MasterMinds: March Madness and Lessons in Leadership

Good management is all about good coaching.

Buffy Naylor, Senior Managing Editor

March 29, 2017

5 Min Read
MasterMinds: March Madness and Lessons in Leadership

**Editor’s Note: MasterMinds is a biweekly feature in which we invite leading master agents to share information, insights and expert opinions about what’s going on in their agencies, the IT/telecom channel or the business community in general.**

March Madness is all about brackets and baskets and something that master agents deal with every day — going up against fierce competitors. And while the outcome of any tournament game is never a sure thing, this much is: The same drive and discipline that enable a basketball team to rise through the ranks can put a business ahead of its competition.

In 1979, the year before Magic Johnson was named to the first of 12 NBA All-Star teams, he led the Michigan State Spartans to an NCAA title and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. In 2015, he shared some of his business insights with the Stanford Graduate School of Business, leading them to tweet, “The same principles apply as a basketball player and a CEO: focus, strategy and discipline.”{ad}

6a0b93eaea894507805dc4b2d695aa30.jpgPerhaps no one knew more about winning — at basketball and at life — than the late coach John Wooden, the “Wizard of Westwood.” While he was head coach at UCLA, the Bruins won 10 NCAA championships in a 12-year period, including a record seven in a row (1967-1973). Wooden was known for motivating and mentoring his players on the court and off. His “12 Lessons in Leadership” are equally applicable to success at the backboard or in the boardroom.

1. Good values attract good people.

To build a strong team, you need to demonstrate a value system that will enable you to attract the kind of people you want. Wooden stressed the importance of character, saying “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”  He also noted that “Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character.”

2. Love is the most powerful four-letter word.

Wooden believed that “The most important word in our language is love. The second is balance — keeping things in perspective.” Whether players or …


… partners, team members must be valued and appreciated. “I worry that business leaders are more interested in material gain than they are in having the patience to build up a strong organization, and a strong organization starts with caring for their people,” he said.

3. Call yourself a teacher.

You don’t have to be a manager or a mentor to serve as an example to those with whom you deal professionally – and personally. “Your energy and enjoyment, drive and dedication will stimulate and greatly inspire others,” advised Wooden. He was a teacher before he was a coach, and that greatly influenced the way in which he worked with his teams. He taught his players the basics and stressed that there were no shortcuts. “Success travels in the company of very hard work,” he said. “There is no trick, no easy way.”

4. Emotion is your enemy.

Keep focused on the task at hand and giving it your best effort; don’t let reactions interfere with actions. Be objective and don’t distract yourself — and certainly not with self-doubts about whether or not you’re up to the task. “Don’t let what you cannot do, interfere with what you can do,” stated Wooden.

5. It takes 10 hands to make a basket.

“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team,” Wooden said. In sports or in business, it takes teamwork. All contributions to the effort should be acknowledged and appreciated. “A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player,” he observed.

6. Little things make big things happen.

Practice, training, education — preparation is the first step to realizing any kind of success. “I liked our practices to be the journey and the game would be the end result,” said Wooden.{ad}

7. Make each day your masterpiece.

Do your best. All the time. Every time. “Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required is each day,” stated Wooden.

8. The carrot is mightier than a stick.

No one ever learns much from criticism except to hate criticism. “Young people need models, not …


… critics,” Wooden observed. The best coaches and managers know how to motivate positively, by building up rather than tearing down. “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment,” he said.

9. Make greatness attainable by all.

Wooden believed that a person’s greatness was measured by how close they came to reaching their full potential. “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

10. Seek significant change.

“We have no progress without change, whether it be basketball or anything else,” Wooden stated. He firmly believed in the importance of learning from our mistakes and moving on. “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

11. Don’t look at the scoreboard.

The task at hand is to do the best job possible. Keep your mind in the game and let the results take care of themselves. “I wanted the score of a game to be a by-product of these other things, and not the end itself,” said Wooden, who believed that personal integrity and character counted above all else. “Never mention winning,” he cautioned. “My idea is that you can lose when you outscore somebody in a game, and you can win when you’re outscored.”{ad}

12. Adversity is your asset.

“Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then,” said Wooden. On the court or in business, he believed in intentness, saying “Stay the course. When thwarted try again; harder; smarter. Persevere relentlessly.”

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About the Author(s)

Buffy Naylor

Senior Managing Editor, Channel Futures

Buffy Naylor is senior managing editor of Channel Futures. Prior to joining Informa (then VIRGO) in 2008, she was an award-winning copywriter and editor, then senior manager of corporate communications for an international leisure travel corporation and, before that, in charge of creative development and copywriting for a boutique marketing and public relations agency.

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