The 10 part docu-series 'The Last Dance' couldn't have aired at a better time. Having no live sport to watch and exceeding my quarantine-limit of sporting reruns, I found myself gripped to each and every episode.
Following the rise of Michael Jordan and the six-time NBA winning Chicago Bulls, I learnt a huge amount about the story behind the success. Dubbed as one of, if not the greatest dynasties to have graced the NBA, it was fascinating to observe as the team rose to prominence.
All of their success however, wasn't without controversy, hardship, and sacrifice. Watching behind the scenes of the team's final season together in 1997-98, you begin to appreciate there's a lot more than raw talent (of which they had an abundance) explaining why they were so dominant.
Whilst a lot of the championship-winning players (including Jordan and Pippen) were already at the Bulls when Phil Jackson took the helm as head coach, over the next 9 seasons they maintained a 70.4% winning record (the third-best ever) and went on to repeat the three-peat.
Aside from the stats, the documentary demonstrates Jackson's leadership qualities which empowered him to get the most out of the squad and sustain their on-court performance.
Drawing from this Forbes article, I have shared below a few of those qualities Jackson, referenced as the 'Zen Master', exhibited making him so successful as a coach:
- Build strong connections with your team - this means not treating everyone equally, but understanding your team members on a personal level. Having strong ties to each player individually will make them want to be a part of the collective. Also, it will give you a nuanced understanding of how/ where to intervene with each individual to help them develop and perform better.
- Keep the team balanced - players need to respect each individual and their contribution to the collective goal. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts - to this end it may be necessary to discipline team members who disrupt the balance, or indeed facilitate an environment wherein specific 1-1 relationships can improve.
- Don't let distractions affect performance - make sure that your team has everything they need to perform on game day. Do not let external distractions influence your team when they need to be focused and 'in the moment'.
- Maintain team unity - be open and honest; ensure you maintain trust by candidly approaching sensitive news which might come as a surprise to your team or otherwise be leaked; address big issues head-on as a collective; finally, leverage external negatives to rally and band the team together.