Sep 28 Group Flow: Awareness in Action

The recent, spectacular documentary series Last Dance tells the story of the Chicago Bulls’ path to multiple NBA championships. In his books Sacred Hoops and Eleven Rings: the Soul of Success, Phil Jackson, the legendary coach who guided the team to victory after victory, outlines principles for leaders that are as valuable to building a business as they are to building a sports team.

Jackson makes connections between spiritual- and mission-based motivation, strategic principles, and deep collaboration. We discuss four of his key insights here. Expressing these in practice in your enterprise is supported and enhanced by new tools for collaboration that align everyone with the enterprise’s guiding strategy, mission and priorities.

  1. Know where you are.

In Zen it is said that the gap between accepting things the way they are and wishing them to be otherwise is ‘the tenth of an inch of difference between heaven and hell.’ If we accept whatever hand we’ve been dealt – no matter how unwelcome – the way to proceed eventually becomes clear.

— Phil Jackson

What is the current situation? Leaders need to know intimately what the current reality is in order to direct next steps.

In large multinational enterprise organizations, simply knowing the current status of your many strategic initiatives and clearly seeing the obstacles and opportunities that emerge on the front lines of your business confer game-changing advantages for those who overcome the challenges that impede focus. Instead of assigning an army of staff to round up and compile the status of initiatives across a multinational organization, Tier 1 Enterprise Collaboration Technology provides an instant view of the current situation in real time across an entire enterprise setting. All your people are on just one platform.

  1. Know your role.

I knew that the only way to win consistently was to give everybody—from the stars to the number 12 player on the bench—a vital role on the team, and inspire them to be acutely aware of what was happening, even when the spotlight was on somebody else… I wanted to build a team that would blend individual talent with a heightened group consciousness.

                                                                                   — Phil Jackson

On a basketball court and in a complex enterprise with thousands of employees in various international locations—increasingly including those working virtually from home—everyone needs to know what their role is in the organization’s success, and what their colleagues’ roles are. Tier 1 Enterprise Collaboration Technology shows a responsible owner for every strategic initiative and identifies what priorities each initiative contributes to.  It connects everyone across all businesses and business units, from the HQ and various business CEOs to front-line managers.

A tool that provides full transparency of the current status of the organization and the shared priorities toward which all your distributed leadership is driving, allows you then, if you choose, to empower these leaders to respond and take action, making the adjustments that achieve your shared goals. In turn, they can give their team leaders more autonomy to act because they all share a visibility on the current reality. By giving autonomy to your distributed leadership you free the organization to be a self-adjusting organism, turning as quickly as a flock of birds or a school of fish. This agility is particularly needed during a crisis. And this nimbleness could never be achieved with a more traditional top-down management style

  1. Train and unite your people around a shared Vision/Mission.

The most effective way to forge a winning team is to call on the players’ need to connect with something larger than themselves. Even for those who don’t consider themselves ‘spiritual’ in a conventional sense, creating a successful team—whether it’s an NBA championship or a record-setting sales force—is essentially a spiritual act. It requires the individuals involved to surrender their self-interest for the greater good so that the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

— Phil Jackson

In large complex organizations, it’s difficult to connect people to a shared Vision/ Mission and to one another across silos and individual businesses, especially when a workforce is further dispersed by many working from home virtually. When you have thousands of employees dispersed globally, you can’t build community solely through direct, personal communications.

Tier 1 Enterprise Collaboration Technology allows you to connect people to the enterprise’s priorities, values, and mission and clearly show how their work contributes to success. Tier One technology also creates the visibility you need as a leader to see and personally recognize employees’ achievements across your businesses, thereby supporting and hugely extending your capacity to personally engage staff. This helps you build and strengthen your unique business culture and create community, even at the enterprise scale with its vast numbers of people working in offices in multiple locations and virtually from home.

  1. The above three steps lead to a capacity for a powerful “Group Flow” experience:

Once the players have mastered the system, a powerful group intelligence emerges… The players begin to see, Aha! This is how all the pieces fit together, they develop an intuitive feel for how their movements and those of everyone else on the floor are interconnected….” and at that point, “….what makes basketball so exhilarating is the joy of losing yourself completely in the dance, even if it’s just for one beautiful transcendent moment. That’s what the system teaches players. There’s a lot of freedom built into the process, but it’s the freedom . . .  of shaping a role for yourself and using all of your creative resources to work in unison with others.

— Phil Jackson

When following these principles, your people know intimately what is happening in the present moment. They connect to you and to one another. They know their role. They understand the Vision/Mission and how they contribute to the fulfillment of that Mission. They are prepared and fortified. Trained and informed.

They—and you—don’t always know what is going to happen next. But when a challenge or opportunity presents itself, they swing into action as one, primed by what is happening organically in the moment as well as by a knowledge of their role and their colleagues’ roles.

With these principles, preparation and tools, you can now deftly guide your distributed leadership to adroitly respond to your leadership and the immediate moment, just as a flock of birds or a school of fish turn as one in reaction to the fresh energy of new winds and currents.

Gary Bennett   is a highly respected experienced International Life Insurance leader who has held CEO roles in 12 countries including India, Hong Kong, Vietnam, China, Mexico, Australia, Singapore and the USA. He is a trustee of

Bob Epner is founder and CEO of with over 20 years of senior management experience. He created’s software to be the tool he wished he had as a Chief of Staff and Regional Chief Operating Officer overseeing 24 businesses across twelve countries with over 10,000 employees.