It’s Nice to Be Important, But…

By Jill Wolforth-


Recently, while at a business conference, I had the opportunity to listen to Alan Mulally, former President and CEO of Ford Motor Company. Alan took the helm at Ford when they were struggling to compete in the market place and at the time when the U.S. auto industry as a whole was in financial difficulty.  (It was during this time that the federal government had to bail out Chrysler and GM.)


As is often the case, people are most curious about how he helped turn Ford around and bring it back to a market leader.  I thought his philosophy was amazingly simple. Here’s what he referred to as his “Principles, Practices & Management Systems”:

  • People first… Love ‘em up
  • Everyone’s included (and he made the point everyone)
  • Compelling vision, comprehensive strategy & relentless implementation
  • Clear performance goals
  • One plan
  • Facts & data (he says “the data will set you free”)
  • Everyone knows the plan, status & areas that need special attention
  • Positive, “find-a-way” attitude
  • Respect, listen, help & appreciate each other
  • Emotional resilience – trust the process
  • Have fun – enjoy the journey & each other


As I reviewed this list, it became very clear to me that this doesn’t only apply in business but is perfectly applicable to sports and specifically, in our case, baseball.


Having been involved in so many different teams over the years, I can look at this list and determine where each of them was strong and weak.  One that clearly sticks out to me is “Everyone knows the plan, status & areas that need special attention”.  One of my personal pet peeves is the coach that keeps everything to him/herself up until the last minute.  For example, a player/pitcher doesn’t know until an hour before the game if they’re playing or not.  It’s absurd to think one is in his/her best mental and physical state with that uncertainty.


I am sure you can also look back and relate both your positive and negative experiences to items on the list.  For most of us, when we think about the really good experiences we had, almost all of the items on Alan’s list occurred.  To me, the list serves as reminder, a check list, which we should refer to on a regular basis with EVERYTHING we do.


It was very apparent that relationships and how people are treated is of vital importance to Alan. He shared that this philosophy stemmed from some key things his mother instilled in him while growing up.  For example, she would say to him, “Alan, you know, the purpose of life is to love and be loved (pausing) and in that order” or “Remember Alan, to serve is to live”.  My personal favorite “Alan, it’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.”


I would say Mrs. Mulally was quite a woman in her own right as those are some powerful messages to instill in your children.  As he stated, they certainly had a profound effect on him and ultimately, his success.


There is a book available by Bryce G. Hoffman about Alan Mulally entitled “American Icon and the fight to save Ford Motor Company”.  I can’t give my personal recommendation yet as I’ve just ordered my own copy but from what others have told me and from my personal experience listening to Alan, it should be a fantastic read.


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Ron & Jill Wolforth have spent the last 25+ years learning and applying key principles to running a successful baseball/softball training facility.  This coming May, they will be hosting a Baseball and Softball Academy Owners Mastermind and Workshop.  This event is an opportunity for 20 baseball/softball facilities from around the nation to spend 3 days with the Wolforth’s and their staff, getting an inside look at how they run their marketing and operations and what they’ve done to become the world’s premier baseball training facility.  For more information on the event, email or call the office (936) 588-6762 and provide your contact information.


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