What Michael Jordan's Relentless Drive Can Teach Us About Working Through a Crisis
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I am a strong believer in fundamentals. Not only do I appreciate fundamentals in sports, but believe that strong fundamentals and a strong foundation are essential in business and of course, in life.
Like many of you, I watched the Last Dance a few months ago. While everyone has their favorite episode, mine was Episode 4. I am always curious about a champion’s backstory. What was the catalyst that made them great? Did they have any barriers? If so, how did they break through to not only achieve success but sustain it?
Since I am a growth strategy and execution business advisor, I am always looking for principles and ways to help my clients. While watching episode 4 of Last Dance, I learned that some of what that Chicago Bulls team and organization did internally and externally to lead them to multiple championships and a dynasty are what CEOs, executive teams, business owners, and entrepreneurs can do now in the time of Covid and beyond to both achieve and sustain success.
Principle 1: Everyone on the team had to bounce back quickly
Episode 4 shows the Chicago Bulls losing to the Detroit Pistons…again. Despite their successes, they were not yet able to get over the hump. What I found wonderful while watching this episode is that although it was a close game and they did not have Scottie Pippin at 100% because he got a migraine, no one blamed the loss on Scottie or the refs or any other outside circumstance.
Instead, while they were devastated, they went back to the gym the next day. No one took vacations or long time off with family as is the norm for most players at the end of their season. Instead, they went right back to work. They knew they still had goals to achieve and did not want to waste any time ruminating over the problem. Instead, they decided to bounce back quickly and focused on what needed to be done to successfully move forward.
During Covid and in business in general, this is a principle in which we can all learn. Since it has been a few months, many companies have taken the time to bounce back. But for many others, turning around and getting back on track has still been a struggle. Motivating employees and managing external social unrest has been challenging. However, to succeed during these turbulent times and beyond, from the CEO or business owner down, you must bounce back quickly.
Principle 2: Everyone on the team had to improve fundamentals and change their mindset
The Chicago Bulls, when they were defeated by the Detroit Pistons, were not as a team, fundamentally sound. They were successful because they had talent. However, at the time, Michael Jordan dominated scoring and as a result, oftentimes left his teammates out or did not allow them to reach their full potential. He was against the triangle offense, which he felt would "take the ball out of his hands."
When we are riding high and are winning or achieving a level of success (for many companies pre-Covid), it is sometimes hard to swallow that in order to ‘get to the next level’ or whether the storms, it is critical to take an evaluation of your existing foundation to see if there are any holes or gaps that need to closed or improved upon, to be able to achieve your goals and thrive going forward.
The Chicago Bulls did this and ended up setting the foundation for their future success. Michael Jordan changed by learning the triangle offense and sharing the ball. Scottie Pippen changed and started to step up while using his gifts and talents that were underutilized when Michael Jordan had the ball the majority of the time. Jerry Krause made the decision to put Phil Jackson in charge, even though the former coach got the team to the finals. Everyone had to change.
What about you and your business? Has this time of Covid and planning for the future caused you to take a look at your role, how your business has been running, your executive team, strategy, strategic plan, processes, product and service offerings, customers, technology, etc.? Are there fundamental things that need to be changed to achieve long-term, sustainable success?
Principle 3: Everyone on the team had to get stronger
One other area I thought was great in this episode was that in order to win, EVERYONE on the team had to get stronger. Michael Jordan got stronger by lifting weights and adding more muscle to not only bulk up, but to put himself in a better position to be able to successfully defend himself physically against the Pistons. Horace Grant had to learn how to not lose his cool, get distracted, start complaining to the refs, or getting into fights, which only took him off of his game. Scottie Pippin had to learn to stop whining and complaining and getting thrown off his game as well. During the episode, Scottie Pippen got a ‘hard foul’. When he didn’t respond and instead, kept going, his opposition knew they lost their power, and that it was time for them to step aside to the new champions…The Chicago Bulls.
Companies today can learn from this as well. Where can you as a leader, executive, employee, business owner, or entrepreneur get stronger? What are some of the cracks in your foundation, individually and/or as a company, that you saw during this time that revealed areas that need to be worked on or fixed to make you and your organization strong enough to move forward? This is where focus and strengthening everyone will lead you to sustained success.
Principle 4: Everyone on the team had to believe
This principle was not explicitly mentioned in this episode. However, I saw this as the underlying factor to the Chicago Bulls not only winning their first championship but setting them up to overcome any future obstacles in their way. They had to believe. They had to believe they could win. They had to believe they could overcome the hurdles of adversity. They had to believe they could beat their opposition. They had to believe they could change and not only achieve the highest level of success but sustain it.
As a business owner or CEO, you have to believe it too. Many of you are leaders because you have this belief and resilience gene. However, sometimes internal and external forces can feel overwhelming and exhausting. This is the time to shore up your belief system in yourself, your employees, your company, and society as a whole. It’s the only way to win in this time of Covid, and beyond.
To overcome during this time of Covid, you and your company need to be able to bounce back quickly, improve your fundamentals, change your mindset, get stronger, and believe. It’s the only way to win and be not only a champion but a repeat one.