March Madness is a Leadership Moment
The third week of March is a frustrating one for every corporate leader, as filling out brackets for the office pool and watching the score-scroll on ESPN.com or Yahoo Sports seem to drain a measurable percentage of productivity from your otherwise hard-working staff.
A client just last Friday expressed mild apprehension about how much work he might get out of his sports-obsessed staff. Our advice? Go with the flow, and minimize March Madness distractions by converting them into a chance to build employee engagement.
This makes sense because:
- You can’t fight American culture – filling out a bracket for the office pool has become a fixture of the “things we do together” at work.
- It only lasts one week – Once the first weekend of games is over, most people’s brackets are busted and they are ready to change the subject!
- Even better, it is really only Monday (bracket research day) and Thursday-Friday (The round of 64) that impact work.
Here are some suggestions for turning these activities into employee engagement opportunities
- Do not swim against the tide: Wherever possible, schedule major initiatives and deadlines for before or after this week. Make it clear through your actions that you recognize the coming distraction, and want to be as accommodating as possible.
- Find out who “pool management” is (aka those who are managing the process) and have a heart-to-heart with them about your expectation that their management time should fall outside of work aside from collecting brackets. Get their agreement on this particular point.
- Create a statement that each of your leaders should deliver to his or her teams. Here is an example:
“We understand the excitement that some folks on our staff feel about March Madness. It is a big moment on the sporting calendar, and we know that the first week of the tournament can be a bit distracting from work for those who follow the sport. We like your enthusiasm and encourage you to follow your favorite teams as they compete.
We only ask that you keep getting your work done between updates! We are all working on achieving great things this year, and each of you has a powerful role to play in that success. Keep an eye on your task and project lists and keep the momentum going. Indeed, translate some of that March Madness energy to everything you take on this week!”
- If you have theme days at work, make basketball the theme for the week.
One of the best ways to build a fully engaged workforce is to find ways to celebrate together. Usually those celebrations revolve around work-based events, but it is useful to work in activities from the rest of the world occasionally. March Madness is the perfect chance to do that!
Naturally, you would you have to fit this sort of general advice into your particular circumstances, but the point is to recognize and accept the week-long distraction, give folks permission to get excited if they wish, but get their active agreement that they will still get work done.
As a leader, how have you used the inevitable distractions of March Madness as a positive opportunity? Share your story as a comment.