Do Forty Minutes Define Champions?

For college basketball fans around the country the day is finally here:  the NCAA championship game.  Two teams will battle it out on the court to earn the top spot in college basketball.  For those of you are not basketball fans, here’s the deal.  The University of Kansas will battle the University of Kentucky.  Yes, that’s right…KU versus UK for the title on April 2nd.

As you can see from our photo you know where my allegiance lies (after all I am a Kentucky girl born and raised).  But regardless of your sports affiliation or whether you even like basketball, there are some real lessons from the court for your team in the workplace.

In many respects winning has a time limit.
The game will boil down to two 20-minute halves.  Anything can happen during those 40 minutes – fast breaks, foul shots, three-pointers and a lot of offense and defense.  When the buzzer sounds the game is over.  All the strategy and sweat will declare a winner.  The same is true for your team.  Your success also has a “timer”.  Customers give us only so many opportunities to get it right in our service to them.  Our employees are very similar as well.  As leaders we must have a sense of urgency about our interaction with both groups.  And that sense of urgency creates healthy excitement and performance.

Second chances are a gift.
I am sure we will see several players at the strike zone giving the opportunity for “free points” – those moments to redeem a foul from the other team.  The other team pays for their wrongdoing by allowing the other team to score with a free throw.   How often do we “foul” our customers?  Maybe not intentionally but it happens.  When this occurs, we are giving our competition a free opportunity to gain our customer’s loyalty.  In basketball world, players either receive two free shots or one free shot with the opportunity for a second – based on the degree of offense.  In our business world, the degree to which we offend our customers either sends them quickly to other providers (two free shots) or frustrates them just enough to consider exploring other options (one/one shot).

Practice pays off.
These two teams have played over 30 games this season.  They have practiced strategies, honed strengths and mitigated weaknesses to ensure at game time, those hours result in performance and results.  The human factor is present (which means no one is perfect) but any coach will say, “You can’t perform what you haven’t practiced”.  What does this tell us?  These teams have practiced winning.  And you must do the same.  Each week your activities must keep your team focused on its strategy (what we are doing and why), our strengths (maximizing each person’s sweet spot) and weaknesses (shoring those up so blind spots are minimized).  As your game time occurs with each customer interaction, your practice will pay off too.

To these two teams I suspect each coach is reminding them it is “just a game”.  Play hard.  Play what you know.  Give it your all.  And we hope for a victory.  And in the end, hopefully fans have experienced a great game.  The same is true for you.  So check your schedule.  When is your next game?  Your fans are ready.

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