Four Business Lessons to Score from March Madness

March 16, 2017

As March Madness tips off, many fans will be glued to their TV screens or nose-down on their smart phones watching the nation’s top NCAA basketball players engage in fierce competition.  Players will push themselves more than ever, and coaches will inspire like never before.  Just as in the business world when stakes soar high, some will claim victory and others will walk away having lost. 


Here are four business lessons to glean from March Madness.

“Practice makes permanent,” Dale Carnegie consistently said.  There isn’t a single player who shows up on game day expecting to perform better than he ever has in the past.  On the contrary, March Madness players have invested time in tons of training and preparation to enable them to perform to the absolute best of their abilities.  While the NCAA restricts student-athletes’ in-season practice to 20 hours per week, or four hours per day, some collegiate student-athletes spend more than 40 hours a week practicing!

Just as Dale Carnegie said, “Only the prepared speaker deserves to be confident,” so too must those working in business remember to invest time in strengthening and growing their skill sets.  Consider where you need to practice most and put a plan together.  Engaging a mentor, shadowing a top performer in your field and/or enrolling in a course to strengthen your skills are all viable methods of practice.

Trust reigns supreme with teams.  The teams that ultimately make it to the Final Four will prove that it’s not only about having the best players, but rather, aligning them towards the same goal is paramount to success.  Trust among teammates is essential to winning, both on the court and in the workplace.  Sometimes, leaders need to step back and allow their teams to rise to the occasion, so they must trust their team members—and teammates must trust each other.

Competition is healthy.  One of the reasons I loathe the participatory trophies awarded whenever my young son plays a sport is because I believe it’s important for everyone to understand, regardless of age, that there are always winners and losers.  Competition forces individuals to step outside of their comfort zones; to perform at their highest level of potential in order to win.  Just an organization’s competitive advantage is its critical success factor within a market, so too are March Madness players’ talent differentiators what propels them to success. 

Sense of urgency is crucial to success.  The term, ‘sense of urgency’ is thrown around a lot in the business world, however it’s comprised of two parts on and off of the court.  First, it’s the extent to which our senses perceive a situation or problem as being important.  Secondly, it’s the ability to use those senses to ascertain if the particular problem or situation requires urgent action.  Teams that have a healthy sense of urgency have high levels of self-awareness while simultaneously focusing on all aspects of the team, and the game, project, plan, etc. 


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