This year's fourth NBA championship for the Chicago Bulls had my hometown going wild. I'm a fan of this great team for many reasons, not all of which relate to what the players do on the court.
The management style of the bearded guru of the Bulls, Phil Jackson, offers many valuable insights to healthcare executives. To learn more about this hardwood warrior, I recommend a little summer reading: Sacred Hoops, co-authored by Jackson and Jack Delehanty.
If you haven't had an opportunity to read the spiritual lessons in this book, I think you should call your local bookstore and order copies for yourself and members of your management team. The wisdom in this book can help heal the wounds of reorganization, infuse meaning into the mission and build team cohesion.
Every time I see the colorful Dennis Rodman strut onto the court and become a rebounding maniac, I ponder the challenges Jackson must face as a coach of so many talented, yet willful, players. Prior to reading the book, I concluded he must be an intimidating drill sergeant with the command of a general. (I thought this despite the fact that he doesn't rant and rave along the sidelines, as many coaches do. To the contrary, he frequently sits, his face and motion betraying little emotion.)
Jackson, the son of Pentecostal ministers, began studying teachings of Zen Buddhism years ago. He meditates regularly. He's centered.
Those who believe sacred cows make the best hamburgers are often unenthusiastic about Eastern religions. Relax. Without evangelical fervor, Jackson delivers the same lessons I learned from parables and teachings of another great leader of a team of 12. When you read the philosophy of this coach, delivered with sincerity and gentle persuasion, you develop a respect for his humane leadership and spiritual wisdom.
A team that prays together stays together. Phil Jackson frequently leads the team in the Lord's Prayer. He encourages visualization to help his players develop their potential as athletes and human beings. He is unabashed in his declaration that love is the conquering force. He speaks of compassion for self, team and opponents with reverence and sincerity.
Is it a mere coincidence that a recent Time magazine cover story was titled "Faith and Healing," and Bob Woodward's new book, The Choice, reveals that first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has consulted with spiritual advisers to gain insight and wisdom from Eleanor Roosevelt and Mohandas K. Gandhi? What is going on here?
Can prayer, faith and spirituality help you manage change? Don't go chasing this fad unless you sincerely believe it. These tumultuous times, characterized by the erosion of trust, relationship, loyalty and spirit, are begging for authentic leadership and a vision for creating meaning, purpose and community in the workplace.
Tempting though it may be to address the inexhaustible wonders of faith and healing, your first course in miracles should be devoted to creating a compassionate community that will elevate spirits and deepen the soul's satisfaction.
Everyone's embracing the concept of community these days, but you're hugging thin air if you don't secure the foundation of the future vision on your own turf. Organizational community is rooted in authentic values that resonate with the individual values held by the members. It's time to test the faith and belief in the dogma. If you're not doing so, engage everyone in discussion about the values, what they mean and how these will help achieve your and their goals.
"Love is the force that ignites the spirit and bonds teams together," Jackson writes in Sacred Hoops. The pulse of a healthcare business beats entirely on the energy of the heart. Compassion is the core ingredient. From this deep well springs the service that creates satisfied patients and the satisfaction that fills the reservoirs of those who deliver that service. Speak from the heart, demonstrate loving concern and don't sit on the sidelines with your strategy consultants and financial accountants. Get out there, be a missionary, confirm that the mission of this business is to compassionately serve. It's what people want to hear and feel.
Be a prophet as well. Profit is not a bad word. For-profit providers have been much more authentic about fiscal responsibility. Conversely, many employees at not-for-profits seem to think their organizations have a social responsibility to lose money.
Community is forged through commitment between people. Jackson says a player's first loyalty must be to the team, not to the coach, the Bulls organization or the NBA. As loyalty is quickly becoming the detritus of the 21st century, seeking to bind commitment of people through mission is good advice for any team.
Helping employees get in touch with the intrinsic joy of their work builds community while also motivating performance and personal fulfillment. On this score, you may think that a basketball coach has a much easier challenge than you do. Yet why should the intrinsic joy that can be experienced while caring for life, as we do in healthcare, be that much more difficult to inspire?
The axiom "the power of `we' is stronger than the power of `me'*" holds that the ultimate measure of a player is not how many points he scored but how he lifted the team's performance. The principle of "selflessness" is Jackson's tool for empowering all his players. Ponder that for a moment. If Jackson can get a gifted artist like Michael Jordan to put aside ego and think of the team, the same potential exists for you to transform the stubborn surgeon, gifted nurse manager or willful member of your management team who's getting in the way of team performance and creative problem-solving.
Awareness is the seed of compassion. The practice of meditation helps Bulls players to empty their minds of judgmental thoughts that get in the way of compassion, focus and intuition. Jackson wants players to "see and do," not "think and decide," on the court. Thinking gets in the way of spontaneous reaction and creativity on the court. It can sometimes get in the way of our performance as well.
The message here is that there are two worlds that need to be integrated: One is ruled by the mind and reason; the other we feel with our hearts and imagination. It's a powerful combination, especially in healthcare where we must build a sacred trust with employees, patients, physicians and customers. Most of these people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. This is not touchy-feely stuff. It's essential human understanding on which strategy should be built.
Although he acknowledges the importance of strategy and competence, Jackson believes compassion for each other is the single most important factor in the team's sustained excellence.
Writing this article is made easier by the fact that the Bulls won the championship. But had the outcome been different, I would have written it anyway. Jackson understands the cycles of change and the truth of transience. Nothing endures forever: not championships, health, market share, youth, loyalty, happiness, security or suffering.
Nothing endures forever except, perhaps, the wisdom that my mother used to bandage my bruised ego and shattered dreams when I suffered a defeat as a child: "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." That's how Jackson sees basketball.
The Bulls charge on the court to win-competition is the nature of any team sport-but when it comes right down to it, the players are just doing their jobs. It's a game.
Perhaps if we cared less about winning and more about playing the game to reflect our innermost values and those we know will inspire our team's best performance, we would be endowed with home-court advantage.
The way I see it, if you combine the wit of the cartoon character Dilbert with the wisdom of Peter Drucker and Jackson's philosophy, you have a potent formula for managing, and winning, in these times of change.