March is when the magic happens in College basketball and is known as “March Madness”. March Madness can be a great teacher of valuable leadership lessons that can be applied well to business … such as working as a team instead of individual effort; stepping up when the pressure hits to be the best you can be; finding inner fortitude; and more. For me, I’m thrilled that my alma mater, the Stony Brook University Seawolves made it to NCAA Men’s Championship and put Long Island on the map. For the fifth time in the past six years, they made it to the final elimination game, and this year they finally won it to get into the field of 64 … March Madness. Cinderella stories happen in this tournament almost annually. A school that no one expects to do anything, “shocks the world” based on the following key components we can all learn from and apply to business:
1. Underdogs win. Every year you see at least one team that no one believed was going to do anything go out and beat an established team. This display of a modern day “David beats Goliath” should inspire your business to disregard the odds against you. If Norfolk State was able to beat Missouri in 2012, then why can’t your business beat its strongest competition? Embrace the “why not us?” mentality and overcome self-imposed limitations to achieve the unthinkable.
2. Teamwork – it takes a team to win. College basketball is a collaboration of team players and so is your business. The position that you play in your business does not matter as much as how well you play the position. Playing your part to the best of your ability from the CEO to the newest employee is vital. Everyone has a role to fulfill. No basketball team can win, or lose, solely due to the efforts of one individual; the same is true in business. At the end of the tournament, the team that worked together best will win the championship. Working together well is the key to winning games and a successful business. Blaming one another and internal fighting will only slow the process of moving forward.
3. Know your competition. In college basketball, a team scouts their opponent to examine what strengths they will have to deal with as well as what weaknesses they will be able to exploit. In business, it is important to know your competition better than they know themselves in order to see where your business has the edge.
4. Seize the opportunity – one and done. March Madness comes once a year and if your team is off for one game at this time of year then that is it; game over and you’re going home. This “you only get one opportunity” mentality is key to have in business as well. In most cases, you only get one chance to impress a client or do a job correctly. If you are off during this one and only opportunity, then you give your competition the chance to swoop in and win the client instead.
5. Half time adjustments. In both basketball and business, extensive planning takes place but things rarely happen as planned in the real world. During a college basketball tournament game, the teams go into the locker room to evaluate what happened in the first half and assess what needs to take place to win the second half. In business, adjustments need to be made when something is not working. Many businesses get stuck in their ways and do not make critical adjustments. Even though it may not be the best practice, many businesses will continue to repeat mistakes and avoid correcting them. This is the leverage you don’t want to give your competition.
6. Practice, practice, practice. Whether it is basketball or business, the key is never giving up and practicing your craft. Practice leads the way to success. The team that wins it all this year will do so based on all the practice they put in leading up to this point. The same is true in business. The difference between someone that makes it and someone that doesn’t is the person that makes it never gave up. They always showed up. Always improved. Always delivered.
Don’t “air ball” on these leadership lessons by ignoring them. Apply them accordingly to your business today. If you do, you could be holding up the trophy … a new client, a satisfied customer, recognition and a big raise … or whatever you’re striving to achieve.