We Can Do Better Than “Win or Go Home”

By Mike Bonem

BasketballThis is the third of several blogs inspired by NCAA basketball’s “March Madness” championship tournament.

As described in my previous blog, a few basketball players will become instant heroes when they hit a winning shot during March madness. But for every one person who makes the highlight reel, there will be several who walk off the court with their heads hung in despair. They’re the ones who miss a key free throw or make a bad pass or just have a bad game. And because of that, they feel that the team’s loss rests on their shoulders.

One of the oft repeated sayings during March madness is “win or go home.” It refers to the reality that this is a single elimination tournament. When a team loses, they’re eliminated from the tournament and their season is over. For most of the seniors on the team, it will be the end of their basketball careers.

As a leader, how do you respond to “losing a game”? When you put your energy into a major initiative and it doesn’t go well, how do you feel? When you push for an important decision and the board doesn’t support you, how do you handle the rejection? Do you treat these setbacks as if you’re solely responsible and as career-defining?

If your son or daughter was one of the basketball players whose team had just been defeated, what would you say to him or her? You’d probably point out that they weren’t solely responsible for the loss; that others also made mistakes. You’d eventually remind him or her that this chapter might be ending (as a college basketball player) but that God still has great plans for the future. Let me encourage you to apply the same advice to yourself. A Christian leader should never view their journey as “win or go home.” God is still in the business of redeeming mistakes and giving second chances. So work your hardest to win, but don’t give up and go home when you experience a defeat.

Mike Bonem

Mike Bonem

Mike Bonem is an author, consultant, speaker, church leader, businessman, husband and father. He loves to help ministries and their leaders grow in effectiveness to reach their God-given potential. He is the author or co-author of three Leadership Network books: In Pursuit of Great and Godly Leadership, Leading from the Second Chair, and Leading Congregational Change. In his consulting, Mike works with congregations, denominational bodies, and other ministries to discern God’s vision, initiate healthy change, translate vision into results, and build high-performing teams. He has spoken across the country and internationally on topics related to ministry leadership and congregational effectiveness.

Mike has a breadth of experience in ministry and business. He served for 11 years on a church staff as executive pastor.  His business endeavors have included consulting as a senior manager with McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s leading management consulting firms, and senior leadership roles in two environmental service companies. Mike obtained his M.B.A. degree, with distinction, from Harvard Business School, after having obtained a B.S. degree in chemical engineering from Rice University. Mike and his wife Bonnie have been married for almost 30 years and have four children.