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Message from Dr. Tithecott: Team success and the Toronto Blue Jays



Monday, October 5, 2015

The turnaround by the Toronto Blue Jays to move from an average performer in the American League to winning their division is remarkable. It has restored pride in Canadian baseball fans – across Canada. The scenes of a full stadium of blue for home games and large groups of Jay’s fans in road games are unbelievable. It has galvanized many people and groups across our nation.

While speaking with Meds 2019 this week, I missed a great opportunity afforded to me when a student in the class asked me “What do you think of the Jays?”  My response was sincere – however there is more to my thoughts.

I reflected on this and realized the real answer is the respect and pride I have for how they have delivered as a team. While I am a Detroit Tigers fan at heart, I have always followed the Jays and at times they have delivered as a team – other times not so.

Why are the Jays a team that leads?

A recent blog cites Canada’s baseball team as exemplifying many aspects of teams that excel:

  • Character: hard, working and committed leaders and members
  • Dynamics: The ability to have fun together and support each other
  • Work Ethic: Bringing you all to every play every day
  • Focus: Having a goal and putting everything into reaching it. [1]

When I spoke with a friend in banking on this topic – she cited the reason for their success is they pick each other up when down and support each other. When one person goes down the other picks the team up. No one is larger than the whole. They have fun together. They work hard. They communicate effectively. Fine details do not escape them. They perform.

So can this “good news story” in Canadian sports be a lesson for us?

In reviewing the “chemistry’ of high performing teams there are lessons in the literature for health care. Behind teams that perform at a high level are many factors. One that translates across fields is Communication – that is “ a critical role in building successful teams.” [2]This competency of our curriculum is well cited as critical to driving high performance in clinical care teams and a topic that CERI in our school leads research in nationally and internationally.

What makes a team a higher performer? Katzenbach & Smith cite values that include:

The teams:

  1. Demand Performance – the expectations are clear
  2. Members selected for skill and performance – each participant brings a key skill and potential
  3. Create rules of behaviour – they communicate, support and function as one unit
  4. Set performance goals and review results
  5. Spend time together – to build a community that leads
  6. Use positive feedback, recognition and reward – they celebrate each other and most importantly the whole. [3]

So as we look to the MLB playoffs, remember the lessons they teach us. In health care, like sports, you cannot personally choose your team. However, each day you are part of many teams. Each time you are part of a team, in small group learning, research projects, service or community outreach or clinical care you have one key goal while working with the diversity of you teammates – advancing the well being of others. This is no small task, but immensely rewarding. Each of us cannot do it alone. We need to integrate the strengths of all members of our team to strive for a positive outcome each time and place we engage.

You and your colleagues can alter outcomes by striving to make each team you are part of a high performer.  Take the first step and watch the positive results multiply. The Jays did!

“Go Jays Go”



  1. Tremblay, R. What the Toronto Blue Jays Remind us about Creating a High Performing Team. 2015  [cited 2015 October 4, 2015]; Available from: https://
  2. Pentland, A., The new Science of Buidling Great Teams. Harvard Business Review, 2012. 90(4): p. 60-70.
  3. Katzenbach J, R.S.D.R., The Discipline of Teams. Harvard Business Review. 83(7/8): p. 162- 171.


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