In today’s podcast, avid readers Govindh Jayaraman, entrepreneur and host of Paper Napkin Wisdom, and James Ashcroft, entrepreneur and mentor at EO Accelerator Meetings, discuss Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson, legendary winning coach of the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers.
Though neither is particularly a basketball fan, both loved the book and highly recommend it. They recognize that “eleven rings” refer less about championship rings and more about a bond between players; it’s a circle of love that gets amazing results. Both feel that the book’s honest style and the lessons garnered can directly apply to personal and professional life, lessons in leadership for any team endeavor.
Key inspirational themes they found in Eleven Rings:
- Lead from the inside out. Phil Jackson took athletes with tremendous talent and egos and provided a structure so they could be creative, while creating a bond, a recipe for team success. Jackson helped his players grow individually and grow together into something bigger than themselves, which could be a story about any management culture.
- Find the joy in your work. Phil Jackson, they said, “clearly has a joy. It’s inspirational that someone finds the river of joy within themselves, to say, what I’m best at, what my calling is, to extract the best from these young men in a team environment. That congruence is extremely powerful.”
- Delegate authority as much as possible. Jackson felt that was the most effective approach to build everyone’s leadership skills, unity, and help others to grow. He created space for his teams to figure it out, and didn’t make a lot of calls from the bench. He trusted them and didn’t claim to always have the right answer. As Michael Jordan said, the “team’s collective think power” was their hallmark of success. Obsessing about winning is a losers’ game. Create the best possible conditions for success and let go of the outcome.
- Turn the mundane into the sacred. Jackson thought teaching spirituality to his men was the biggest part of the job. The lesson for Govindh and James? “When we commit higher sense of self, self-discipline, collective discipline, we can achieve way, way more.”
- Lead with compassion. Phil Jackson bent his style to the individual player (think of Dennis Rodman). Practices were sacred ground where players could just be themselves. Jackson’s goal as a coach was to foster an environment where the players could grow as individuals and express themselves creatively within a team structure. Govindh and James agree, “whether it’s a coach, leader, father, husband, friend, don’t we want to achieve that with and for each other?”
- Among other explorations, Jackson used music to help his teams and had them coordinate their actions in 4/4 time. The team synchronized, each attuned to the hidden language they had, playing together. Beat by beat they harmonized with each other. Jovindh and James see this as the learning for companies: “If they fall out of stride, out of rhythm it’s a big issue for a company’s leaders. There is rhythm, harmony we need to maintain within the organization. When we break it, nobody knows where to be.” If the tempo is dragging or the players out of key, the music becomes noise. “Music and rhythm and momentum, the energy that it takes for a sports team or business to continue and work together and bring as many people into that ecosystem as you can, that is success.”