01.29.20 | Reflecting on lessons learned from former Walmart CEO and KC Royals Owner, David Glass

David Glass KC Royals

I’ve had some time to reflect following the passing of David Glass.  He always spent time talking with me and took a sincere interest in my speaking business. I feel so fortunate and I know I’m not the only one.  

It was all our fault. The latest loss by the Kansas City Royals pinned on the television pregame and postgame show hosts by the team’s owner. “We need one scapegoat. There’s no point in blaming everybody so we’ve elected you and Monty to be the scapegoats, so you get the blame for anything that goes wrong,” explained David Glass during an interview a number of years ago with me and my partner Jeff “Monty” Montgomery. This blame game, accompanied by a slight grin, happened over and over and over again throughout my 12 years covering Mr. Glass’ team.

Win or lose, he ended every conversation with me by saying, “You’re doing a great job Joel.” That felt as powerful as his strong handshake. He believed in me.

Ultra competitive, Mr. Glass mentioned numerous times his desire to win. “Whoever said it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game, was a loser.” Or as he simply put it to me another time, “Losing is for losers.”

Dan Glass, the former president of the Royals, talked to me about learning something from his father every day. I came to understand this at a higher level a few years ago. Mr. Glass asked me at the team Christmas party what I was up to and when I told him that I had started a speaking business sharing lessons learned in baseball with different corporations, he once again lifted my confidence by telling me, “That’s a great idea. How can I help?” He suggested lunch and gave me his cell. As we wrapped up the conversation, his granddaughter Danielle, pregnant with yet another of David and Ruth’s growing list of great grandchildren, whispered to me some advice. She told me to call him because her grandfather didn’t text and she suggested I offer to take him to Steak and Shake or PF Chang’s, his two favorite restaurants. So I called and we decided to meet at PF Chang’s. Over time, he offered advice, book suggestions and encouragement. More importantly, he repeatedly asked a critical question when I updated him on my progress. “Are you having fun?” I think about that all the time.

Mr. Glass died on Jan. 9 from complications associated with pneumonia. As I sat in the public celebration of life ceremony this week, I realized my experiences with David Dayne Glass mirrored everyone else’s. The words of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, friends and family members all made me realize that anyone who spent time with David Glass shared the same occurrence as me. A feeling of being the center of his attention. How could we all possibly experience that same feeling from a man Mr. McMillon called “the most under- appreciated CEO in the history of business?”

David Glass believed in people. He said just that in a television interview last September during the final series of his Royals career. Mr. Glass had just sold the team he owned since 2000 and we were trying to soak up every bit of his wisdom. “You do everything through people,” Glass told us. “If we all got paid on what we individually could produce, none of us would be worth very much but if we can manifest our knowledge and our talents and so forth through other people then you can win and that applies to professional sports. It applies to the business world.”

As CEO, Mr. Glass led Walmart to unthinkable growth. He also saved baseball in Kansas City when contraction existed as an imminent threat and he eventually brought a championship to a starving Royals fan base.

I know during the upcoming season, I will hear his voice, with that drawl and hint of sarcasm, blaming me for the losses. As for that disdain for losing, he told us in September, “If you feel that way, really feel that way as much as I do, it makes winning all that much better.” We lost David Glass, but won because of the time he spent making us all better.