March Madness is well under way, and the country’s attention is focused on three-point shots and layups. Some of the country’s best collegiate basketball players are competing for the NCAA Championship.
Not all of us are athletes, but we can still learn lessons from these NCAA teams to improve our careers.
Cheer for every basket
Teams score an average of 76 points every game, yet players still celebrate every basket like it’s the first point. They understand every point matters. The whole bench celebrates every small victory because each basket leads to a win.
Bring the same energy to work: celebrate the smaller daily wins as well as the bigger accomplishments, and do the same for co-workers. Cheer them on when they’re succeeding…and actually cheer. Creating a motivated, positive work environment pushes everyone to be their best and strive to be even better.
Have a sixth man mentality
In basketball, the sixth man is a player who doesn’t start, but who comes off the bench and is often a difference maker in the game. The sixth man is usually able to play several positions, making them a versatile and dangerous tool for teams.
Adopt a sixth man mindset on your team at work. Be willing to do what’s necessary, while fighting to claim the top spot on the team. Know how to do your job, but always be ready to step into unfamiliar roles if necessary. Want to be the employee your boss looks to with a big project or an unexpected problem. The sixth man is invaluable because they are ready to do whatever the team needs from them for the win.
Hold yourself accountable
In his book Toughness, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas highlights a quote from NASA engineer Daryl Woods:
“Responsible to the element, accountable to the mission.”
Bilas explains that every player on a basketball team has to understand and play their position, but they also have to be accountable for knowing every other position and how they all fit into the team’s bigger goals. Each player is accountable for learning every play, practicing their skills, and working hard to be the best. When one player can’t get the rebound because they don’t practice hard enough, they aren’t holding themselves accountable.
Approach your job the same way. Practice professional skills like basketball players practice free throws: practice, repeat, and adjust. Learn new skills in order to make the team and the company more successful. If there’s a big project due, stay late to finish the job. And if you make a mistake, own it, and learn from it.
The players who are competing in the NCAA tournament have put in countless hours and years in order to be great. Most of them don’t do it for the money or the glory: they do it because they love basketball. They’re passionate about the sport, so they’re willing to make sacrifices and put in work to be great. Michael Jordan shot hundreds of free throws every day during his off-seasons. Kobe Bryant doesn’t leave practice until he’s shot at least 400.
Find work you love to do, and commit to it. If it’s really your passion, why not give everything to be the best possible? Committing emotionally and physically means the losses might hurt more, but the wins feel so much better.
Mimic top performers
Bench players have to work harder and be better to get noticed with limited playing time. They study the starting players, and learn their moves. The best bench players then learn how to defend against those moves, and develop moves of their own.
Learn from top performers at work. What do they do that makes them so successful? Notice how they approach the job differently, and think about what habits or skills you could adopt. Mimic how they perform the job, and then think about how it could be done better.