September 19, 2020

What Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs have in common.

Deep into the fourth quarter, the Lakers had deciphered the code on how to stop Michael Jordan’s domination. Along with it, they were able to take the lead in the final minutes of the series. With the game on the line, Jordan made a final drive down the court. Instead of driving to the basket, he smashed into the brick wall of his towering opponents. Jordan drew the double team. They thought they had shut the Bulls down. But as his defenders were closing in around him, Jordan willed the ball to his open teammate. Left open, he took the shot. The ball went up, the ball went in. Jordan got the assist and the glory. The Bulls took the lead and eventually the game, making Jordan a champion for the first time.

What may have seemed like a heads up play from MJ, was actually the result of excellent coaching.

Though Jordan was by far the best player on the basketball court, he wasn't the player that secured the points that made the Bulls NBA champions. Scoring double digits in the last quarter of the game, including the go ahead bucket, was a player named John Paxson. While he didn’t lead the team in points, his involvement was designed and executed perfectly, and the result was the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Coaching made the difference between winning and losing that game. Michael Jordan had a coach who was able to see outside of MJ’s point of view and design a framework that catapulted him and the Bulls into a dynasty.

Phil Jackson, the Bulls head coach said:

With the championship in our sights, Michael was reverting to his old habit of trying to win games by himself. So I called a timeout and gathered the team together. Who’s open, MJ? I asked looking directly into Michael’s eyes. He didn’t answer. So I asked again. Who’s open? “Paxson,” he replied. OK, so get him the damn ball.

Jordan, the best player in the game, on either team, was shortsighted. He wasn’t able to see outside of his singular goal of winning the championship to get the ball in the hoop. He was going to risk it all because he was trying to do too much. Phil Jackson coached Michael very clearly on how to win in a very actionable way. Although Jordan knew what to do, he wasn’t able to accomplish it without proper coaching.

You need a coach too.

Having a business coach is very similar to having a sports coach. Jackson wasn't a better basketball player than Jordan, but he was able to put the greatest player of all time in a framework that took him to the next level. The same goes for helping business people.

Bill Campbell did what Jackson did for Jordan, but for Steve Jobs and Google’s Larry Page. Campbell wasn’t a visionary like Jobs, and couldn’t write computer code like Page, but he was able to help Jobs and Page communicate better, prioritize their time and lead better. His frameworks led to Campbell being called the “Trillion Dollar Coach.”

Campbell taught Jobs how to work within frameworks optimizing communication, trust and caring about employees. Campbell helped Larry Page catapult Google into more than just a search engine, and now Google has started teaching his principles to emerging leaders in their company. Through weekly meetings, Campbell took his clients through his framework, and the result was helping the greatest minds in Silicon Valley function within a system that made them much more successful.

So, the question is, who is going to be your coach?

Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs—the greatest ever at their respective crafts—leaned on a coach to help guide them from success to greatness. For Jordan, Jackson took him from losing in the first round of the playoffs to six NBA titles. For Jobs, Campbell took him from being ousted at Apple to launching the iPod.

Make sure there is someone in your life who can help you get to your next level. It worked for Michael and Steve. It can work for you too.

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