The No. 7 seed Gamecocks have achieved upset after upset in the NCAA tournament--achieving stunning wins against No. 2 seed Duke, No. 3 seek Baylor and No. 4 seed Florida. And sports writers have been quick to cite key strengths that brought the South Carolina men's basketball team this far, including hard work, commitment (and a bruising defense).
But the real secret weapon of the upstart team? Constant communication, according to Head Coach Frank Martin.
"I say this to my staff all the time," says Mr. Martin. "If we don't speak to our players every day, about everything that matters, someone else will."
Mr. Martin understands what many leaders don't: There's so much information available to team members that it can distract them from what's really important.
"Especially in today's day and age of social media. . . we have to make we articulate what we need from (players) every single day," the coach adds.
How can you adopt Frank Martin's advice to make your own team successful? Three ways:
1. Communicate constantly. Leaders and managers often let too much time go by without communicating. You may not need daily communication, like the Gamecocks, but you do need to share information at least weekly.
2. Be consistent. After Sunday's victory over Florida, Mr. Martin talked about how he and his staff have stayed on message all year. "You have to work toward getting better every day, not getting wrapped up on good and bad and losses and wins. I've never changed my mind-set. It's been my mind-set from Day One."
3. Stay positive. Mr. Martin doesn't believe in playing the blame game. When the team was struggling a bit in late January, early February, he used a tug-of-war metaphor to encourage his players."
In tug of war, "You have two groups of people, and they're both pulling in opposite directions. If one person on one side lets go of the rope, it's bad. So we started saying, we're in a difficult moment right now, hold on to that rope, don't let that rope go . . . It doesn't mean we're going to win, but they don't give in to a difficult moment. They don't throw in the towel."
How effective is Mr. Martin's secret weapon? Despite the odds, South Carolina will be playing next Sunday in the Final Four.
Imagine what your team can achieve when you communicate more effectively.