Approximately 40 million Americans filled out an NCAA Men’s Basketball Bracket last week. After Sunday night, the final perfect bracket –39-0 up to that point—lost. It wasn’t mine.
My oldest, Britton, is a basketball enthusiast. If his mom would sign the waiver, he would sit with an I.V. hooked to his arm for food and a catheter to his bladder to watch the first four days of the tournament. (Although I know Christy…part of her is curious if it would work. She still has to binge on the last season of Downton Abbey.)
It absolutely galls Britton that his mom and his brother Sam are winning after week one. In the week leading up to the Madness, Britton prepared for the tournament as follows:
- Sunday – watched ESPN selection show to evaluate body language of the coaches interviewed. Did they like their seeding? Their bracket? How would this translate to the psychology of the team?
- Monday – scoured the websites of the 68 schools’ athletic training departments looking for any previously undisclosed injuries.
- Tuesday – made a call to the Psychic Friends Network to see if anyone there could help on his (5) vs. (12) upset pick. Dionne Warwick suggested Middle Tennessee over Minnesota. Well, duh, so did the Magic 8 Ball! (While he had them on the phone, Britton also asked if he was going to pass GBA 490 at UA this spring. And YEA! Signs point to “YES”.)
- Wednesday – assembled an impromptu basketball shrine on our coffee table. It included:
- the black jersey when he hit six three pointers in a 6th grade rec league game.
- The glass case (never a finger print on it) containing a signed hat from Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski—pronounced “coach” by the way.
- The NBA ticket stub from the Cavaliers-Pelicans game where he saw LeBron James play.
According to Yahoo Sports, by five hours into the tournament 94% of the 40 million brackets were no longer perfect. Britton was one of the victims. What bothered him most was not that his bracket was shot to pieces, but that his mom was in another room watching Fixer Upper on HGTV without any concern whatsoever about the Michigan State—Miami score.
As in most years, Christy employed her sound philosophy for picking games:
-What are the school’s colors? She is fond of the powder blue of North Carolina and UCLA.
-Has she travelled there and was the scenery beautiful? Oregon without a doubt, while any team from west Texas gets scratched.
-Any school with a bulldog mascot gets an obvious pass, even if they are a (16) seed, for obvious reasons.
-Gonzaga is a perennial favorite because of the bulldogs and well, Gonzaga is just fun to say.
Incidentally, before you scoff, Christy is the only member of the family to pick—you guessed it—the powder blue of North Carolina versus the Butler Bulldogs. Amazing. Unbelievable if you are Britton.
Sam is doing equally as well by relying on his own irrefutable rationale: Does the team’s coach bear any resemblance to a Walking Dead cast member?
How about you? Have you crashed and burned like the rest of us? Since there is no record of anyone ever picking a perfect bracket from start to finish, we all expect to be disappointed somewhere as the tournament unfolds.
But what about leaders? How should they react when things more important than their basketball picks go south?
From my experience working with organizations, employees and co-workers respond best when leaders display these three behaviors.
- A good-natured humility. Reflect on these odds for a moment…
1 in 164,960 = the likelihood of being struck by lightning during your lifetime.
1 in 292,000,000 = the likelihood of picking the right numbers for Power Ball.
1 in 128,000,000,000 = the likelihood of picking every game correctly during March Madness (and that’s if you know a little bit about basketball!)
So what? So odds are long that a leader will be 100% right in every situation. Being wrong isn’t the problem. Being proud is. Excessive pride not only has a difficult time admitting mistakes, it has a hard time accepting them. Don’t be that guy/gal or before too long your excuses may turn into little white lies, fudging of the numbers, and covering up the warts in your business. Nobody wins in that situation.
- When you learn rather than blame. I thought Britton was going to go through the TV and strangle the Vanderbilt player that inexplicably fouled the guy from Northwestern, and really, gave them the game. It is a common occurrence. When something goes wrong we look to answer WHO DID IT instead of WHY DID IT occur? Funny thing happens to leaders who blame a lot. They stop receiving information. Peers and employees don’t want to be the next victim, so they avoid productive conversations or avoid the leader altogether. It’s tough to lead when you get tainted or no information.
- When you dust yourself off and get back up on the horse. Just for fun, I looked back at last year’s NCAA March Madness results. One whole side of my bracket was destroyed after the first weekend in 2016 too, but I couldn’t wait to fill out the 2017 version. Dr. Angela Duckworth has been researching the ability to persevere for years and here is a cutting edge finding she recently made: individuals who believe that frustration and confusion are signs that they should quit what they are doing may be taught that these emotions are common during the learning process. In other words, don’t quit. Persistence pays off.
During that first weekend, Christy breezed through the room at one point and heard that Indiana University fired their head coach and would hire a new one in the next few days. “Ooooh,” she said with a smile, “Remind me to pick them next year. I have relatives that live near there.”
Britton just shook his head … but I noticed he made a note in his iPhone—just in case.