Developing Teamwork Using The Philosophy Of Phil Jackson

On a recent episode of “Bones” Dr. Temperance Brennan, played by Emily Deschanel, became intrigued by a book from Phil Jackson that outlined his management philosophy and style. As a result she pulled her team of interns together to work on an unsolved, cold-case murder. This murder occurred over 10 years ago and it seemed an impossible task to solve it now. Using the legendary basketball coach’s philosophy she challenged her team to take a look at solving the mystery through fresh eyes. This caused the interns to come together as a team, put aside egos and solve the mystery proving to them that when they pulled together as a team they could accomplish the impossible. An excellent object lesson for all of us trying to develop strong teams.

That’s When The Light Bulb Went Off

This started me thinking about teamwork and how it can energize an organization or doom it to repeated failure. Can we as business owners and leaders learn anything from a basketball coach? As organizational development consultants we at Intesi! Resources are always helping our customers tackle the issue of building, fostering and sustaining effective teamwork. We, as consultants, are always looking for knowledge and inspiration. How about you? One often used tool is our Everything DiSC Work of Leaders. This assessment helps individuals discover and work from their leadership strengths by focusing on developing preferred behaviors that are based on best practices, and tangible steps directed at leading a group or organization toward desired outcomes. The results of an individual Everything DiSC Work of Leaders approaches leadership as a one-to-many relationship, as opposed to the one-to-one relationship of management. It focuses on tangible steps directed at leading a group or organization toward desired outcomes.

What Can We As Business Leaders & Owners Can Learn From Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson has demonstrated throughout his long and successful career an innate ability to structure winning teams and understand the abilities and contributions of all the members of his teams. You can’t argue with success, so let’s take a look at Phil Jackson in an attempt to glean some nuggets of wisdom.

Phil Jackson – From Wikipedia

Phil JacksonPhilip Douglas “Phil” Jackson (born September 17, 1945) is a retired American professional basketball coach and former player. Jackson is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1989 until 1998, during which Chicago won six NBA titles. His next team, the Los Angeles Lakers, won five NBA titles from 2000 until 2010. In total, Jackson has won 11 NBA titles as a coach, surpassing the previous record of nine set by Red Auerbach. He holds the record for the most championships in NBA history as a player and a head coach, after breaking the tie with Bill Russell when the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2009 NBA Finals. He also has the highest winning percentage of any NBA coach (.704). Jackson was a player on the 1970 and 1973 NBA champion New York Knicks. Jackson is known for his use of Tex Winter’s triangle offense as well as a holistic approach to coaching that is influenced by Eastern philosophy, earning him the nickname “Zen Master”. Jackson cites Robert Pirsig’s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as one of the major guiding forces in his life. He also applies Native American spiritual practices as documented in his book Sacred Hoops. He is the author of several candid books about his teams and his basketball strategies. Jackson is also a recipient of the state of North Dakota’s Roughrider Award. In 2007 Jackson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1996, as part of celebrations for the National Basketball Association’s 50th anniversary, Jackson was named one of the 10 greatest coaches in league history. Jackson’s greatest strength is his ability to create strong culture, leadership and group harmony/chemistry. Because of this the talent he has had at his disposal (Jordan, Pippen, Shaq, Bryant), and the famous “Triangle Offense” system have combined to produce 10 NBA Championships.

Two quotes that sum things up nicely:

“He’s absolutely brilliant in bringing a group together to accomplish one common goal” – Kobe Bryant

“Jackson was the student, with Winter teaching him over the years during film sessions, organizing his practices, explaining all the details. Jackson soaked it all up, and then provided that special touch of genius that Winter lacked — a masterful ability at team dynamics and group building. Winter often said the triangle would never have gone far in the NBA without Jackson’s ability to elevate it to relevance and sell it to the players, especially superstars such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.” – Roland Lazenby

Take home message from Phil Jackson’s coaching – number one priority in coaching is to create a strong culture by developing such things as leadership, empowerment, communication, care for others, relationships, trust, and motivation.From:

Some Memorable Phil Jackson Quotes:

“The strength of the team is each individual member…..the strength of each member is the team.”

