Wow! How about that NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship game? That game is probably going to go down as the greatest in history. When North Carolina’s Marcus Paige hit the off balance game tying 3-point shot, many thought the game was going into overtime. And then, magic happened. With 4.7 seconds left, Villanova drove the ball up the court, and Ryan Arcidiacono passed the ball to Kris Jenkins who hit the game winning shot as time expired. I was screaming and jumping up and down that my alma matter, Villanova University, was back on top of college basketball.
Many analysts really did not give that team a shot of winning it all. Every game they played, the majority of analysists picked the other team to win the game. However, each game of the tournament, Villanova prevailed. Many of their games were by double digits, and they pulled out a gritty win against overall number one seed Kansas. Listening to all of the analysts, they were commenting on how Villanova would pass the ball well, play suffocating defense, and run their plays extremely well. If you look closely at the Villanova team, you will easily see why they were successful and won it all this year and how Corporate American can take a page from how they won. Villanova won because of their team work. Teams do win!
Here are the traits that the Villanova team displayed:
This Villanova team started their foundation four years ago when they arrived on campus. They built up trust and worked together to always have each other’s back. They committed to helping each other and to winning by playing together. Having each other’s back proved vital as they went through growing pains of difficult losses from previous seasons. When you have each other’s back, you can just focus on the task or job at hand. That makes it all the more easier to win.
#2) Effective Communication
It’s sad how much poor communication occurs in Corporate America. It’s almost like some people produce poor communication on purpose to sabotage things. Egos get in the way. This Villanova team communicated verbally and with open dialog with each other, and with non verbals on the court. They put their egos aside for something greater. The players talked daily to each other about what was working well and where they could improve. Watch their games and see how they anticipate each other’s moves. They use good eye contact and hand signals. They anticipated where each other was on the court, and their offense and defense were of historical levels during the tournament. Communication is one of the easiest and most critical things in Corporate America. Yet we struggle with it. We have to set our egos and personal agendas aside to win. Communication must be clear and concise to be effective and allow your department or business to win.
Like loyalty, they built a trust in each other that was off the charts. Listen to them talk, and they had complete confidence in each other to make critical defensive stops or hit critical shots. Even when there were tough losses during the season, their trust grew more in each other and never wavered. Each person new their job and their responsibilities. When someone missed coverage on a player, another player would slide in and cover. They would talk about the missed play as a team, and how to fix that issue. We need to trust our colleagues more, and we have to give people the opportunity to perform. When you let go and trust your colleagues, you are helping to instill confidence in other team members, thus rising their performance levels to new heights. Your team will grow together and be more successful.
After the game, the press asked the team about the final winning shot. Every player said the same thing, “we practice those shots every day in practice.” The media has said Villanova’s practices are the most intense they have seen. They practice hard and prepare relentlessly for each game. We can all practice more, yet so many times we show up late and just wing it. Ask yourself this, how often do you practice effectively? Practice is not an outline of a speech or a 10 minute run through of a presentation. We must practice our speeches, sales scripts, and presentations as we would be doing them in a real situation so that we continue to sharpen our skills and be the best we can be.
#5) Superior Leadership
The team leadership of Villanova was off the charts during the NCAA Tournament. It all starts with the coach. Coach Jay Wright designs plays in the off season and the team runs them at practice. He is much harder on the team in practice, so they learn how to execute the plays in games. During the games, Coach Wright trusts the team to make the correct pass or take the best shot during the game. That is true leadership; giving your team the play and then trusting them to execute it how they see fit. The players also displayed solid and consistent leadership. When called upon, they stepped up in clutch times. When a player was down or in a slump, the other team members stepped up and took over. They also ensured that they lifted up the slumping player. In our departments or teams, we often don’t step up consistently when needed. We also talk behind the team member’s back who is not performing well, complaining about why they can’t get it together. Teams perform well when everyone is taking care of each other and has each other’s back.
#6) Play To Win, Not To Lose
After the winning shot went in, Villanova’s Kris Jenkins was asked if he thought it was going to go in. He said that all of them go in. North Carolina’s mentality was to get a stop and they believed that the game was going into Overtime. Villanova put it all on the line and played to win. Many companies pull back when things go bad. They retract and start scaling back, not keeping the momentum and energy that got them there in the first place. You have to keep moving forward no matter what setbacks occur. Pulling back makes you become reactionary, and you are always playing it safe. Villanova could have just tried to hurry a shot from half court and been thrilled to go to Overtime. They came to win, and they executed the final with which enabled them to win!
We cannot play life safe. We must take risks. In our businesses, we must have strong cohesive teams, because teams always win!