. Is going down in the record books the most important legacy to leave? What strikes me as the more rare, more important lesson is the example Galarraga and Joyce set through their behavior. They showed us what leadership and professionalism looks like. Yes, a perfect game in the record books is an accomplishment. But real leadership and professionalism, setting an example for others to follow -- that is something to admire, to be proud of. That, in my opinion, is true greatness.

Timothy Morris said...

The other side of this is not just forgiveness but motivation. What motivates this pitcher is not the title of greatness or as you put it "imortality". He just wants to play the game and do it the best he can. This is something that John Wooden would have taught. I read through his book recently and he taught success is giving your best effort. It is not found in titles of championships, those things usually follow those who work hardest to give their best effort though. What him in the next few years, his day will come again.

Victor Offer said...

A better question might have been

Has your boss ever made a significant error and asked for your forgiveness and were you able to forgive them.


Have you, as a manager, ever made a mistake that cost a subordinate? Did you admit to it and ask for their forgiveness? Were they able to?

In my view one of the characteristics of a good leader is the ability to admit to mistakes, learn from them and not repeat them.

One of the ACE principles is that blame should not automatically be laid at the feet of subordinates if a mistake has occurred. It is the process that needs to be looked at. (have managers/leaders put in place everything that the subordinate needs in order to perform without making mistakes. mistakeproofing) This implies that mangers should take responsibility for the actions (including mistakes) of their subordinates

Michael Beason said...

It could be said that generosity and forgiveness are commodities of increasing rarity in our world. I certainly remember all the leaders I ever knew who displayed these qualities. The others fade into nothingness - so unremarkable I could not wait to forget their names.

A leader who practices the fundamental values like generosity and forgiveness sees every moment as an opportunity - there's always a mistake to forgive or a situation that requires a more generous nature. Those like Gallaraga are leaders not because they have power over others or a position, but because they set examples that attract others to them like a magnet - examples you would expose your children to, examples that inspire.

Who inspires the best performance from others? A leader who is stingy with praise and acknowledgement, a leader who points out every error, or one who is generous with praise and forgiveness? We think that holding people accountable requires a lack of generosity and forgiveness. We think we cannot be a good corporate leader because we read about so many tough-minded leaders who drove their company to success. We equate the fundamentals as being "soft hearted." We think we have to fight and claw our way to the top. No time for generosity and forgiveness - kill or be killed, eat or be eaten!

It's hard to judge the success of a leadership style from the bottom. When you're only making $250,000 a year, everyone looks successful. But when you're making $10M a year and hanging around listening to everyone talk about how lonely they are and how few actual friends they have and how little they get to see their families, you come to realize that the scorecard for success in leadership isn't about one or two battles, but rather its about the things that really matter....the things you're going to die without...

I've been talking to my two sons about generosity and forgiveness lately - they've been at odds with each other over trivial stuff and they're in their mid-30s - I notice they wouldn't be having these problems if I had taught them to have even one ounce of generosity and forgiveness. I certainly take responsibility for not passing it on. Clearly I haven't been demonstrating these qualities and now I have to live in a world without.

My advice - start with your family - then take it to work. And don't abandon your commitment to generosity and forgiveness because your future happiness depends on it. Remember Gallaraga!

David Woakes said...

An interesting "twist" to this has occured in my mind in the UK - Over our very specific sport of Cricket. Here the Pakistan touring team have been caught in a honey trap involving trying to cheat the bookmakers on "spot bets"

The issue as linked is the use of a new up and cominjg player (aged only 18) who has quite obviously been presurised into an event which is the key part of the "fraud" or cheat. To me and many in the sport the overall issue is one that cannot be denied or ignored and brings a number of individuals into disrepute (again) however the promising youngster's situation seems to be ignored by most of the press and officals.

While the bigger aspects of the impact to the sport and influence on all watchers and people involved in the sport generally - the 18 year old is now being hung out to dry when the senior management and officals should be understnading and show some compassion to his particular situation - the old adage of viewing a situation from someone else's shoes is always one to use before diving in I have found - and this seems another just example.

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