Phil Jackson, triangle offense, and teamwork

In a world where all consumers are journalists, selfie photographs are the rage, and self-promotion reigns supreme, has the concept behind teamwork lost its way in American culture?

In a world where all consumers are journalists, selfie photographs are the rage, and self-promotion reigns supreme, has the concept behind teamwork lost its way in American culture?

It certainly feels that way to me, so I was quite enthused last week to hear Phil Jackson finally announce he’ll lead the front office of the New York Knicks. It’s not that I’m a die-hard Knicks fan. I simply admire Phil Jackson’s take on leadership and teamwork.

Some would argue that he’s only led teams with superstars. Others might counter that he’s the greatest professional coach in the history of the sport, earning 11 NBA with six titles for the Chicago Bulls and five for Los Angeles Lakers, respectively.

After reading Jackson’s Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, I have even more respect for his philosophy on teamwork, titles aside. His combination of Zen Buddhism, Native American tribal influences, and old-school triangle offense come together to make for a truly selfless style of teamwork. The world’s greatest basketball player, Michael Jordan, said the Chicago Bulls’ performance was elevated when he adhered to Jackson’s triangle offense and became a more selfless player, even when it meant allowing teammates to score winning baskets.

Maybe I’m in a basketball state of mind as the fun and frenzy of March Madness unfolds. Yet, I believe shining the spotlight on teamwork is a great thing when I see the concept losing currency against endless self-branding fueled through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the entire social media verse. Kim Kardashian landed the cover of Vogue magazine, minus any true merit earned in fashion or entertainment, yet she has mastered the skill of self-promotion. What lesson does that teach younger PR professionals just entering our industry?

Another key lesson I’ve taken from Jackson’s leadership style is that teamwork shouldn’t come at the cost of sacrificing one’s individuality, however. Phil Jackson listens and learns from his team. He uncovers what inspires each player and uses what he learns to motivate players individually. Jackson never stifled Dennis Rodman’s quirky behavior or Shaquille O’Neal’s youthful, kid-like playfulness. Instead, he harnessed each special talent and created a trusting culture where everyone came together as a "tribe." Moving and acting as one team on the floor, while honoring the personality and spirit of each player.

I’m excited to see what lies ahead for the New York Knicks, and I can’t wait to watch Phil Jackson in his new role. I hope to glean more inspiration and tips from the "Zen Master" as he embarks on his new journey.  

Stephanie Fogle is MD of the consumer and lifestyle practice at Kwittken + Company.

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