March madnessFrom competition to leadership, many lessons can be learned from participating in sports. March Madness is a particularly unique time where teams are pushed to their limits with stakes get higher and higher. Coaches spend hours reviewing film and strategizing new and old plays, players work long hours in the weight room and in practice, and basketball fans everywhere anticipate this month the entire season.

Competition is a Good Thing

Though competition can get fierce at times, it truly is a good thing. A high degree of intensity can be observed in practice as players fight for shots, prime positions, and playing time. They are not only pushing themselves but others to be better and work harder, motivating all players to be at their best.

Instead of fearing competition, consider ways to harness its inherent power in your employees and management. Although this is typically seen with incentive programs in a sales department, it can be integrated into your company-wide culture. Consider creating teams within departments that compete against other teams in a healthy environment. Some employees may not respond to this kind of system, but if done right, it can create some powerful momentum.

Never Under-Estimate the Underdog

One of the most exciting things about March Madness is the rise of the underdog or the tale of the Cinderella. Year after year an underdog will come out of nowhere and slay Goliath, and everyone loves watching it. Invariably, however, the question arises, “How did they do it?” The characteristics of these rags-to-riches stories are hard work, grit, and determination.

For business owners, there is a lot to be gleaned about the building blocks of success from these underdogs. Many companies are littered with hard-working individuals who have had to scratch and claw their way to the top. Think of one of your top performers who did not have an impressive background when hired, and ask yourself what enabled them to succeed. More often than not it can be boiled down to drive; they just wanted it more than anyone else. When hiring new employees, consider this intangible element and ask if the candidates with Goliath resumes truly have the determination it takes.

Know When it’s Time to Take a Timeout, or Just Run with It

One of the major decisions a coach has to make in every game is when to take a time out and when to let his team run with the game. It can be easy for players to grow fatigued or confused in the intensity of the game. When a coach can see that his players are getting lost or losing too much steam, the best decision is a timeout to re-group and give them a breather. Those crucial 45 seconds can make all the difference in a game. Sometimes, however, you’re hurting more than helping with a timeout. If the players are in a groove and have a lot of momentum, let them use that to their advantage.

Sometimes in business the best thing to do is take a time out and re-group. Having the appropriate amount of meetings is a perfect example. I’ve seen companies who meet about anything and everything throughout the day and the week–it’s like they just enjoy meetings. Although they are very useful to brainstorm and delegate, meetings can be a hindrance if they are held too often or at the wrong times. Another important time out may be a day off, a company event to share your vision and passion for the company, or to take your top management on a retreat for a weekend. If your employees are great at managing themselves and don’t need much direction, let them use that momentum and continue working.

So, the next time you turn on March Madness, remember the lessons that players and coaches can teach you.