Coaching lessons from March Madness

The most entertaining sporting event in the country began this week: the NCAA Tournament – more affectionately known as March Madness. There’s nothing quite like flipping on the TV to watch the chaos that ensues over the three-week men’s and women’s tournaments. We all know the historic upsets and Cinderella runs, but when it’s all said and done, only one team from the field of 68 will win a title. To win that title, a team must have three key factors: talent, strong teamwork, and great coaching. As leaders, we can take lessons from sports, and what better event to learn from than March Madness.

I read an article from Harvard Business Review that explains how it’s more important to coach your team as a collective group rather than focusing on individuals. Much like a basketball team, an individual can only do so much. Teams are a sum of their parts. While individual mentorship is valuable, people must collaborate to effectively reach goals.

The authors noted that team-based coaching means teammates “are encouraged to build stronger relationships themselves, not just one-on-one with their manager” and are forced to “collectively take ownership of and solve business challenges, and to address any team-related issues that may arise.” They also explained that the best way to approach team-based coaching is to “use questions, not answers, to invite and shape how team members understand situations and solve problems.” By using this approach, leaders get valuable insight from their team and may discover new ways to solve problems and carry out tasks.

Lastly, the authors remarked that both success and failure are an opportunity to learn. While that’s a cliché, it’s certainly true. Every outcome provides a chance to reassess, regroup, and apply the lessons learned to the next goal or task.


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