Derek Jeter’s Reverence for Routines

Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees captain, was ranked as the 11th greatest leader in the world by FORTUNE. Jeter was cited for his five Word Series championships, his team record for career hits, and being a role-model player of the old-school approach–Never offering excuses or giving less than maximum effort.

Jeter never uses excuses because he doesn’t give less than maximum effort to the routines responsible for the mastery of the basics for his sport throughout a 20-year career. Yankee catcher, Brian McCann says, “The thing I’ll tell my grandkids about with Derek is how much I learned about the importance of routine. He is fanatical about preparation. He does the same thing every day: his work in the cage, his ground balls, his BP (batting practice). He never deviates.”

Jeter has been described as a rare superstar who isn’t abundantly talented at any single skill for playing baseball. Instead, the cumulative effect of mastering the variety of baseball’s fundamentals makes Jeter a great ballplayer and leader.

jeter-farewell2Derek Jeter’s approach might be boiled down to one salient principle–establish routines to repeatedly master the basics of your craft. To translate this principle to business, I invite you to check the status of these conditions in your organization:

  • Basics: Does your team have a well-publicized list of leadership basics that managers refer to when they engage in performance management?
  • Routines: Has your team established routines so managers can easily practice leadership basics even though it seems like there’s hardly any time to get their real work done?

In this blog, I’ll offer tools and suggestions to improve your organization’s reverence for routines to help managers to master leadership basics. First, I’ll save you plenty of time by providing a robust list of basic skills for leadership. I’ll also describe a series of routines my clients use to practice basics in the midst of getting real work done.

A Jump Start in Composing Your List of Leadership Basics

Let’s cut to the chase. Here’s a list I provide my clients to launch their own customized list of leadership basics:

Thinking Skills Communication Skills Work Processes
Idea generating Raising issues Decision-making process
Strategic thinking Meeting facilitation Debriefing process
Recognizing assumptions Performance-based feedback Problem-solving process
Taking accountability Enrolling change-collaborators Action-planning process
Meeting design Empathic listening Forming teams
Diagnosing root causes of teamwork breakdowns Advocacy & inquiry Designing meetings to practice skills
Delegating Deliberate practice
Coaching for accountability

Skills such as conducting meetings, goal setting, listening, speaking, and debriefing may seem mundane. But let’s face it–aren’t these the fundamental skills we perform for the better part of every day while operating a business?

Four Unique Job-Imbedded Development Routines

In a hectic workplace, any enduring practice must become a habit, which consists of three parts–a triggering event, a reward, and a routine. The triggering event activates a routine, which ultimately leads to a reward. So the rhythm for orchestrating a habit is:

Trigger > Routine > Reward

Triggers might be a specific time or occasion, like the start of a work day or a weekly management meeting. They might be activated by a specific situation, like when a team member reverts to a negative habit or shows incompetent performance. Finally, triggers could simply be a just-completed task, which instant suggests the next task to follow in a sequence of routines.

After attending my seminars, my clients have learned to apply four routines that have proven to be highly effective in refining their leadership skills:

1. Weekly study of leadership basics. Every week, the management team picks one specific skill set to improve. The entire group may read a book on the skill to be refined, accompanied by an assessment tool for determining their individual strengths and weaknesses. In turn, staff meetings are designed as skill-building sessions, where at least one agenda item affords the team opportunities to practice the skill or process that’s undergoing improvement. Each ensuing week, the management team concentrates on upgrading a different leadership basic by following the same rhythmic sequence.

2. Grounding for Greatness. Each day starts with a ritual which enables managers to convey an unrelenting focus on basics to their direct reports. The first step is to change the daily cadence of activity, which typically involves rushing from the parking lot to tackle the day’s to-do list. Instead, a designated coach kicks off a brief morning meeting where participants formulate their learning goals for the day, receive coaching to handle the risks inherent in stretching a comfort zone, and reinforce everyone’s commitment to continuous improvement.

3. Re-do. How many times in your life have you wished you could have called for a do-over? Here’s your chance. Re-Do is a powerful practice opportunity. You and your team will decide ahead of time to use Re-Do as an intentional way to trigger immediate changes in your bad habits (like angry outbursts when team members report lousy results), or ineffective behaviors (like being sparing rather than generous in acknowledging an individual’s accomplishments). One reason Re-Do is such a powerful mechanism for behavior change is because it is a public acknowledgment that everyone can do better, and the team will no longer tolerate bad habits. In fact, my clients make calling out one another for a Re-do into a humorous game.

Re-Do turns mistakes and weaknesses into an instant skill practice session. Or would you prefer the alternative of waiting months for the annual performance appraisal to inform team member’s of their weaknesses?

4. Debriefing. If most of your meetings end when the group produces an action summary of to-do activities and by-when deadlines, your team is neglecting a valuable source of learning. You’ll benefit by installing a new routine, debriefing, to occur when your meetings draw to a close.

A debriefing protocol invites a team to assess the strengths and weaknesses in their performance of a just-completed activity, and offer suggestions for improvement. A well-conceived debriefing enables meeting participants to go beyond rehashing prior learning points to actually generating fresh insights. The debriefing routine ensures no meeting—such as a sales call, one-on-one coaching, or project review—is complete without a formal inquiry into lessons learned from success and failure.

Reverence for Routines

During Jeter’s farewell tour, Yankee officials limited the ceremonies in rival teams ball parks to 15 minutes and never at a time that would interfere with Jeter’s pre-game warm up routines. They honored Jeter’s reverence for routines.

How do you regard the notion of routines? Does pairing the word reverence with daily routines seem strange? For most people routines are considered humdrum even boring actives that can be performed in a mindless, half-hearted fashion.   However, elite performers adopt an uncommon perspective. They realize routines insure time is available to continually upgrade their proficiency in the fundamental skills of their craft. Routine replace willpower and discipline. Occasions for practice occur effortlessly. I invite you to adopt a reverence for routines and witness the marvelous lift you see in your performance and the respect you earn from your team members.


If you or a colleague would like to find out about more job-imbedded routines for leadership development, we’re glad to offer a copy of his program handout, e-mail me at   In addition, you will also be among the first to know when his book, Competent is Not an Option: Build an Elite Leadership Team by Following the Talent Development Game Plan of Sports Champions, will be made available for purchase on The book was published in June with a special printing for Art’s clients and companies cited in the book for elite performance.


If you’d like to explore the opportunity to engage with Art Turock in a coaching relationship to develop one or several comprehensive performance scorecards, you can get details on his executive coaching by clicking on the button below.