What communicators can learn from basketball

Even if your team’s been knocked out of the tournament or you couldn’t care less about sports, hoops offers heaps of applicable workplace wisdom.

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March Madness is ostensibly about basketball, but the tournament is also a wonderful showcase for teamwork and communication.

Of course, most of us will never be forced to perform our duties in front of screaming fans (“Write faster! You suck, spreadsheet guy!”). However, regardless of your role, there’s plenty for communication types to glean from the drama, glory and agony of pressure-packed basketball games.

Try these hoops-centric takeaways to get your team rolling on more productive breakaways:

Be a facilitator. Contrary to much of the action featured in “Space Jam,” basketball is not all dunks and individual effort (that’s why you lost, Monstars). The best teams share the ball generously, whipping it around the floor to find the open person. Unselfish passing is the surest way to score.

Corporate communication is not so different. Your job is akin to being a point guard, and your ball is the messaging. You move messages around the organization and serve as the key conduit for distributing accurate information.

You might not be the most visible “star” player who gets the glory or the press, but you’re the underrated grinder who makes the team run smoothly.

Don’t be a selfish ball hog constantly trying to jack up 3-pointers or do it all yourself. Be a facilitator. In basketball, and at work, unselfishness tends to be contagious. Great facilitators lift up their teammates, impress their bosses and help win games.

Prevent costly turnovers. Your primary function is to protect your team’s communication. Lots of point guards play fast and loose with the ball—whether to build flashy buzz or boost their own profile—but that’s how turnovers (and PR crises) happen.

Sure, some are able to find the sweet spot of swaggering snark, but many others crash and burn due to careless, reckless or thoughtless messaging.

If you’re your organization’s primary messaging handler, handle the ball with great care. Make the safe, smart play instead going for the flash and splash. Turnovers lose games and will send you to the bench.

Be gracious—in victory and defeat. The worst (or, for some terrible people, the best) part of March Madness is all the tears and raw emotion.

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(Image via)

Hopefully there’s not so much crying, screaming and gloating in your workplace, but it’s always wise to keep a cool head. If you receive bad news or criticism via email, don’t respond in the heat of the moment. If someone criticizes you in a meeting, consider chatting with that person in private afterward. Be the person who consoles your team after a stinging loss or workplace defeat—not the one who pops off when feeling threatened.

On the flip side, don’t rub it in when you win. It’s tempting to gloat over vanquished colleagues—and it’s certainly satisfying to stick it to workplace enemies—but resist the urge. You’ll appreciate similar treatment when you’re on the other end.

Being gracious—in victory and defeat—is one of the best ways to survive and advance in your career.

(Image via)

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