Cumberland Posey: A Lesson in When to Speak Up and When to Listen

By Mike Burk

Our workdays often don’t go as planned and can be very chaotic. Meetings go overtime; equipment breaks down; associates call out. In the midst of your busy day, do you take the time to be open to new ideas or do you often reject them before you’re even done listening? Are you open minded, or are you like Cumberland Posey?

Cumberland Willis Posey Jr. is considered by many to be the greatest success in Negro professional baseball (amid segregated sports from the 1910s through the 1940s as a player, manager and owner). Posey was a sports star at his high school, a fast outfielder and a fair hitter, who was described as “always thinking.” By the age of 20, he joined a local semi-pro baseball team. The Homestead Grays were described as “a nearly all black outfit that seldom lost.” In 1916, Posey became captain of the Homestead Grays in the Pittsburgh area. He went on to build the “greatest dynasty in the history of black baseball, perhaps all baseball,” according to Lawrence D. Hogan, author of “Shades of Glory, The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball.” Despite his successes, though, Posey was labeled as inflexible and not well liked.


There’s a lot we can learn from Posey—both in what to and what not to do.

“His unforgiving attitude once led Detroit baseball promoter John Williams to say to Posey, ‘Unfortunately, you are a gentleman who wants his own way about everything at all times. If you can’t have everything as you want it, everything is wrong and everyone unable to do your bidding is a rascal,’” Hogan wrote.

Do your co-workers look at you as someone who wants their own way about everything, at all times? Are you too stubborn to admit your mistakes?

When it came to meetings, Posey wrote, “The magnets will enter the meeting with individual ideas concerning things which might benefit the game and colored baseball; they will forget these ideas while arguing over some minor point and will depart for home having accomplished nothing.”

Does this sound familiar? Maybe these comments describe many long meetings that you’ve attended. Did you actively take part to help make improvements, or did you keep silent?

It is a good idea to stand up for your beliefs and for things that are correct. Our industry and your quality program require you to follow certain standards. You cannot and should not make quick changes in your production process without research, planning and collective decision making.

Posey was described by detractors as “not a man who likes to take dictation from others.” You may not like to take direction or dictation from others, and you should stand your ground when you know you are right, but you should always be receptive to new  ideas. Build good conversations with your coworkers and push for what is correct even when it isn’t popular. Be prepared to be called a “Rascal,” or perhaps in today’s world something worse.

Mike Burk is the North American technical representative for Sparklike.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

DWM Magazine

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