3 leadership lessons from March Madness

March 12, 2015, 9:00 AM UTC
NCAA Basketball Tournament - Second Round - Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 20: A referee holds the ball during a time-out between the Wisconsin Badgers and the American Eagles at BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 20, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Photograph by Jonathan Daniel — Getty Images

As March Madness starts next week, all eyes will be on the players and coaches who routinely face high-pressured competition. Deadlines will loom; the stakes will be high and not everyone will come away as a winner — similar to the way it works in the business world.

Today’s executives and managers can learn a lot from the games, so here are three leadership lessons from March Madness:

Competition is a good thing:

Anyone who has watched the television series The Road to March Madness can see the intensity and competition that exists during inter-squad practice. Players from the same team are frequently battling one another for shots, prime positions and minutes on the floor. They are pushing one another along the way, and the most successful coaches are able to harness that competition and win a national championship.

The lesson here is don’t be afraid of competition. It can raise the level and intensity of your team and will be what inevitably gels them together. Through competition, individuals and teams push themselves to achieve what seem like insurmountable goals.

Never underestimate the underdog: One of the things that attracts many of us to March Madness is that inevitably, year-after-year, an underdog will come out of nowhere and slay Goliath. Whether it’s a prestigious Ivy League school or a little-known, small Midwestern school — everyone who fills out a bracket is looking forward to watching this year’s Cinderella story play out.

For business owners, there is a lot to be learned from those underdog stories of success. Each of our organizations are filled with stories of entry-level employees who came onboard and found their own unique way to claw, scratch and fight all the way to the top. When hiring, consider looking past the Goliath candidate who boasts an impressive pedigree, fancy degree and ample experience in favor of one who embodies passion, grit, and the determination of a champion.

Trust your team: There’s no way to get around it — every team that makes the tourney this year will be filled with talent and future NBA stars. What’s the difference between all of those teams versus those that will make up the Final Four? When John Calipari, head coach of the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team, spoke at our leadership conference last year, he made it very clear. His role is getting the right players together and encouraging them to work toward a common goal.

But at a certain point in the season, the players must take over the team, fighting for themselves and one another. It is no different within successful organizations. At a certain point, micromanaging won’t get the job done, but stepping back and letting your team lead themselves will result in huge wins.

Asher Raphael is the Co-Chief Executive Officer of Power Home Remodeling Group, A Pennsylvania-based home remodeling company.

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