“Generational talent” is a term thrown around far too much. But by most definitions, Bryce Harper, the 26-year-old baseball prodigy, deserves that label. Money follows talent, and Harper just cashed in by signing a whopping 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.
It’s the largest total sum of money for one contract in North American professional sports history. And he’s the oldest player in professional sports history to sign a 13-year deal.
Here’s the crazy thing. When the news first broke, I quickly tuned in to sports shows, three-fourths of which were commenting about how Harper and his superagent, Scott Boras, got a raw deal. Pundits screamed that while the annual sum of $25 million is obviously nothing to sneeze at, it doesn’t even place Bryce in the top 10 annual salaries in Major League Baseball. Boras failed! Harper got less than he deserves! Or so the narrative went.
Then the facts came out, and they were refreshing. Boras later said he was given marching orders by Harper, and he gave the superstar exactly what he wanted. And what was that? Demands that might surprise you.
Harper’s wishes are surprisingly enlightening for all bosses.
Harper wanted to sign a contract with one team, one city: Philadelphia. The pitch he got from the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce regarding the city and its amenities was apparently just as important as any exchange of numbers and figures.
That meant Harper’s top priority was to secure the longest-term contract possible. For those of you playing the leadership game at home, that’s also known as stability–the same thing your employees want.
Harper wasn’t concerned about the annual salary. I know, easy to say when he’s getting $25 million a year. But we’re talking about a man who turned down $45 million a year for four years with the Los Angeles Dodgers–so, this was much, much more than giving up $20 million a year.
Money isn’t everything for your employees, either.
Despite pressure from Boras, Harper reportedly didn’t want any opt-out clauses. Such clauses would have allowed Harper to bail on the Phillies down the road and go sign another ludicrous contract. But again, Harper wanted stability and to be on a winning team–the same things your employees want.
Harper knew he was signing with a team that has the most notoriously tough fan base in professional sports. Play hard and they love and embrace you like no other sports town. Falter in effort or production and your skull becomes a magnet for half-finished Budweiser’s. Harper, ever confident in his abilities, wanted to land in a place where he knows he’ll feel like a part of a strong community, a place where he’ll feel valued–the same things your employees want.
You should provide a sense of stability for your employees, too.
You might not lord over a billion-dollar payroll. But as a leader, you have the ability to create a sense of stability for your employees by investing in them personally a little each day with coaching or by just checking in to show them you give a damn.
Instead of just focusing on money, you can ensure they have meaningful work to do and are given opportunities to learn and grow.
You can help your employees feel like they’re on a winning team by investing in the resources they need to do the job to the best of their ability and by regularly, openly celebrating victories, both big and small. And you can make your employees feel valued, by telling them often and specifically what they do that is of such value, personalizing it so they know it’s coming from the heart.
Maybe you’re thinking that Harper’s situation is too far afield from what your employees want, experience, and feel every day. Maybe so.
But we should at least agree that it’s in the same ballpark.