First Command CEO Mark Steffe Says: “Throw a Strike!”

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, First Command Financial CEO Mark Steffe makes the powerful case for why a slumping little league pitcher and an underperforming employee need the same love from their coach.

Mark Steffe believes that coaching and leadership in business and sports are very similar.  “Communicating isn’t just about delivering your message,” Steffe said. “It’s about somebody receiving it.”

To illustrate his point, Steffe recalls a typical Little League scenario he faced when a struggling pitcher would elicit a “C’mon, throw a strike!” from a parent, practically guaranteeing the pitcher would fail to do that. “If he’s not throwing strikes, it’s not because he doesn’t care to throw them,” Steffe explained. “What he needs is his coach to get out of the dugout, call timeout, walk out to the mound and help him adjust his mechanics.”

The same thing is true in business organizations, Steffe says. When an employee isn’t performing up to snuff,  Steffe wants his supervisors not to tell them to sell more, deliver more or work harder. He wants them to “roll up their sleeves, get their hands a little bit dirty and help people get to a better place—not just tell them to get to a better place so they can throw strikes.”

“Throw strikes” has grown into something of a sporting metaphor at First Command Financial Services, which maintains more than $35 billion in managed accounts and mutual funds and has more than $62 billion in life insurance coverage in force for some 280,000 military families.

In this episode of Corporate Competitor Podcast, Steffe shares lessons learned about “leading with love,” including:

  • What basketball taught Steffe about adding value to corporate teams
  • Why First Command looks outside its industry for great ideas
  • The advice an army colonel gave Steffe about “avoiding a fair fight”
  • Why your company needs to stand for something other than profit.

“Profitability should be the outcome of all you do and not the driving force,” noted Steffe. “When you lack a passion for your purpose, your customers know it. It’s a turn-off.”


Turn on Corporate Competitor Podcast and learn for yourself how to help your team throw more strikes. Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive and subscribe to new episodes.


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