For sports fans like me, October is a dream month. The pro basketball and hockey seasons are getting started, the NFL rivalries are heating up, and the long race to the World Series is nearing its first exciting pitch. If you're planning to catch up on your favorite teams this weekend but feeling like you should be catching up on work, take heart. Watching sports can provide a positive distraction from work stress, give you fodder for conversation with colleagues and clients, and help you feel more connected to a community. I have season tickets for the pro hockey and basketball teams in my hometown of Toronto for these reasons. But there are others, including the lessons I learn about building effective teams in business. Watching sports can up your leadership game.

1. Recruit for your team's needs (not yours)

One of the most iconic teams ever is the 1990s Chicago Bulls. Of course, sports fans will remember the greats: Michael Jordan, followed by Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. The Bulls' success came not just from the caliber of these players, but the way they balanced one another on the court. Nearly fifteen years after the team's reign, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf remembered the 1993-94 squad as his favorite team ever, and explained: "Michael couldn't have done it by himself...It took Scottie to put us over the top those six times." It went beyond Pippen. The strength and depth of Bulls' supporting cast was essential to their success.

Companies would be wise to adopt a similar approach. So often, our instinct when hiring is to look exclusively for superstars - the showmen and women who can bring in the most revenue or achieve the highest numbers possible. In doing so, we end up creating a team of people who share the same strengths, which often leads to redundancy, butting heads and a lack of efficiency.

I've learned that my hiring is so much more effective when I base my decisions on what the team needs to be successful, rather than who the most impressive candidate is on paper. It's all about creating balance and laying the groundwork for positive collaboration. Just look at professional sports drafts. If an NFL team has an elite quarterback but weak defense, they will usually focus on drafting players who can perform defensively - even if it means passing on a future star quarterback.

2. Develop and appreciate your bench players.

Across professional sports, bench players are critical to a team's success. Part of this is about having people who can come in during high-pressure situations and perform. But the other reason the bench is so important is that it keeps starters and stars on their toes. Bench players are hungry; they are ready and eager to fight for more minutes on the court. Their presence motivates star players to stay as sharp as possible and avoid growing complacent, because someone else is ready and eager to step in.

Jack Welch, the former Chairman and CEO of General Electric whom I've long admired, has often argued that employees should be differentiated by performance. You have the top 20 percent, the middle 70 percent and the bottom 10 percent. The 10 percent either need to be managed out or up, and everyone should else have a clear understanding of where he or she stands.

While it's smart business to reward and celebrate the top 20 percent, it's equally if not more important to focus your attention on the middle 70. These are your worker bees - the technical specialists who come in every day and get the job done. Your bench. Just like star athletes need a strong supporting cast and hungry bench players to keep them sharp, elite employees and successful brands depend on the middle 70 percent to enable their performance at the highest level possible.

3. Lead like your favorite coach.

There's a range of opinion regarding how important a manager or coach is to the success of a team. My opinion? Very. Looking at the 1990s Bulls, so much of the success came from Phil Jackson's ability to create and maintain a winning culture. Led by Jackson, the team's passion and desire to win was unstoppable, and everyone knew their role. He created a clear culture of excellence and stoked in his players the expectation to win. 

In the workplace, it's on founders, CEOs and company leaders to foster environments where their teams can clearly see their role within the team and push themselves to deliver. I see my role like that of a coach -- creating a playing field where my employees are both inspired and empowered to go out and perform. I strive to emulate the culture of winning and excellence that Jackson was able to cultivate during his banner years with the Bulls, while I work to ignite that spark of inspired leadership in my company's next generation of stars.

So, as you watch your favorite sports teams compete on the court, the rink, or the field this weekend, spend some extra time noticing the dynamics that help fuel the winners' success. It's my bet that you'll learn something new that can be applied to your business or career, every time you tune in. Win-win.

Published on: Oct 13, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.