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There’s No Need to Bat .900

Here's some really great advice for all entrepreneurs, from Adam Bryant's interview with eBay CEO John Donahoe:

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was suffering from a real fear of failure. Kent said, “You know, John, your challenge is you’re trying to bat .900.” And he said: “When you were in college, you got a lot of A’s. You could get 90, 95 percent right. When you took your first job as an analyst, you were really successful and felt like you were batting .900.”

But he said, and this is probably five years into my career: “Now you’ve moved from the minor leagues. You’re playing in the major leagues, and if you expect to bat .900, what happens is, either you come up at bat and you freeze because you’re so afraid of swinging and missing, or you’re a little afraid to step into the batter’s box.”

He said, “Best I can tell, the best hitters in Major League Baseball, world class, they can strike out 6 times out of 10 and still be the greatest hitter of all time.”

And he said, “That’s my philosophy — the key is to get up in that batter’s box and take a swing. And all you have to do is hit one single, a couple of doubles, and an occasional home run out of every 10 at-bats, and you’re going to be the best hitter or the best business leader around.” You can’t play in the major leagues without having a lot of failures.

Q. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about leadership through the years?

A. You can’t change people. As a leader, there’s a real temptation to try to change people or help people get to where you want them to go. And I learned, actually through experience, that you can’t change someone. All you can do is help them help themselves.

And so I spend a lot less time than I used to trying to make people do something that either they can’t do, or don’t want to do, and spend more time illuminating what needs to get done. And if they make the choice to do it, great. If not, get them into a role where they can do what they’re good at.

Q. Let’s talk about time management. Do you do anything unusual?

A. I take days away. This is the only phone call I’m taking today, because it’s a thinking day. It’s a day to just get away and step back and reflect. And I find that very hard to do in the office or in a familiar environment.

I find that if I don’t schedule a little bit of structured time away, where there’s no interruption, that it’s very hard to get the kind of thinking time and reflection time that I think is so important.

Read the whole interview

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