There’s No “I” in March Madness

Let’s talk about March Madness. At the workplace, productivity plunges, there is an increase in sleep loss, and according to the FBI, about half of the anticipated $10 billion anticipated in NCAA gambling will come from millions of office pools everywhere. But March Madness is also witnessing your favorite teams in action; the exhilaration of dedicated players relying on each other to get the job done; and each of us feeling like a small part of it — a part of the team.

A team is a group of individuals collaborating to achieve their common goal and thereby to succeed. The whole is often greater than the sum of its parts (members), with each contributing ideas and solutions. Characteristics of effective team members are:

  • Effective management skills
  • The ability to be a team player
  • Diplomacy and willingness to negotiate
  • Willing to share the credit of successes
  • Effective communication skills
  • Listening to others objectively
  • Concern for team members
  • Recognizing and dealing with conflict constructively
  • Valuing the ideas and contributions of others

Yet not every team is effective or successful. We can all think of at least one group or team experience we’ve been part of where things didn’t go exactly as planned. In looking back on those events we can probably pinpoint some of the obstacles we faced to achieving optimal outcomes:

  • Hidden agendas
  • Internal conflicts
  • Unclear roles and responsibilities
  • Confusion or disagreement about the vision, mission, or goals
  • Lack of constructive feedback
  • Unclear or unfair decision-making processes
  • Inability of the group to focus or concentrate on the goal
  • Meetings or work sessions dominated by a few members
  • Open and honest feedback was discouraged
  • There were too many “experts” on the team
  • Competition vs. cooperation existed among team members

Whether as a team member, leader, or coach there is probably another team activity sometime in your future. According to leadership and organization development experts you need a solid play book and identified game plan. Here are some tips for next time.

  • Make sure everyone on the team knows exactly what the goals are
  • Team members should have a clear understanding of their own and others’ roles and responsibilities so each person knows who does what
  • Ensure that the team has a variety of work styles among its members, e.g. the Contributor; the Collaborator; the Communicator; and the Challenger
  • The team should be empowered to carry out its mission
  • Establish a relaxed work climate, emphasizing collaboration and avoiding stress as much as possible
  • Think about what worked well during your last team experience and apply that learning
  • Think about what did not work well on your last team experience and try to avoid a repeat of that experience as well
  • When appropriate make decisions by consensus
  • Confront problems in team relationships as soon as they arise; don’t let them fester
  • If you have responsibility for oversight, act like a facilitator rather than a boss
  • When the project is done, assess your results and team effectiveness and learn from that experience, too

Win or lose, being part of a team can be an exciting and gratifying experience for everyone. It makes sense to do it well. Perhaps we can all learn something at this time of year from all our favorite teams. Besides, as anyone who knows the sport will tell you, “There’s nothing better than college basketball!”

Dr. Mallary Tytel is president and founder of Healthy Workplaces, a national consulting firm that focuses on helping create healthy, productive and sustainable workplaces. Grounded in the theory and practice of complexity science and human systems dynamics, HW provides customized coaching, training and facilitation, centering on the critical areas of strategy, diversity and culture, developing women leaders, and the triple bottom line.  Contact Mallary at or +1.860.874.7137.