Thrive Global: One On One With Pat O’Conner, President & CEO of Minor League Baseball
I spoke to Pat O’Conner, President & CEO of Minor League Baseball, about his journey and best advice
Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?
Pat: How much I enjoy mowing grass and trimming trees and being outside. Being somewhat of a desk jockey, I don’t always get outside for a lot of physical activity, so I think that would surprise people.
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Pat: This path has been one that began organically, from an internship in 1981, which led to running ballclubs for the better part of the next 12 years and being the Director of Florida Operations for the Houston Astros. And now, I’ve spent the last 26 years in the central office. What has helped me the most is that I’ve been blessed to be with people who allowed me to have my successes as well as my failures and learn from both. The setbacks are experiences and defeats you can learn from. I’m a believer there are losses and there are days you get beat. Losses, to me, imply that we didn’t do everything we could to win that day, while getting beat is the circumstances of the day just got the best of you. What’s helped me along the way is to try to stay focused and the biggest lesson from any setback is that while baseball is what I do, it isn’t who I am, and the need to have that separation in my life.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Pat: Good leaders have the ability to listen and communicate. It is very difficult to know everything about everything and good leaders surround themselves with people they can communicate with and who have a defined expertise or knowledge beyond theirs in a certain area of the business. I think it is important to effective to not surround yourself with people who are just like you to get a breadth of opinion, breadth of philosophy, breadth of character and try to be as diverse and inclusive as you can as you build out your business.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Pat: Believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else believe in you? If you are going to dream, dream big. At the end of the day, give the best you had that day and remain true to yourself.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Pat: Measure twice and cut once. That not only applies to woodworking, but making decisions requires thought and forethought and I think that time alone in thought, and time spent with confidants to work things through, because once decisions are made, it can be difficult either politically, economically or socially to “un-ring” the bell. So, like my dad used to tell me, measure twice and cut once.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Pat: Pay it forward! I don’t know anyone who is successful in business that hasn’t had a mentor, or hasn’t had an opportunity provided to them by someone who believed in them. I think paying it forward is just that. Help mold and shape the next generation of workers and leaders. Be involved. Be a part of the solution and be extroverted in doing that. Go out of your way to help people as you were helped and go out of your way to create the next generation.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Pat: I’m often accused of not having any hobbies, but I like to fish. I’m not much on golf, but I like to fish and be outside and be around animals. When the time comes for me to move on to the next chapter of my life, it will probably involve an acreage and some animals. I’m a big dog guy. As far as hobbies, I spend so much time reading things for work I’m not a big reader outside of the office. When you spend your life dealing with problems and people, sometimes those closest to you provide the best time away from work.
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Pat: Leadership is an acquired skill. There are things you are given by God. What you are is His gift to you and what you become is your gift to Him. There are those that lead and those that follow and we need both in the world. Don’t shy away from leadership and don’t be afraid of leadership and every night before bed, thank God for the opportunity and pray for the strength to get up and do it again tomorrow.