College basketball’s March Madness will soon be upon us and basketball fans everywhere look forward to watching the best teams face off as they complete their brackets. Tuning into these super competitive games can be exhilarating.

In business management consultancy, I recommend that my clients keep an eye on March Madness. What makes watching NCAA basketball so exciting – and instructive to management teams – is the level of competitiveness and the “all in” effort these student athletes exude. The love of the game and the fire in the belly are brilliantly on display.

As much as I love basketball, my engagement, however, wanes a bit when it comes to the NBA. While many pros give way beyond 100%, others seem to phone it in. For instance, you may have heard the phrase “matador defense” used to describe a half-hearted defensive move.

matador defense (mat’-uh-dor’ de’-fens) noun. A lackluster, low-effort form of defense in which the defender simply reaches for the ball and then quickly pulls his hand away — similar to how a matador pulls his cape out of the way of a charging bull — as the offensive player drives by him for an easy lay up.


The defending player might wave his arms, much like a matador does when waving the red cape – a quick motion that is over almost as fast as it began. That’s mastery for a bullfighter, but miserable for a basketball player who’s supposed to be playing zone or man-to-man D with arms up, in their opponent’s face, giving 100% and beyond.

I like to share this analogy in my role as a business management consultant working with senior teams. When examining the effectiveness of a leadership team I look for energy and commitment. I look to see if they are “all in” or somehow just going through the motions, biding their time, waiting for what might be next. They may talk a good game and wave a colorful cape but their results don’t align.

Who do you want on your team? I suggest you want a team member who plays like a hungry NCAA championship contender who can’t wait to get on the court and ask for the ball.

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