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Broad College of Business Building Winning Teams combines business with athletics

By Terri Hughes-Lazzell

It took only the first year of the collaboration between Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics in the Building Winning Teams program for professors to see that the concepts they introduce in the program are not only readily adapted to business, but also to athletics.

The application of these concepts by head coaches, like men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo, helps executives attending the program to think more creatively about their roles within their own company, said Cynthia Devers, associate professor of management at the Broad College.

Devers said key concepts are introduced in the classroom, such as recruiting top talent; designing, motivating, and managing teams; and building and maintaining a strong culture. Then the coaches put their stamp on the process and help the executives to see how they utilize these ideas when building their own winning athletic teams.

“The program is very hands on and practical. Our goal is to help our participants to develop a framework they can use to better understand and manage the challenges and opportunities they encounter in their firms,” Devers said.

Culture is something that many of the coaches talk about when building their own winning teams. For example, Suzy Merchant, head women’s basketball coach, emphasizes that building a winning team starts with building a culture—and hers is based on honesty, integrity, and being a good person—core values that she demonstrates to her team.

Since a team, athletic or corporate, learns its operating style from its leader, this is integral, Merchant said.

“This program helps executives to hone their skills in a fun, interesting, and unique exchange with our faculty and coaches. This learning experience is very distinctive,” Devers added.

Program participants will learn critical skills related to:
•    Building a strong team structure and culture
•    Selecting and recruiting top talent
•    Making effective strategic and tactical decisions
•    Managing conflict and promoting perceptions of fairness
•    Bringing about change and team development

Merchant and Izzo will present, along with colleague MSU head coaches Tom Anastos, hockey; Jake Boss, baseball; Cathy George, volleyball; and Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, women’s golf; Mark Hollis, athletic director; and Robert Skandalaris, MSU alumnus and keynote speaker. They will be joined by Broad College award-winning faculty Devers; Don Conlon, professor of management; Crystal Farh, assistant professor of management; John Hollenbeck, University Distinguished Professor and professor of management; and Gerry McNamara, professor of management. The Building Winning Teams annual program is June 2–4.

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