Praise in Public; Criticize in Private

Dusty Baker is in his fourth season of managing the Cincinnati Reds. Last year they won the Central Division of the National League for the first time in over a decade. A reason is the people skills of Baker. He is often referred to as a “players’ manager.”  One meaning of that is that he always supports his players. Even when they play poorly he never criticizes the player in public. He will have a private conversation to discuss the weakness or mistake.

I enjoy reading his quotes in the Cincinnati Enquirer’s sports section the day after a game. For example, if the bullpen does not perform well, instead of picking on the guy who gave up four runs in the seventh inning to lose the game, he will say, “Well, the bullpen is overworked. We have had to go the bullpen too early in the game the past few days.” 

If an infielder kicks the ball around on a routine ground ball and does not get the runner out in time, Dusty may say, “He is still working to bring his shoulder back to original strength and he made a fine play later to save a run.” 

Sometimes a sports writer will note that Dusty had a private meeting with a certain pitcher or infielder, and you suspect the manager was pointing out the error of his recent play. But the public does not hear this critique.

Dusty Baker demonstrates an important leadership skill:  criticize in private and praise in public.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. Contact Steve today for priority scheduling! (859) 866-5693 or email

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