Hoops Management Lessons
Terry Braverman and Company

Hoops Management Lessons

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Basketball is an action sport, and most people involved in it are high-energy individuals who love to do something — anything — to solve problems.” - Phil Jackson




The business of coaching requires a fine sense of balance, between allowing full input and actions from all parties involved, while maintaining authority. Over a stretch of 25 years I have served as a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant to offer objective, if unconventional, ways to resolve thorny issues in the workplace. The potential problem with companies resorting to the option of outside consultants is becoming too dependent on them for solutions, which does not empower staff in the long run, or assigning blame to the consultant if follow-through falters. This is not to discount the value of intervention from a professional who can keenly see from a broader purview over the abyss of a problem-plagued workplace.


The objective of any consultant, IMHO, is to provide insights, skills, and a framework to staff so they can discover and resolve issues on their own accord, and then help staff refine the approach with periodic coaching.


Eleven time champion/basketball coach Phil Jackson often let his teams work out dysfunctional play on the court during a game, foregoing time outs to enhance confidence in problem-solving on the fly. This may have lost a few games for the team in the regular season, but the learning, growing, and faith that came from working it out themselves served the team well in the long haul leading to crucial playoff situations.


The “Zen Master,” as he was famously known, gave players the latitude to express themselves, but when deemed necessary “to wake players up and raise their level of consciousness,” he employed “tricks” designed to teach his players how to react to unplanned and uncontrollable events: “Once I had the team practice in silence; on another occasion I made them scrimmage with the lights out. I like to shake things up and keep the players guessing. Not because I want to make their lives miserable, but because I want to prepare them for the inevitable chaos that occurs the minute they step onto a basketball court.”


“Some coaches insist on having the last word, but I always tried to foster an environment in which everyone played a leadership role — from the most unschooled rookie to the veteran superstar. If your primary objective is to bring the team into a state of harmony and oneness, it doesn’t make sense for you to rigidly impose your authority.” Jackson says he came to this conclusion after trial-and-error with imposing his will. He realized he needed “to dial back my ego and distribute power as widely as possible without surrendering final authority.”


As a coach, he also discovered that “when I had the players sit in silence, breathing together in sync, it helped align them on a nonverbal level far more effectively than words. One breath equals one mind.” Through rituals and techniques, he created mindfulness for his teams so they could better connect with one another, preparing them for the teamwork needed on the court.


“When you lead from the outside-in,” Jackson says, “you may have short-term success, but it can’t last. No one wants to be repeatedly ‘brow-beaten’… as time went by, I discovered that the more I spoke from the heart, the more players could hear me and benefit from what I gleaned.”


Jackson was not beyond yelling at players when they lost focus on the court, nor the occasional sarcasm for motivational prodding. But commentary was well-measured and tailored to the thickness of the player’s skin. Taking someone aside for words of encouragement was usually the therapy of choice. He said, “Compassion is not a word often bandied about in locker rooms. But I’ve found that a few kind, thoughtful words can have a strong transformative effect on relationships, even with the toughest men in the room.”



This is the 15 minute power nap they raved about in the last time-management course you sent me to.


I was meditating on the mission statement and envisioning a new paradigm.


I wasn't sleeping. I was trying to pick up a contact lens without my hands.


They told me at the blood bank that this might happen.


Someone put decaf in the wrong pot.


I left the top off of the Liquid Paper.  








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