Talent Management, Basketball & Busienss

The other day I was watching the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team ranked #2 in the nation play the #8 University of Notre Dame.  It was expected to be a good game as Notre Dame plays fast paced basketball and has a seasoned team, but the expectations fell short as UConn won by a 21 point margin, 78 to 57.   It should come as no surprise to fans that have watch the team compile a record of 104 wins and 1 lost in the last 105games.  The accomplishments include the longest winning streak in college basketball, 90 games, 7 national championships and a winning percentage of 86% over 26 years.

 As I watched the game, I kept thinking that the college basketball deals with the same two major problems that most organizations deal with, talent management and succession planning.  A college basketball team has only 4 years to maximize an individual’s talent and develop them for a leadership role in their final years of playing.

Since business has the same issues, what can we learn from this team?  How do they achieve results year after year?  Let’s examine 7 keys you can pick out watching the games and reading the press.  First is the recruiting program.  Players are selected not only for their talent, but more importantly how they fit the UConn style of basketball.  The staff knows exactly what they are looking for to fit the team.  Once on campus, team members practice, practice and practice.  The coaching staff knows that the more intense the preparation, the better the performance. 

Players are treated as individuals as is evidenced by player interviews and remarks.  The staff understands that one style of motivation does not fit all, but that everyone is expected to perform at their best.

The attitude is extremely positive and players are coached to develop their strengths, to be great at a few aspect of the game and not average in all.  The game is a team sport and players are always looking for the open team member to take the high percentage shot.  The team assist average is usually double their opponents.

Finally, the on-the-job training and mentoring are crucial to the team’s success.  In the Notre Dame victory, most of the starting player spent about 20% of the game on the bench so that the younger players could gain the experience that only comes from playing.  One of the two seniors is always ready to provide guidance and mentoring both on the court and off the court.

How can you apply these seven success keys in your organization?

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