The Loyola Ramblers were the “Cinderella” team of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament. True, they didn’t win the championship, but for a team that many thought couldn’t win their Missouri Valley Conference, making it all the way to the Final Four was an incredible feat. On the surface, it may seem that there aren’t any business lessons we can learn from the Ramblers’ star turn. After all, the Ramblers are just a bunch of (very talented) college guys playing a kids’ game. They haven’t been out in the “real world” yet, working at real jobs, so what could they possibly teach us about business? As it turns out, if we look a little closer, we can learn quite a bit from them. For some of the lessons they have taught us, please continue reading below.
“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” ~ Steve Jobs
First of all, college basketball today is big business with broadcast rights, ticket sales, stadium advertising, and all the rest. But here, we’re not talking about lessons to be learned from all that stuff. Instead, we want to talk about the team . . . the young men who played the game and their coaches . . . and the lessons they taught us from the basketball court. There are three lessons we can learn from the Ramblers’ odyssey:
Lesson #1. Play for the greater good, not for individual recognition. In short, the Ramblers left their egos on the bench. President Harry Truman once said, “You can accomplish anything in life, provided you don’t mind who gets the credit.” I don’t know if the Ramblers were familiar with that quotation, but they played like they were. Sports commentators consistently remarked about how unselfishly they played. In interviews after a game, players seemed embarrassed to talk about their own performances, preferring instead to talk about how well the team did.
What about your “team?” Do they man the barricades and jealously guard their respective areas of responsibility? Or are they willing to make sacrifices in the name of the greater good?
Lesson #2. Stick with your game plan. The Ramblers were very disciplined about adhering to their game plan. They may have made adjustments to it as a game unfolded, but they didn’t abandon it. Even if they fell behind, they didn’t panic and they continued to play their game. Compare that to other teams who, under duress, will break discipline and revert to “run and gun” alley-style basketball.
What about your “team?” Are they easily distracted by the first sign of trouble or by daily operating concerns? Or are they disciplined enough to manage their time and resources in a way that will keep the plan on track?
Lesson #3. Don’t let success go to your head. Entrenched success can be a dangerous thing. It can lead you to believe that all you have to do is show up and success will be yours. Even though the Ramblers had an impressive string of wins, they knew nobody was going to lay down and hand them a game. They were confident in their ability to win, but not cocky about it. They realized that if they wanted a win, they were going to have to earn it, and that’s how they played. Ultimately, they couldn’t get passed Michigan, but no one could say that loss was due to lack of effort.
What about your “team?” When you are undertaking something new or ambitious or challenging, do they treat it as business as usual, assuming that past success will guarantee future success? Or do they put on their game faces and show up ready to play?
It’s too bad this “Cinderella” team didn’t make it all the way to the Big Dance, but that does not diminish what they did accomplish, nor does it invalidate the lessons they demonstrated for us along the way.