Play Like a Champion

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NCAA Basketball Tournament is once again upon us, with the ensuing Madness starting to heat up. It turned us to thinking about what lessons we can learn from a game of hoops and apply it to our business.

Winning Requires a Team Effort

Lebron James is one of the best players in the game today at any level…and he has four NBA titles to his name to prove it. But that’s only 4 in nearly 20 years of being in the league. Why hasn’t he won championship after championship? Because it’s not just about the best player on the team…or the best player in the league.

Winning it all is about finding the right chemistry with a real team, not solely about one player showboating his way to a record number of points or rebounds. If the spotlight is always on the one player the rest of the team doesn’t have an opportunity to shine. Which brings us to the second point…

The Best Players Elevate Everyone Else

Scottie Pippen was a great player, but I wonder if he would be held in such high regard if he didn’t play alongside Michael Jordan. Would Derek Fisher be so well-recognized in the sport if he didn’t win on the Lakers teams that included Kobe and Shaq? In both cases, it can be argued that the great players on those teams made players that were already “good” that much better. It also reflects the proverb that “iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Being around people that are performing great makes everyone want to perform better.

Know When To Pass The Ball

When you surround yourself with a great team and everyone starts to step up their game to match the star players, then those stars will be more confident when it comes time to pass the ball. On the court, passing the ball keeps the defenders off-balance so they won’t know exactly who to defend against at any one point.

In business, passing the ball is more about making sure the appropriate person gets to drive to the goal in the given situation, whether that be the best speaker for a presentation or sales pitch, the most “in the know” for social media norms, or the person with the right technical knowledge when it comes to executing specific tasks. 

The Game Isn’t Over in the 1st Quarter

Ever watch your favorite college or pro team go down by 15 points in the first quarter? If they keep playing like that it’s all over! Then they come back to get it close before the first half is over and come back to win in the final seconds! It’s all part of what makes basketball exciting.

In the same way, just because your first quarter (or month or half) of the fiscal year was dismal, doesn’t mean the year is lost. There’s a lot of game time left, so pick up the ball and get back in the game. But don’t just keep doing the same thing because…

Adjustments are Required…Rapidly and Often

The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing and expecting different results.” So if your business team is on a losing trajectory, it might be time to head into the locker room for halftime and talk over what adjustments need to be made. It might be the business equivalent of guarding the post or driving the ball better, but whatever it is, you need to take the time to identify the problem and rapidly make an adjustment…and if that adjustment isn’t enough, you have to quickly go back and make other changes until you get the formula just right for winning the game.

Rest is Essential

Finally, it is vital for all the players in the game to have a time to rest. You aren’t going to see any basketball players on the floor for every second of a game, and you shouldn’t burn out your team in a business, either. In the ball game, substitutions and rest time is important so the players can refocus, get some hydration, and hear some words of encouragement and strategy from the coach or teammates.

In business, make sure your team is taking days off…full weekends, whenever possible…and that there is time for vacation. While it may sound laudable to have someone working 5 or 6 days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, all year long, that person is going to burn out at some point and even if they don’t crash completely, their quality and/or quantity of work will necessarily suffer. If you’re the coach (boss), make sure everyone (including you!) is getting the rest you need to keep the game going.

Now we want to hear from you…what lessons from the sports world would you share? Oh, and they haven’t been officially selected as part of the tournament yet, but…Go Vols!