Be the Joe Maddon of your organization: 5 thoughts on how the Cubs manager maximized young talent and brought a winning culture to Chicago

The Baseball Writers Association of America named Chicago Cubs skipper Joe Maddon National League Manager of the Year in 2015 after taking over a team with five straight losing seasons and propelling them deep into the post season. The team was packed with promising rookies and budding young stars in addition to a major off-season acquisition in ace pitcher Jon Lester. But it was Mr. Maddon who harnessed the Cubs' potential and created a "winning" atmosphere at Wrigley Field. And this isn't the first time he's done it.

Mr. Maddon has won the Manager of the Year twice before in his career while in the American League, including his 2008 campaign with the Tampa Bay Rays, another team stacked with young but untested talent. This past year, Mr. Maddon not only led the Cubs to a 97-win season, but out-managed the Pittsburgh Pirates in the wildcard game and then swept the Cubs' arch-rivals and National League Central favorites St. Louis Cardinals, ending the series at Wrigley Field, which hadn't seen post-season action in years.

But the Cubs' 2015 season wasn't all smooth sailing. It began with sending rookie superstar Kris Bryant back to the minor leagues amid controversy. Mr. Bryant performed brilliantly when he joined the team, but went through dry spells toward the end of the season. Big off-season acquisition Mr. Lester had a rocky start, leading to questions about how much he had left in the tank. Then after a series of offensive and defensive missteps, shortstop Starlin Castro was benched midway through the season. Finally, standout infielder Addison Russell was struck with injury during the playoffs.

Some managers and leaders fold under the pressure of high expectations, team member egos, underperformance and a competitive atmosphere. But not Mr. Maddon. Here are five key philosophies that drive his success:

1. Put the right people in the right places. Mr. Maddon is known for his flexible style, moving players around the field and switching up the batting order based on the team's needs on any particular day. Even though Mr. Bryant had his heart set on playing third base, he also spent time in the outfield and had success in both positions. Slugger Kyle Schwarber joined the Cubs mid-season and despite spending very little time as a catcher in the minors started in the position. He then moved into the outfield where he is still learning to play the position; however his offensive value earned him a regular spot in the line-up. Mr. Maddon's regular position rotation not only gave players to opportunity to discover where they excelled best, but trains them to take over if and when one of their teammates goes down.

2. Foster young talent to attract future acquisitions. Young players like Mr. Bryant and pitcher Jake Arrieta were an integral part of the team's success. Mr. Bryant batted a .275 in his first season and tied for season-high home runs in the MLB among rookies — 26 — and drove in 99 runs for the season. After opening the season with the Iowa Cubs minor league team, Mr. Bryant played with a chip on his shoulder and exhibited the plate presence of a seasoned veteran even through his dry spells. Mr. Arrieta began his season slower, but returned from the All-Star break on fire. He led the team with 14 wins and one loss in the last three months of the season and pitched a gem in the Wild Card game. For the season, his earned run average was an astounding 1.77 and he pitched a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both players earned top awards — Mr. Bryant the NL Rookie of the Year and Mr. Arrieta as the NL Cy Young Award Winner. Combined with Mr. Maddon's Manager of the Year, the Cubs pulled in three of the major awards from the Baseball Writers Association. These awards, Mr. Maddon told the Chicago Tribune, will make the team more attractive to big-name free agents in the off-season and future youngsters who want a piece of the winning culture.

3. Create a winning culture. Until recently, the Cubs were known as "loveable losers" but after just one season the culture of winning is pervasive. Mr. Maddon believed in his team and each team member believes in himself. But Mr. Maddon isn't the only leader in the clubhouse. Veteran Mr. Lester has gone deep into the post season with other teams and knows how to get there. On the other hand, Anthony Rizzo, an experienced Cub but still young at age 26, set a relaxed tone for the team. He was a leader on the field with a dominant offensive season and off the field by forming a relationship with the other players. Countless Instagram photos, personal tweets and Facebook updates from several players gave fans a sneak peak into how the players had fun with each other off the field, strengthening their bond during play. Many team members, with Mr. Rizzo leading the way, also participate in charitable events around Chicago, giving back to the city that gave them a shot.

4. Positive reinforcement instead of harsh punishment. Mr. Maddon formed a special relationship with Mr. Castro over the season, who struggled and was eventually benched in favor of 21-year-old Addison Russell. Mr. Russell took Mr. Castro's place at shortstop after a series of errors and issues at the plate threatened the Cubs' productivity. Mr. Russell made the most of this opportunity, with a dazzling defensive performance and provided a pop at the plate. While some young players would grow cynical, Mr. Castro kept a positive attitude while on the bench, at least outwardly, and encouraged his teammates on to victory. He understood the benching was best for the team and other players were outperforming him. But he kept practicing and taking his reps, and ultimately returned to the field as a second baseman where he truly shined. After his benching, Mr. Castro hit .381, earning his spot in the line-up for the postseason. And just as Mr. Castro cheered on his team, so did the team cheer on Mr. Castro. Mr. Maddon led the way, touting Mr. Castro's work ethic and strengths at press conferences and media interviews. Mr. Castro responded to the competition aggressively in part because he knew his team, and manager, were rooting for him.

5. "Don't let the pressure exceed the pleasure." This is one of Mr. Maddon's oft-used, and celebrated, quotations. He created a loose atmosphere around the ballpark reminding his team to have fun with the game, even during the high-pressure situations. He insists players spend time away from the game, even during the season, to keep their focus on the field. He brought in a magician and organized events like "pajama day." He even brought the beach to pitcher Pedro Strop's locker in St. Louis after a series of particularly harrowing outings the two nights before. He made sure to have fun with the players and celebrate big accomplishments; but he really shined during the rough patches when a series of mistakes lead to losses and players underperformed. His positive reinforcement eased frustrated players and helped bring them back to peak performance.

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