College basketball fans are mad about March. The official NCAA trademarked phrase is March Madness and refers to the excitement of their annual men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments. Over the past twenty years it has evolved into one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year.
The appeal of any win-and-go-home tournament is the element of surprise; the lure of some lower seeded team upsetting a college sports powerhouse. It has already happened nine times in this year’s second round of the men’s brackets. There are sure to be additional unexpected upsets before the third round is over.
It’s fun to watch these games and cheer for the underdog. Sometimes these teams take the court unencumbered with expectations for success. A sixteen seed isn’t supposed to beat a number one seed, that’s why the tournament is structured to match the highest seeds against the lowest. Without the pressure of a higher seeding, these teams often approach the game more relaxed and can play with an abandon usually reserved for the playground. The result is an emotional freedom to be themselves and have fun.
Of course, many of these games predictably are dominated by the higher seed whose talent pool can far outmatch their opponent. In those cases, it is often the coach who makes the difference by preparing his team to play within their system and to not look beyond whatever game or team they are playing that day.
The game of business has its own version of March Madness. Smaller, more nimble competitors can effectively withstand the resources and talent of a much larger company. Innovative thinking can upset the marketplace with new products and services. It’s not hard to imagine an effective leader of a larger enterprise keeping his or her team focused on doing what they do well and not feeling overconfident about their current position in the market.
Whether you appreciate the madness of a basketball tournament, or prefer the maddening challenges of running a business, every leader must…
- Know the strengths of their team,
- Prepare them well for the game or circumstance they will be facing,
- Understand the vulnerabilities of their opponent and how to take advantage of them,
- And finally, how to win with class and lose with dignity.
Success in business and life isn’t always about winning. In most cases it’s more about playing the game well, giving it your very best, and learning from every experience. You may not be mad about March in a basketball sense but you can still learn something from this annual celebration of college sportsmanship.