Having just viewed all ten episodes of The Last Dance chronicling the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls last championship season, I was struck by the fact that their winning ways have also been present in many other organizations over the decades.
There were multiple factors involved in the Bulls stretch of NBA championships, with the spark being Michael Jordan’s unwavering desire for excellence and winning. But that alone was not enough. There was an inflection point or moment when they knew that they could win. In their case, it was after losing the Eastern Conference championship finals for the second straight year to the Detroit Pistons. That was their motivator to do the work and make the changes to become a championship team. It wasn’t enough to just “want to win” you need to do the work and “commit to winning.”
Steve Jobs was the visionary who guided Apple from its inception with innovative products that defied conventional wisdom. Until he was fired by the board. He then founded NeXT and Pixar while keeping his eye on developing hardware and software offering that the public “didn’t yet know that they wanted.” After returning to Apple, his relentless attention to detail and focus on making “beautiful products” drove many of his employees crazy but produced some of the more memorable breakthroughs in history with the iPod, iPad, and iPhone. His high standards produced amazing results while setting up the company for sustained success. Apple was better for it, and years after his untimely death, it remains one of the most innovative and profitable companies.
I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by NASA astronaut Jim Lovell a few months after the ill-fated Apollo 13 crew returned safely from its near disastrous mission. He has a unique sense of humor, but when he became serious, he gave much of the credit for Apollo 13 success to the people at mission control, and their relentless commitment to returning the astronauts safely. It has been referred to as a “successful failure.” Many people contributed to getting the three crew members back, but one person stands out in my mind – NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz. His famous quote during the mission was “failure in not an option.” He had one that is equally as compelling in his book Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond.
“There is no such thing as good enough. You, your team, and your equipment must be the best. That is how you will win victories.”
That is a universal message for every organization, no matter how large or small, and needs to be communicated to all employees. Sub standard or “good enough” will not help you or your organization achieve the sustained potential that was imagined.
Think back to your college or graduate school graduation, and what role you expected to play in making the world a better place. Have you met or exceeded that expectation? Maybe you are still striving to reach that mark. Time after time examples like those of Michael Jordan, Steve Job, and Gene Kranz show a common playbook for sustained success. Commit to excellence, surround yourself with people who share that commitment, and lead them to places they only dreamed of going. Is that your vision? If not, why not? It’s your choice. If I can help with you achieve your vision, send me an email. Together, we’ll raise the bar!