Leadership and the Lessons of March Madness

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This weekend, the four remaining teams in the NCAA men’s basketball championship tournament will play to determine who will be the ultimate champion for this year. It will be an exciting time, and there are some lessons you can learn for business, even though business and basketball are very different.

Basketball teams practice much more than they play. For business, every day is game day. In basketball, there are clear winners and losers in every game. That’s not always true in business.

Both basketball teams and business teams require people to do their job in the heat and speed of the moment and work together with their teammates to triumph. That’s why there are some lessons you can learn from basketball and this March Madness.

Execution Is in The Moment

Your team and the members of a basketball team must make decisions and do their jobs on the fly. Business and basketball are both momentum games where the situation changes from second to second. You and your team need to be adaptable if you want to win.

Talent Alone Is Not as Important as The Mix of Talent

In business, we tend to put a lot of emphasis on individual talent and on our stars. But in real life and on the basketball court, what’s more important is the mix of talents and the chemistry of teamwork. When you’re the boss, one challenge is maintaining the team chemistry that makes for a great team. Your job is helping the team succeed.

Coaching Is Critical

In college basketball, coaches recruit, strategize, motivate, and help their team members develop. You don’t have to do all of that. Probably, you don’t get much choice about who’s on your team, but you’ve still got the job of helping each player develop to his or her best ability.

Just like in basketball, every player on your team has a future beyond today. Every team member can get better and you can help. Every team member has goals that you can help them achieve. Your job is helping the team members succeed.

Everybody Fouls and Fouls Up

Even great players commit fouls. Even great players have off days. We all make mistakes. Your team is the same way. If you expect perfection, you can also expect frustration. Mistakes, including yours, are part of the human condition. Live with it.

Luck Plays a Role

No matter how good your team is, you won’t be dramatically successful without a little luck. Basketball teams can play a great game and still lose. Sometimes they don’t play well and win despite it. Your team is the same way.

The truth is that everybody gets luck, both good and bad. What matters is what you do with it. When your luck is good, smile and see if there’s a way you can build on it. When your luck is bad, ask the question that my mother used to ask whenever things turned sour: “What good can we make of this?”

Great Teams Are Disciplined Teams

We love to watch great teams in action, in the spotlight, on the big stage, but what makes teams great usually happens where we don’t see it. Great teams have rules and standards and enforce them. Great teams are disciplined teams. Great teams don’t happen by accident.

Bottom Line

Both basketball and business are team sports. When you’re a boss, your job is helping the team and the team members succeed.

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