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Q&A: Getting to Know Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro and His Views on Character

10.21.2019

Mark Shapiro, PCA National Advisory Board Member and President and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays, talks with PCA one-on-one about determining an athlete's character. During his time with the Cleveland Indians, Mark played a crucial role in founding PCA Cleveland in 2011.

Read this brief Q&A below:

Q: On June 3rd, MLB held their first day of their annual draft. You heard the experts and scouts speak a lot about many measurements they now gauge when evaluating a player, including launch angles, spin rates, and a players' physical tools on how it projects at the big league level. How do you measure a player's grit? Mental toughness? Character?

A: That is a great question. The ability to measure character is still largely unscientific and there is a limited amount of research that suggests an objective way to measure those clear separators. We have spent time in the past looking into ways of asking questions, examining history, and talking with influential people in players’ lives. In the end, we are trying to identify situations in which they have faced adversity, challenges, and setbacks, and then most importantly, observe how they reacted in those settings.

Q: Many college and high school coaches cite "cutting a player" as the toughest part of their job. In your position, you see players come and go very often. What advice would you give coaches who need to make cuts?

A: The first thing I would say it is never easy and it never gets any easier to cut a player or make a staff change. Accepting that and ensuring that you never become callous and it never becomes easy is an important part to remaining an empathetic and compassionate leader. Once you accept that this will be among one of the most difficult parts of your job, my advice would be to be direct, consistent, and yet still have an underlying tone of empathy. But ensure that your compassion does not prevent clarity in your message and in the resulting move.

Q: How would you describe the organizational culture at the Blue Jays? Is the culture the same on the business and baseball side of things? What things do you do throughout the year to make sure the culture stays strong?

A: We strive to have the same culture in every part of our operation, simply because we collectively believe that the same attributes – whether it is player personnel or business – provide competitive advantage and create a championship environment. That culture is largely based around learning. We feel that if we have a foundation of humility and openness, combined with curiosity and a desire to learn, that improvement will be constant. We feel like perpetual growth across an entire organization in every role and at every level is the largest scalable competitive advantage.

Q: How do you try and help develop leaders within the Blue Jays organization?

A: It is important to understand that not everybody wants to be a leader. Leadership, while it may be viewed through a hierarchical lens as a positive, in reality is extremely tough and often lonely. Thus, it is first important to determine if someone really wants to lead. Once we have identified potential leaders, we do our best to educate them on the traits, characteristics, and attributes that are important baselines, as well as what separates great leaders from good leaders.

Q: On the field, baseball is a game of mistakes and bouncing back from them. How does that transfer over to the business side of the organization?

A: The mindset of embracing setbacks and mistakes provides opportunities to learn, grow, and develop, and is essential to performance regardless of whether it is a player, a coach or a front office staff member.

Q: On the conference room table in your office sits Carol Dweck's book about Growth Mindset. Can you talk about how the growth mindset is emphasized within the Blue Jays?

A: I alluded to it in a previous answer, but it is as much about creating a comfort and a safe environment where people feel it is not just acceptable but normal to face results other than success. The caveat in our organization is that there should be attention paid to a rigorous process. As long as that is the case, a disappointing result is in reality an opportunity to get better and more than anything, we strive to individually and collectively get better every day.

Q: Three books you would recommend for a youth/high school coach?

A: How Children Succeed by Paul Tough, Grit by Angela Duckworth, Mindset by Carol Dweck

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