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March 16, 2017 / Molly Moseley

How effective leaders find success within the madness

When you sit down to fill out a blank basketball bracket form, the page seems like pure chaos. The multi tiered chart packed with team names is overwhelming until you start going through each slot, making tough choices to navigate the maze in hopes of winning the top prize.

In your career there will be many times chaos will cause your head to spin on a much larger scale than that of a college basketball tournament. What’s on the line is much larger, too. Instead of winning the office pool, job success, satisfaction and advancement are the ultimate reward.

Rather than falter during times of stress, effective leaders use that chaos as a driver to thrive. These periods can be the perfect reason to ask the tough questions, do some self-reflection and define career goals. Consider the following ways effective leaders find success despite the madness.

Be a star coach by evolving as a leader

Great leaders embrace the idea that they are always growing personally and professionally. Sometimes changes come naturally; other times, it’s the result of something unexpected. It’s important to be agile, resilient and open to change, no matter the circumstances.

In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski recalls the only time he felt burnout was after a back operation in the mid ’90s. “My schedule was nuts. And I never took time to critique how I was handling things. I was just moving forward,” he says. “But that setback prompted me to change a lot: delegating more responsibilities, not micromanaging, being a different type of leader. Since then, my energy and hunger have never wavered.”

Have a coach’s attitude about your team

It doesn’t matter if you’re coaching a basketball team, launching a business or running a Fortune 500 company: Great leaders know people are an organization’s biggest asset. These leaders must be able to motivate their teams with steadfast dedication, even during rough patches. It might be a down economy or the star player has an injury — be the role model for the attitude and aptitude you expect.

Krzyzewski tells the Harvard Business Review he keeps his team motivated by staying motivated himself, a true testament to his abilities as a leader. “You have to show motivation yourself,” he says. “They have to see it in you on a day-to-day basis. The older professionals understand that you have to show up every day, no matter what, no excuses.”

Expand the playbook by paving your own path

The tried-and-true plays will serve you well, but there will be times in any big game when you have to bend the rules and try a different play. Your career is similar. Just because a colleague found success down one path doesn’t mean you will. What’s more, their definition of success may be different than yours, so if you follow the well-worn path, you’ll end up disappointed. Great leaders know to follow their heart.

Although Coach K openly admits that his approach to retirement planning is to have no plans at all, there are other times when he’s had to make big decisions that defined his career. Most notably, he’s always stuck with college basketball despite numerous offers from the pros.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked several times,” he tells Harvard Business Review. “The toughest ones to decline were the Celtics in 1990 and the Lakers in 2004. But at the end of the day, I love college basketball more. I really love Duke, and I’m really happy I’ve stayed.”

 

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