I have been riveted by The Last Dance mini-series about the Chicago Bulls since it serves as both a trip down memory lane and as a playbook on team dynamics. In a segment on the unorthodox Dennis Rodman, the show recounted a time when he asked coach Phil Jackson for a 48-hour leave to go on vacation in Las Vegas. This was during the time the team was practicing and Rodman was expected to be present daily. With the support of Michael Jordan, Jackson allowed Rodman to go.

It was a big risk to let Rodman loose in a city that exacerbates excess and, as feared, he succumbed to the temptations and revelry of Sin City. Jordan had to go retrieve him on Day 3. But Rodman came back to the team with renewed vigor and dedication and became a key factor in pursuing a Bulls championship.

Not many coaches would have let one of their starters take a “vacation” while on contract but Jackson knew that Rodman couldn’t remain boxed in. If he needed to release some energy, best to let him do it off the court instead of on. It was a pivotal decision, and, in retrospect, the right one for the whole team.

There was hesitation to even hire Rodman because of his eccentricities but performance won out. Are you missing out on some great employees because you want them all to look/act/behave in the same way? Or, do you have an equivalent Dennis Rodman on your team – someone who does not exhibit the same restraint or characteristics as your other employees – and, if so, have you made allowances to allow her to shine?

Take a lesson from Phil Jackson and learn what each of your employees needs then try to accommodate it in order to receive their best. You can embrace personality distinctiveness if the talent is behind it.

Photo by Walter Huang

huangweiqing / Walter Huang [1] – Dennis Rodman, 2001

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I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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