Are You A Closer?

The Wall Street Journal published an article written about a major New York organization that generates hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue every year. It’s talented employees are extremely well paid, they travel thousands of miles every summer and they usually work outdoors while being scrutinized by the public and the media.

There was one employee in the organization that had a very important and specialized job. He was to clean up any situation or circumstance that the other employees may have unfortunately created. His name is Mariano Rivera, a 42 year old Panamanian immigrant that has worked for the organization for 17 years. While the rest of the crew was diligently working and competing, Rivera’s job was to be accessible and available. When the call came, he stepped up and completed the deal.

His job was to pick up the pieces, to prevent things from getting worse, to fix what might have gone wrong. He was a “closer”, and he only went to work when winning was in jeopardy.

The Wall Street Journal has tallied up the actual time he toiled: Over his 17 year tenure, the total came to 8 hours and 50 minutes. From 1995 until October 4, 2011 over his career he was paid $150 million, which computed to less than 9 hours of work. Why was he worth so much to his boss, that he was able to earn all that money? Because he was the “closer”. He was paid to finish the job and ensure a win for the team.

For those who still find this article obtuse, let me explain. The organization referenced is the New York Yankees Major League Baseball team, and the highly skilled employees are the professional baseball players.

In baseball the “closer“ is the closing pitcher, who is also referred to as a “reliever”. He specializes in getting the opposition’s batters to strike out or pop out in the final innings of a close game, usually when his team is leading. As much as the opposing team struggles and fights to win the game, the “closer” fights even harder to prevent that from happening.

The most important factors in closing the deal; such as perseverance and patience are not only relevant to the game of baseball, but equally relevant to nonprofits and grants.To become a “closer”, it is important to master these three skills.

  1. Get personal. In baseball as in life, know your opponent. In nonprofits, know your constituents, know your market. Use stats and social media to gain insight into your target audience.
  2. Find common ground. In baseball it’s all about working together. In nonprofits the ability to motivate people for a common cause and recruit volunteers is most important. Network when you meet new people. Try to make contact with a shared connection such as a professional network.
  3. Demonstrate expertise and knowledge. In baseball the players utilize Spring Training to hone their skills. Everyone respects professionals that are knowledgeable, skilled and informed in their chosen field. Attend virtually or in person leadership workshops and read and learn from the experts. In the nonprofit community spring training is all year round.

Mariano Rivera is the legendary New York Yankee’s closer. He has attained the pinnacle of success by being a five-time World Series Champion, who was unanimously inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Since his retirement he has formed the Mariano Rivera Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to provide vital funding to impoverished youth. The foundation sponsors after-school activities with the emphasis, not surprisingly on sports.

His book, The Closer: My Story is a story of struggle, inspiration and hard work. A great many of his quotes teach young adults struggling to focus and are the beginnings of conversations in nonprofits with a cause. Being fully committed to the moment, without any worries about the past or projections into the future…rings true to that being in the moment without anxiety.

I used to have this uncanny ability to compartmentalize, which gave me the ability to hyper focus in school. Developing a culture in the nonprofit that promotes good values, where you feel comfortable that you are in an ethical and trustworthy environment, “I trust my pitches and I trust my teammates”.

His quote that is the best human resource excerpt when dealing with so many different people, on the field, in the office and in the after-school classroom is to paraphrase;

Control your emotions or your emotions will control your acts-.

My wife is currently going through a difficult time with her mother’s illness and she finds herself reacting to environmental stressors out of character because of her emotions. To help her, she has posted Mariano’s quote to her iPhone, as a reminder to rein in her emotions.

Sports and recreation funding and after-school programming goes beyond the physical activities to mental health, nutrition and healthy habits. Grants can be found for all these categories for your nonprofit on GrantWatch.
This talent of being a “closer”, should be everyone’s goal. Tackle every job with a positive attitude, find your inner strength, remember the details needed, find common ground with others, be a great teammate because no one can do anything well completely alone. Most important of all, keep your emotions in check so you can hyper focus and be successful. We should all strive to finish the job we start and not quit until we have completed all the final details .

About the Author: Jake Tewel holds a Masters Degree from YU, a wine seller, caterer and a million miler for the past 15 years. Jake is a best friend, great neighbor, your go to travel person, father, grandfather and loving husband. He is now focusing his efforts on heart healthy nutrition, exercise and travel.

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