“In basketball — as in life — true joy comes from being fully present in each and every moment, not just when things are going your way.”

“Like life, basketball is messy and unpredictable. It has its way with you, no matter how hard you try to control it. The trick is to experience each moment with a clear mind and open heart. When you do that, the game–and life–will take care of itself.”

“Once you’ve done the mental work, there comes a point you have to throw yourself into the action and put your heart on the line. That means not only being brave, but being compassionate towards yourself, your teammates and your opponents.”

“Love is the force that ignites the spirit and binds teams together.”

In Conclusion

It’s unreasonable to think we can all become Phil Jackson just by studying his management philosophies….but there are definitely lessons to be learned. In business we need to use all the tools available to create success and also help those we manage succeed.

Additional Reading about Phil Jackson:

The Power of Selflessness and an Empty Mind: Phil Jackson’s Coaching Philosophy

‘Very spiritual, very intellectual’ Jackson a heady head coach

7 Leadership Lessons From Phil Jackson’s Coaching Career


Co-owner/Co-founder of Intesi! Resources. Educated as an architect I transitioned to technology during my career in architecture. Intesi! Resources was founded in 2004 and my focus is everything Web/eCommerce related from the design and development of our site to all the marketing activities involved. I also provide significant support for our clients on all our products and how they are used to deliver assessment-driven learning solutions that develop self-awareness and interpersonal skills.

16 thoughts on “Developing Teamwork Using The Philosophy Of Phil Jackson

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  6. Helen

    I am willing to bet that the son of the Jack Buss (owner of the Los Angeles Lakers) is regretting his decision not to rehire Phll Jackson right about now. The Lakers lost another home game on this Sunday to the Orlando Magic – former team of their newly acquired center, Dwight Howard. Then again, it is probably the son’s owner who needs to have his own light bulb go off.

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  8. Grace

    Despite the fact that I am a die hard Miami HEAt fan and a fan of Pat Riley, I decided to watch the season in review for the Chicago Bulls from 1990 to 1993 – their first three-peat. It would have been interesting if Micheal Jordan had not retired for one year. Could the Bulls have won 7 consecutive championships? That would have been second only to the great Celtics teams of the 1950s & 60’s.

  9. Virginia

    It would not surprise me if non basketball fans know who Phil Jackson is. He tends to transcend basketball fan circles. His teammate from the New York knicks, when he was a player in the 1960’s is now a Senator (Phil Bradley). So he is quite an accomplished man and a master manager of men with big egos. 10 championships also helps one’s notoriety.

  10. Jane

    My mentor from over 25 years, the leadership lessons I learned from him remain pivotal to my life. The first tip he gave me is never work on more than ten things. One day I was feeling so overwhelmed by my job that I asked Collins for help. Taking me to lunch, he gave me this and a certain formula that I have religiously used ever since.

  11. Jeanne

    I can’t function with out a team to work with because I have done the team thing for so long now. I understand people wanting to work on their own as well but working with a team is much more fun. Not to mention the blame is not all on one person then when something goes wrong. Thank you for posting this information I will keep it moving.

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  13. Marisa

    You can’t argue with ten NBA championship rings. I’ve been watching the NBA since 1984 and I witnessed all 10 of his championship runs. He likes giving books to his players for them to read. He last did this in 2009 when the Lakers were going back to the NBA finals for the 2nd consecutive year. The Lakers tried to court him in 2012 to rejoin them as head coach, but it didn’t work out.

  14. Jeanne

    I think for a while now it has been one of those things where you work by yourself for yourself and you want all the profit. Now days though I am finding that it is more about the team, no one wants to be blamed for anything these days so it is easier to have a team and say, “well the team decided then no one person takes the brunt if it goes horribly wrong.

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  16. Kristina

    I have worked in many offices and the last two that I have been in were really huge on “team and you can not imagine how much closer that has made all of us on that team. My present job is all about the team and it takes a very heavy burden off of each of us to do things this way. You have a great article, I’m going to have to get that book.


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