Behaviour drives change

18,3 seconds on the clock. Jordan just stole the ball from the Jazz’s star player Karl Malone and dribbles the ball to the other side of the court. Now it’s Jordan’s time to shine and score that championship winning shot. He hits that 20 footer with just 5,2 seconds on the clock left and give the Chicago Bulls a final 87-86 lead. The rest is history … the Chicago Bulls are now the biggest franchise in the history of the NBA. Jordan is now the best player ever to have played in the NBA. The team and Jordan never settled for mediocracy. They have always pushed their own boundaries. Jordan always challenged the status quo, always searched for ways to up his game and ways to inspire his teammates. 

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this topic of pushing the boundaries and going the extra mile. People like things to be changed for the better and like things to be improved, I really believe this. But those same people simply don’t like them to be impacted by it when going through the change. And so change don’t always happen and then they might state things like: “That’s how the things are done here”, “We just leave it as it is, since things don’t change over here”, … . I find those remarks a bit too easy. Society is going through changes, and so it’s only natural companies do to. Giving up and just accepting the status quo is such a shame, especially for the people who are involved. Everybody knows that standing still is moving backwards. Nobody wants that. I truly believe if we dare more than freeze whilst being afraid, we can grow cultures of amazement inside every organisation. Yes, it’s behaviour, your behaviour, what I’m talking about. I’m referring to the type of behaviour that put things in motion inside a company.  Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Emil Frankl, a Holocost survivor, said it so eloquently: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”

Socrates

Things however don’t change overnight. We often think that, especially in this modern western society. But change is sometimes a long-lasting process and people might get stuck in a place of “being in between” what was and what the future state should be. And when you’re stuck in that twilight zone … you don’t want people to ask you to challenge the status quo, you just want them to leave you the ‘F’ alone. I really respect and understand that feeling. But, why do you choose to work in that twilight zone? What can YOU DO to change it? Michael Jordan’s dad once said : “You have to take a negative and turn it into a positive.” So next time, when somebody is telling you that “things are done in here like that since forever”, know that people actually do understand change, they might just need a little push to get started. Maybe you can challenge such an expression?

One person can start the fire

When Jordan entered the league in 1984, it was clear that he was something special. He promised the city that he would make them World Champions. Although he was a very gifted player, if not the best of all time, he knew that winning titles in Basketbal is all about team effort. He knew he couldn’t achieve this on his own so he gave it his all and asked his teammates to step up and give it their all as well. “I wanted to win, but I wanted them (the team) to be part of it too.” It’s amazing how much people get done if they do not worry who gets the credit. They didn’t became champions right away, the build takes time. But step by step, the team grew and became better: more maturity, better understanding of tactics, stronger leadership off and on the field, smarter, … . They kept improving over and over again.

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships. –

Michael Jordan

But imagine this, Jordan came into practice, not giving so much about the game itself but more about the fame. He’s extremely talented, but not always willing to fight for it. He’s accepting his teammates to have the same behaviour. So imagine Jordan accepting mediocrity… would they have become Champions of the World? Very unlikely. It’s like Jordan said so eloquently: “It all start with hard work and ends with champagne!”, and the hard work is almost always pushing the boundaries. 

In business , we love the refer to sports because in sports, it’s clear that when you work extremely hard for something, you’ll get a result. A new personal record, local winner in a race or maybe Olympic champion … It is very unlikely that the ones that just accept mediocrity win. Although people might express that they are satisfied about how things are, I’m pretty sure that if you address their intrinsic motivation, they will come up with ways to improve things for the better and challenge the status quo. The trick is to find that spot that it starts to itch just enough to get them started. Jordan made it very clear what he wanted to achieve and how they could achieve that. He addressed his team mates’s intrinsic motivation and left no room for unclarity. They were going to become champions and for that, everybody needed to go the extra mile and they needed to earn Michael’s respect along the way since nobody was working harder in practice than he did.

Don’t aspire to be the best on the team, aspire to be the best for the team. 

Today we’re trying out new ways of organising our work. We’re looking for more day to day agility in the workplace to satisfy our customers. More than ever, it’s all about the people and their behaviour, and it is technology and processes in full support of the people. Since everything has to evolve faster, we try to redefine organisational design by implementing self-organising structures around multi disciplined people in the hope to deliver things faster: the consequence is that teams just have to become autonomous. What you need for that to happen is full transparency on what is happening inside the team and some sort of structure to keep on improving. Yes, it’s about adopting an empirical mindset. In that process of adoption, you want to appreciate everybody’s opinion so you install a healthy culture of trust in which people dare to speak up. People should never be afraid to share their professional thoughts and insights, certainly  not inside their own team. But transparency, openness, … we need to explain people that these are the cornerstones of high performing teams in business. It’s all about values and values drive behaviour.  What is being asked of people is huge! In the process, the just became accountable to organise themselves and deliver. The only thing that will get you there is behaviour. You are the change!