Leadership

4 ways the March Madness champions can teach you to win at work

Kennedy Meeks #3 of the North Carolina Tar Heels puts up a shot against Jordan Bell #1 of the Oregon Ducks during the 2017 NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal.
Lance King | Getty Images
Kennedy Meeks #3 of the North Carolina Tar Heels puts up a shot against Jordan Bell #1 of the Oregon Ducks during the 2017 NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal.

The 2017 March Madness championship wrapped up Monday night with North Carolina triumphing over Gonzaga, 71-65.

As millions of viewers watched and dissected each play, and with millions wagered in office brackets, it's easy to forget that these were college students vying for glory for their universities and not NBA stars playing for millions. In many respects, these student athletes are leaders for their universities on one of sport's biggest stages.

CNBC spoke with Jeff Janssen, who runs North Carolina's Janssen Sports Leadership Center, to discuss the qualities that make for a March Madness championship team.

Janssen, who has a background in sports psychology, estimates that his programs have helped over 26,000 athletes via the 20 leadership academies he runs across the country in the last 13 years.

"I've always been really intrigued by the intangibles of the sports world and why it is that the most talented team on paper doesn't always win the championship," Janssen tells CNBC. "And what I discovered is that the critical variables like leadership, motivation, culture and team building ... were just absolutely critical to helping that talent perform at the highest level."

Here are four leadership lessons you can learn from the March Madness teams and apply to your own career success:

1. Commit to the task at hand

Like at work, commitment is key to succeeding on the basketball court, says Janssen. The athletes aren't able to make their plays on talent alone. "They have spent countless hours in quality training, not only on the court, but also in conditioning," he explains. "They are at their peak physical condition there because of the commitment that they put in."

That's also what self-made millionaire Grant Cardone says is one of the two rules he lives by. "Nothing in life comes to those that don't commit to anything," he writes. "There is a cost to commitment, which is time, energy and money. But it's worth it."

Jeff Janssen

2. Have confidence in your abilities, and use them

It's no surprise that the well-trained March Madness athletes need to be self-assured. "Confidence has to be huge to perform against the other best teams out there," says Janssen. Every shot counts.

Confidence can also help any worker achieve success in business. Best-selling author Bernard Marr offers nine tricks to help with boosting confidence at the office, which you can check out here.

3. Keep composed in tough situations

Being able to live in the moment and act quickly is another way the March Madness finalists fought their way through the bracket, says Janssen. Maintaining control, even under duress, is what sets them apart.

"Composure is going to be huge," says Janssen. "They're going to be in some really tight situations where performance in the clutch is going to be critical and they're going to need to maintain that composure and poise when stuff happens."

In interviewing for jobs, composure is of utmost importance. Sally Bolig, Head of Talent Acquisition at Yotpo, says that even if a candidate slips up during the interview process, keeping calm, cool and collected can get you to the next stage.

4. Represent yourself well and strive to be your best

Janssen underlines that sportsmanship matters too. "Last, but not least, is just their character and being a good person and then also representing their teams with class and great character as well," he says.

Geno Auriemma, the head coach of the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team, agrees. Footage of him stressing the importance of team spirit, character and camaraderie recently went viral on Facebook.

High-achieving executives, including billionaires (and buddies) Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, seem to feel the same. Both have a hunger for learning and bettering themselves, an important characteristic both off and, in the case of March Madness, on the court.