March Madness resumes tonight and in a pressure packed weekend of excitement, the Sweet Sixteen will shrink to the Final Four.  Only the strongest teams will survive and while their defensive pressure, explosive running game or deep shooting might define their style, their success rests on five obsessions. These obsessions are common to champions and may very well help your team in your competitive endeavor. 

Communication: The teams that win will communicate better than their opponents.  They obsess over it.  These in-game communications focus on monitoring and modulating three important team competencies—knowledge, energy and emotion.  The teams that do this best will move on.

Purpose: The teams that win will emphasize a greater purpose. Winning is seen as a means to the bigger purpose rather than an end in itself.  These teams know that championships are fleeting but champions endure.  A greater purpose like growing leaders or enhancing the university helps avoid the trap of sacrificing the best interest of their university, program or players for easy success and quick wins.  A greater purpose is the driving force of champions.

Excellence in Little Things: The winning teams will obsess over little things.  John Wooden famously taught his teams how to wear their socks and shoes correctly because he knew that a blister or a loose shoe could disrupt a play, a game and ultimately, a championship.  When we watch the games, we’ll see exciting improvisation—fancy dribbles, lobs and dunks–but like great jazz, this exciting basketball will be grounded in strict adherence to the fundamentals.

Individual Accountability and Growth: There are few endeavors where participants are so quick to admit mistakes.  This accountability cuts to the chase, establishes responsibility for errors and allows the team to move on.  Champions obsess over their individual responsibility to perform, fill their role, and expand their personal contribution.

A Culture of Leadership: Successful teams obsess over leadership.  Every coach, player and student manager is considered a leader and they understand that they compete as a leadership team against another team of leaders.  Those that win, create a culture of leadership where they perform better than their opponents at the point of decision and in the heat of the moment. Basketball is a sport where the most talented teams don’t always win but those that create a culture of leadership almost always do.

So when it comes time to make predictions, pay attention to their obsessions and you might just pick the winners.

Thoughts?

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