Posted on: October 18th, 2011 by Jen Mueller

Communications Lessons Learned from MoneyballPeople have raved about “Moneyball” for several reasons, including the baseball storylines, the business lessons and for Brad Pitt’s portrayal of the main character.   My takeaway from the movie also included 5 Communication Lessons.


1.    An effective communicator knows when “less is more.”  During a scene early in the movie Billy Beane (Brad Pitt’s character) explains the best way to tell a player he’s been cut.  Make it quick and to the point, was the basic advice.  His assistant seemed unconvinced, until Beane asks “Would you rather take a single bullet to the head or get shot 5 times in the chest and bleed to death?”  It’s a bit of an over-exaggeration, but he gets the point across.  Don’t be afraid of the message, worry instead about taking too long to deliver the message.


2.    Focus on small successes to build confidence.  In the movie, Beane planned to make a former catcher Scott Hatteberg into a first baseman.  Hatteberg was understandably nervous and lacking confidence at a new position.  Beane knew the success of the team depended on having Hatteberg on the field and in the lineup.  His solution?  Give him a little confidence.  The following scene shows Beane and members of the coaching staff cheering on Hatteberg’s little successes during fielding practice.  If confidence escapes you when communicating, start small and celebrate your ability to talk 1-on-1 with colleagues, friends and family members.  Let your little successes propel you into larger roles.   (Download my tips sheet for additional help building confidence for public speaking)


3.    Strong rapport leads to effective communication – and action.  Moviegoers get caught up in a whirlwind of phone calls as Beane tries to make a move at the trade deadline.  In the span of 5 minutes he’s had conversations with half a dozen people, prompted at least 3 of them into action and ended up with the pitcher he wanted in his bullpen.  He didn’t spend more than a minute on the phone with any one person, because he didn’t need to.  He had already built rapport with each one of them, and in a time-sensitive situation, that rapport paid off in the form of a positive business transaction.


4.    Appropriate small talk topics make a difference.  Toward the end of the movie, Beane is shown talking to Boston Red Sox owner John Henry.  The conversation starts with Henry asking about what to buy his wife for her birthday.  Beane looks disinterested and tells Henry he really doesn’t care.  When you are meeting someone for the first time, make sure you have an appropriate conversation topic in your back pocket.  Henry quickly got back on track, and as the owner of the Red Sox, still commanded respect.  It doesn’t always work that way in business, and a misstep early in a conversation can undermine your attempts at building rapport.  (For help on how to engage in effective small talk download my quick tips sheet.)



5.    Successful communicators maintain a clear focus.  Early in the movie, Beane determined the one statistic that would help him build a successful team.  He could have made a laundry list of players and things needed to be successful, but he focused on just one.   Communication overload doesn’t lead to more effective communication – it’s just the opposite.  People tune out if there are too many facets to your message.  Laser in on your focus and stick to your message.



CEO Talk Sporty to MeJen Mueller, America’s Expert Talker, is the Founder and CEO of Talk Sporty to Me.  Jen is committed to helping business professionals engage in more effective communication and reap the rewards of productive conversations.  She’s available to speak for keynotes, presentations and workshops.  Contact for more information and read more at

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