(CBS) When Theo Epstein took over as the Cubs’ president of baseball operations in October 2011, he immediately made clear that the organization would embark on a full rebuilding process and that the overhaul would take plenty of time while spanning the roster and many other departments too.
Now five-and-a-half years later, coming off a championship, Epstein cites that transparent culture — the honesty in his interactions with his bosses, coaches, players, agents, media, and fans alike — as a foundation of the Cubs’ turnaround.
“It started with trying to be really transparent with the players,” Epstein said while remembering his early days in baseball on the Bernstein & Goff Show on 670 The Score on Tuesday afternoon. “The more you do that, it’s kind of like a drug. You realize it’s just easier when you’re transparent. You don’t have to worry about remembering your lies or your slants or your coverups.
“Then you realize it works with everyone. It works managing up, it works with the media, it works with agents, it works with your fans. It’s kind of the best way to do things if you can pull it off.
“Something as simple as transparency is really scalable, because quickly impacts the culture. And the culture is something everyone feels.
“If upper management is really transparent with everyone, that has this amplifying effect. Then you tend to attract players who operate that way, on the same wavelength, and coaches and fans.
“It starts to feed upon itself, because then you can take players in, whether it’s maybe a shy kid who just signed here and is new to the country or an introverted high school kid or a college kid who’s had some issues in his background, you take a free agent who has a reputation for being a bad guy maybe. You can take anyone and maybe they have a chance to be impacted positively by your culture too.”
Epstein’s knack for openness as an executive stems from several “really meaningful” conversations he had with players early in his career, he said.
“One was with Craig Shipley, who was a utility guy with the Padres,” Epstein said. “This was in the mid-’90s. We were talking about something someday, and I didn’t see the issue from his perspective. He looked at me and said, ‘Theo, don’t you understand? Every player thinks they’ve been lied to by management or has been lied to by management.’ And that kind of struck me, like, ‘Wow, I see where he’s coming from.’ And if you could ever be really transparent with players, you could get a huge advantage that way because they’d come to trust you and then you could really build relationships and then build an organization based on trust and respect and you could accomplish a lot of things other organizations couldn’t.”
Listen to Epstein’s full interview with Bernstein and Goff below.