10 Lessons From Basketball For Teams In The Workplace

Basketball Goal from pexels.comBasketball Goal from Pexels

Our University’s Men’s Basketball Team, the UP Fighting Maroons, after 32 long years, made it to the finals match of UAAP Season 81. They didn’t win, but bringing the team to the finals is big deal for all of us from UP.


Come to think of it, basketball and workplace teams – be it an HR Team or Operations/Project Team – share many similarities when it comes to success parameters.

So, let’s get started. Game!


In basketball, the goal is very clear. The ball has to get in the basket within specified period.

In the workplace, sometimes, it isn’t as clear as desired. More and more in job descriptions, I am seeing, “can operate in an ambiguous environment,” even for entry level posts. I understand for more senior roles especially in start-up or projects under transition. However, be that as it may, it is always great practice to articulate what goals the employees need to deliver.

Remember that consistent successful performance starts with a clearly articulated goal.

Scorecard and Scoreboard

Often there is a scorecard. It could be on excel or a web-based system. However, is it visually accessible? In basketball, the scoreboard is visible for the players, coaching team as well as the crowd. At any point during the game, you can glance at the scoreboard and immediately know your team’s standing.

I seldom see a visual scoreboard and when I do, they’re often dated – ranging from a month to a quarter or so delay. About 10 years ago, the reason was because it was time consuming to update, but with the LCD screens and digital pads, it’s now a breeze!

I used to lead a team managing employee query tickets. When I joined the response time was 2 days, however service level agreement (SLA) was stipulated at only 12hours. Would you have guessed that the one thing that made the big difference is visual management? We got an LCD screen and posted all open tickets there as well as the number of hours it has been sitting on the queue. The team did not want anything on that board so whenever a ticket arrives, they would get on it fast. In a matter of 1 week, we met the SLA!


Every foul – technical or personal – has clear guidelines on when to call such. It also has a clearly laid out consequence. And each time any such behavior occurred, a foul is called by the referee.

In your teams, do you have clear guidelines on when to enroll in Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) or when to file a Disciplinary Action (DA)? More importantly, each time a performance or a behavior merits a formal process, are employees enrolled/filed a case, each time and with no exemption?

I have seen several instances of leads not enrolling employees to PIP or DA even when appropriate. Their intentions are usually good – give chance, don’t want to demoralize employee, etc. But did you know, this does more harm than good in the long run, for the employee, for the lead and for the whole team?


The coach or team lead/manager is very important. They set the tone, helps strategize and provide direction.

My brother who is a basket enthusiast said that the Ateneo players are not excellent individually reason why none of them made it to the Mythical Five, but they have an excellent coaching team who can leverage the strength of each player and create a winning play for the team.

In the workplace, it is no different. Team performance is largely reflective of how much or how little the leads are fulfilling their roles.

Team Roles

Coach isn’t the only role, for course. Each player has his own role or position in the team – center, point guard, shooting guard, power forward and small forward. They all work towards the same goal but contributions may vary. Some make the basket but guarding and rebounding are just as important. Each has his own set of skills.

Some leads want to hire employees of similar profiles. Similar to their own, too. Nothing wrong here but is it as effective in building a high performance team?

If you have a pack of achievers, high perfomers and high potential, all anticipating near-term career growth and interested to lead, as you go live, how many of them would you still have 1 or 2 years down the road?

Bench Strength

In basketball if someone gets injured, or simply needing rest, someone else substitutes – the bench player. The stronger the bench scoring, the greater the continuity of successful play.

Do you have 1. a strong back-up system? More so, do you have a 2. ready now or at the very least, ready in 6 months to 1 year successor?

Congratulations if you answered yes to both! If not, more work has to be done.


Great players observe healthy habits like enough sleep, healthy eating and of course proper exercise. There are teams, too, that go to spiritual fellowships together. That is care for the team and usually it is the coach who spearheads and models the discipline.

Do you care for your team members enough for you to look at their whole being? It can be shown by modeling and advocating work-life-balance or checking in on them during crunch time. Many, many ways this could be expressed.

How do you care for your team?

Also Read: Do You Genuinely Care?

6th Man

Here we mean the fans, the cheerers, the crowd that show support and in turn motivate the team. While they aren’t part if the team, all players know how important they are in boosting their confidence and performance in the game.

Do your team members have the support system they need? Or any support for that matter. Are they able to rely on each other for support? Do they have what they need to function like a speedy laptop or ready access to all sites they would need. Finally, do you as the lead believe in your team and do you articulate it?

Rewards and Recognition

MVP, Most Improved Player, Mythical Five. These are some of the recognition given to basketball players who excelled throughout the season. The basis of which are all measurable.

You might be surprised to know that while companies have a recognition platform, in some cases there is controversy in the winner. Why? Because employees don’t know exactly what it takes to be recognized.

Our generation (xennials or earlier) believe that if you performed well, you will be recognized. However, in today’s disruptive and high competitive corporate atmosphere, it may not anymore be as simple as that.

One thing is for sure, though, rewards and recognition are important and it’s high time we also look closely at how clearly rewarding and recognizing are being done.


Ateneo is famous for their ‘system’ which I think is the reason why this year, they won the UAAP Championship for the 5th time.

In the workplace, do you have structure in place for your processes? For onboarding? For rewards and recognition? For almost everything. This is what makes your processes and success repeatable hence making your high performance consistent and reliable.

Also Read: 10 Employee Onboarding Tips

That’s my take. What do you think?

Oh and I think UAAP Season 82 will be the start of the UP Fighting Maroons MBT’s Championships.

Thank you for visiting! I really appreciate your time reading.

Should you have questions or topic and feature suggestions, please feel free to write to me – emiletherese@yahoo.com.

Til next! 🙂

About Emile Therese

Emile Therese is a graduate of the University of Philippines in Diliman with a degree in Psychology. She is happily married. She and her husband, Dennis, are blessed with one amazing daughter (and hopefully at least one more child). She believes that values and character ought to be taught as early as possible and that these are key to community and nation building. This was also how she and her siblings were brought up by their two awesome parents! She is a Certified HR Professional who advocates employee engagement in its entirety. Emile believes that true employee engagement rests on the pillars of basic human needs and in ensuring that process and leadership basics are in place - the employee engagement imperatives. She hopes to contribute to making this world a better place for all of us now and the next generation. She loves sipping tea, conversations, reading and writing. The latter gave birth to two blogs - Purposeful Parenting Journey (purposefulparentingjourney.com) and Engagement Imperative (engagementimperative.com).

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