March Madness, the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, is the embodiment of Team Building 101. Sixty-eight teams are in a single-elimination battle for the glory of their schools and their regions. In the world of collegiate sports, it’s Christmas and the Super Bowl rolled into one wild ride. Ask anyone in the National Collegiate Athletic Association from the coaches to the players to the waterboys and they’ll tell you that one of the basics of successful team building is participative leadership.
While corporate America is hardly an athletic arena, many attributes of good sportsmanship are useful in this dynamic business setting. As a management style, participatory leadership can draw on many of the tenets of Team Building 101.
For example, winning coaches and corporate execs understand that participative leadership isn’t autocratic or dictatorial. It’s empowering and supportive. These leaders make sure each team member knows his or her job; they support them in strengthening their skill set; they challenge and test them to make them better at what they do. And then, when it’s game time, they trust them.
Participative Leadership Is Team Focused
Involvement in organizational decision-making can be both a privilege and a burden, but the pressure to help make wise long-term decisions can be easier to bear if the person has felt included from the beginning, understands the big picture and their place in it, and is willing to share the load for the good of the whole.
Basketball players call it being unselfish when not hogging the spotlight just because they’ve got the ball. A real team player understands that sometimes a handoff is better than a play. Sure he might score three points and that might make him look good and feel great about himself. But if the safer bet is two points in the paint, an unselfish player will pass the ball to a teammate who can make that two points and make the whole team look good.
Participative Leadership Is Inclusive
In some corporate settings, information is shared on a need-to-know basis only. Those who don’t need to know often feel left in the dark and may buy into policies only because they’re compelled to do so. In settings where information is shared freely for the purpose of empowering workers to do their jobs better, there’s a greater feeling of inclusion and acceptance. It’s easier for them to buy in because they feel they have a vested interest in making policies and procedures work for the good of the whole unit.
Encouraging creativity, empowering players to succeed, and celebrating their success, these fundamentals of participative leadership are the building blocks of Team Building 101. Game on!