March Madness is upon us, and if there is one thing more stressful than our jobs, it is most definitely our basketball brackets. All jokes aside, March Madness is a great time of year where the whole country gets to witness some truly great athleticism at the college level. You might be surprised to find out that this basketball tournament has some interesting things to teach us about business and leadership, as well. Let's take a look:
Teamwork is your ticket: Teamwork is the most important aspect of any good sports team. The same applies to any good business. As a leader, it is your direct responsibility to get the right players on the same page, working in the same direction toward larger organizational goals, explained Fortune contributor Asher Raphael. The difference between the Final Four and the Sweet Sixteen usually has a lot to do with how well a team can work together on their own. Leaders must set up the path but eventually players need to be able to lead themselves to the win. Micromanaging should not be part of the game plan. Let your team members do what they do best under your selective guidance. Draw up the plays and let your employees work their magic.
Put in the prep-work: In basketball, games are often lost before the team even steps on the court. Without the right amount of prep-work, even the best of efforts can be met by a loss. Leadership functions in the same way. To be a great executive, you must put in the hours of management training, the prep to hone your skills, the time needed to become the best leader you can be. Without this work on the front end, many of your efforts will fall flat, noted Entrepreneur contributor Jeffrey Hayzlett. Luckily, unlike March Madness, business isn't a one-lose-and-you're-out scenario. Leaders can work to improve their practices constantly, especially in light of a loss. Take the time to practice and you'll likely be much happier with the end results.
Half time adjustments are key: Sure, you can prepare until you're blue in the face but there are almost always unexpected surprises in both basketball and business. That is why, as a leader, it is your job to make the necessary adjustments. Quick reaction times and skilled adaptation are crucial for success, explained Huffington Post contributor Matt Ishbia. If your calls as a coach aren't getting you to where you need to be, have the confidence to change course – and change it often until you get it right. Modern businesses are evolving faster than ever. Success means innovation and fearless change. Your team will look to you for these judgment calls so know when its times to scrap the old plan and move onto something more efficient.
"Quick reaction times and skilled adaptation are crucial for success."
Know what you're up against: Business leaders need to ensure that they and their teams are in the optimal position. This means knowing everything possible about the competition. Duke wouldn't run the same offensive plays against Michigan State as it would for North Carolina, explained Ishbia. That's because different competitors have different strengths and weaknesses. As an organizational leader, it is your job to identify those areas and plan accordingly. Does your major competitor have lower price points? Is its customer service a notch above your own? Take these things into consideration when crafting customer strategies. That way you will be prepared to highlight your value props and cover your weaknesses. The more you know about the competition, the better prepared you will be going into the game.
Losing can lead to winning: Bare with us here. We all know how March Madness goes. It is popular because there are constant upsets and clock-stopping games. Just because you're a 14-seed doesn't mean you can't knock down the top spot – it's been done before and it will likely be done again. Your position should be a motivator instead of a deterrent. Stop sizing up your business based off what you haven't accomplished and start focusing on what you have. Negative feedback surrounding performance only works to demoralize your team, explained Hayzlett. As a leader you should work to encourage your staff to look ahead instead of behind. Use communication and team-building activities to pump up your team in times of trouble. Sure, March Madness is a one-loss elimination, but businesses don't quite work that way. A couple of business losses doesn't mean your team is out of the race; look at failures through that lens.