5 Lessons You Can Learn from Upsets

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Photo by Chris Lee, STL Post-Dispatch

 

 

March brings us warmer temperatures, a change in our clocks, and the NCAA basketball tournaments. Each year we see lower-seeded teams upset higher-seeded teams in what can be described as March Mania (that other, more commonly known named is copyrighted, believe it or not).

As most of us watch in amazement at some of the team’s performances, such as a last-ditch three pointer by Wisconsin, there are also some great communications lessons that these teams share that can be used on both the basketball court and in the boardroom. Here are 5 lessons your team can learn from those teams that pull off the classic upsets in the month of March:

  1. Embrace the Moment: Sure, it might be a big stage or much riding on the moment, but instead of cowering at the fear of failure, look at it as a tremendous opportunity. After all, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. Especially if you are the underdog, you have nothing to lose other than not giving your best effort.
  2. Remember What Got You There: Now that you’re “at the table,” don’t try to greatly alter your plan or way of doing things. After all, it’s the way you’ve done them which has got you to this point. Plus, this prevents you from having to learn or do something that may be foreign to you when the pressure is at its greatest.
  3. Focus on the Current Task at Hand: A team in the tournament typically needs to win six games in a row to become national champion. But, the task of a six-game winning streak may seem daunting by itself. Instead, focus on the current game or presentation you’re in, then worry about the next one hopefully when it comes. Breaking it down into manageable chunks helps you not only focus on the opportunity, but block out any doubt of the larger, overall goal. Just ask Texas A&M who somehow overcame a 12-point deficit in less than one minute to eventually win in double overtime.
  4. Control What You Can Control: You cannot predict how many turnovers the other team may have or what type of presentations your competition is giving to the prospect. But, you can control your team and what’s included in your offerings. Concentrate on what you do and do it well and let the other guys falter by worrying about you. If you simply just “do your job,” everything else will fall into place.
  5. Believe: If you don’t believe in yourself or your team, then you’ve already lost. Your team as this opportunity or has come this far because they are a great team. If teams didn’t believe, then there wouldn’t be any upsets in the tournament. But the fact that they do, means even a half-court Hail Mary shot has a chance to go in.

How Mystic Mac and Mighty Maria Delivered the Right Message

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Conor McGregor (left) and Maria Sharapova faced some significant setbacks in the past 72 hours. (Photos by Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today and Getty Images, respectively.)

Within the past 72 hours, two elite athletes seemingly at the top of their game suffered significant setbacks. However, it’s how they responded which has strangely enough, made them victorious.

On Saturday night, brash Irish mixed martial artist (some language NSFW), Conor McGregor, lost his first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fight to Nate Diaz. McGregor is the 145lb champion, but stepped up two weight classes to fight a replacement opponent in Diaz for a non-title 170lb match. After predicting a first-round knockout of his opponent, McGregor instead lost in the second round to a submission.

Many rejoiced to see the trash talker finally taste defeat. However, McGregor won the post-fight PR test with not only his humble interview, but also this post on Instagram (some language NSFW). McGregor said he took a risk, it didn’t pay off, but he’ll learn from it and come back stronger. No excuses, no complaints; just what he learned and how he’ll get better.

Then, just this morning (March 8), tennis superstar Maria Sharapova was going to have a major announcement. Her news? She failed a drug test at the Australian Open. A drug she had been using for 10 years had become, as of just 68 days ago, illegal.

Rather than wait for news services to pick up the failed drug test and have pundits weigh in before she said anything, Sharapova did the best thing she could: Got out in front of the news, controlled the message, and positioned herself to be the news source. While she has been put on immediate suspension and has already lost some sponsors, she accepted responsibility and outlined what had happened (she failed to read an email that outlined the drug in question as now illegal).

Media often relish the narrative of a rise and fall of a prominent figure, whether it be a celebrity or an athlete. However, what they, and our culture, love even more, is the rise, fall, and comeback of a celebrity or athlete. After all, we are a land of second chances, just as long as you do it the right way (See pitcher Andy Petite admitting to taking performance enhancing drugs vs. Rafael Palmeiro vehemently denying it, only to be caught using them).

I predict that both McGregor and Sharapova will be great comeback stories. They’re already off to a great start by winning the initial PR battle by accepting three important things:

  • Accepted Responsibility: Neither made excuses; they took ownership of their error and were upfront and honest about the respective situations. It shows the public they recognize what happened, do not pass the blame, and own up to the shortfalls.
  • Accepted the Punishment: They realize they made mistakes, understood the magnitude of them, and realized the consequences for their actions.
  • Accepted the Challenge: McGregor sees how this gives fuel to all of his detractors and makes some of his trash talk now seem silly. Sharapova understands this may mean a two-year ban and lost sponsorship dollars. However, both vowed to learn from these events (McGregor says you either win or you learn), and admitted they will be better professionals for it.

While you or I may never hoist a UFC title belt or a Wimbledon trophy above our heads, if we find ourselves in a situation where things come up short, we can follow in McGregor’s and Sharpova’s footsteps with similar responses to aid the road to recovery.