We have often emphasized that empathy is the core skill for entrepreneurs. It’s the mindset that focuses on understanding customer wants, needs and dissatisfactions from their point of view. Getting inside their heads, it’s sometimes called. Walking on their shoes. Adam Smith captured it in the Theory Of Moral Sentiments.
How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.
Empathy is the principle on which capitalism is based, the emotion on which the 3000% increase in standards of living that capitalism has brought us is built.
Now we find that empathy is core to baseball as well, or at least to the engine of the game, which is the pitcher on the mound and the catcher behind the plate. One of the most valuable catchers in baseball is Jeff Mathis. He is an expert at “game-calling” – “the process of determining which pitches his pitchers throw and in what location”. It’s a skill that is impossible to observe but has an enormous impact on a team’s success.
“In the catching fraternity, he is revered for being the best at what they all want to be the best at“, said Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels (who just gave Mathis a two-year, $6.25 million contract.
When asked about Mathis, pitchers talk about their trust in him. They seldom shake off his calls. How does Mathis explain his ability to generate such trust?
“It’s them knowing that you genuinely care for what’s happening to them on the mound,” Mathis said. “It’s getting to know them inside and out – their family, what they like to do, what they like to eat.”
Adam Smith couldn’t have said it better.
PHOTO: CHARLIE RIEDEL/ASSOCIATED PRESS