Four Things I Learned During March Madness

I'm ready for the Final Four - I have three teams left standing, and I've put my faith (and $15 in the family bracket pool) in Wisconsin to win. I've put together my own "final four" list of observations from the tournament. I invite you to comment and share your own!

1.  Objectivity is an illusion. 

Just try and watch a game with total dispassion about who wins.  If it's your alma mater, we know you can't (and won't) be objective.  It's far ranging - the refs of course, but also player attitudes, behaviors, quality of the play - we simply want to believe the best in them.  (until we get disgusted and give up...more on the Illini in another blog...) 

But what's really interesting is to watch how people behave when it's not their alma mater - not even their bracket pick - and how at some point in the game you pick a team you want to win.  Think about your organization's list of key projects...have you mentally made your own list of the ones that will succeed and the ones that will fail? 

2.  It's no fun to cheer for the leader. 

You have to feel sorry for Kentucky.  They're so good, and so talented, we just need them to lose.  Even if you picked them to win in your bracket, you won't feel terrible if you go down...because it was such a formulaic choice to begin with.  What's fun about that? 

Remember what a kick it used to be for a Mac user?  Apple is just not the same now that they're winning at nearly everything.  In fact we're starting to develop a soft spot for Microsoft.  Admit it, it's true.  I wonder what strategies your organization might use to have your customers cheer for you - whether you're a leader or an underdog. 

3.  Deadlines, breaks and scorecards. 

I think we like basketball games because there are rules.  And they are written down and published, with referees hired to make sure they are followed.  And we all understand that you have 40 minutes to play.  And at the end of that play SOMEONE WILL WIN.  The clarity is just so cool.  

 When young people enter the workforce, they are leaving the world of rules and scorecards, semester beginnings and endings, getting A's and getting C's.  And getting a fresh start every few months.  What can we do to build in more finish lines?  Breaks?  Wins and losses?  Somehow building in moments of relief to counter anxiety and tension in the workplace.  It's worth thinking about. 

4.  Showing emotion is A-OK. 

It's refreshing to see emotions laid out for all to see - the emotions that take the players to incredible highs and devastating lows.  The hugs - the hand slaps - the screaming - the jumping up and down - and yes even the crying.  Basketball is a place where players bring it all in plain sight.  And when they get out of control, we forgive them for it.  Because their emotions are part of what make them great. 

It just seems impossible to win without passion - without emotion.  Look at Coach K on the sidelines this weekend and ask yourself if he's an emotional leader.  No doubt the magic lies in figuring out how to harness those emotions...and not to let them control you.  But the point is that emotions are essential to humans.  I suspect that there is an unwritten code of conduct in your organization that governs emotions - are they A-OK?