"When a player surrenders his self-interest for the greater good, his fullest gifts as an athlete are manifested."
~ Phil Jackson, Sacred Hoops
Employees and managers alike long to learn the magic of working better as a team. In this simple quote — from a coach who has achieved 13 National Basketball Association championships (two as a player) — the “magic” is revealed. It’s neither trick nor spell that creates the magic. It is a kind of alchemy.
“Basketball is a sport that involves the subtle interweaving of players at full speed to the point where they are thinking and moving as one.”
Think of a time when you were part of a group working on a project or toward a goal where people felt completely connected. Recall an experience where everyone on your team knew deep in their bones that individual contributions were coalescing to create a greater good.
What was going on for you? What conditions existed? How
did you feel about yourself, your partners, and the work?
“The fact is, selflessness is the soul of teamwork.”
coaching philosophy has helped build phenomenal basketball teams. He blends
the principles of Zen Buddhism and teachings from the Lakota Sioux. Like
those wisdom traditions, yoga also has much to say about deepening
individuals’ connections to themselves, improving relationships with
others, and achieving results through superior teamwork. “Magic” happens
when people are intentional about why they are working together and
are willing to surrender ego to something larger than self. They are
willing to give an effort all they have, and then surrender their
attachment to the outcome as they stay fully present in the moment. In
yoga, such surrender is called ishvara-pranidhana, and translates as
“offering the fruits of one’s efforts to the divine” (i.e. the greater
“If the 9, 10, 11, 12 players are unhappy . . . their negativity is going to undermine everything."
Surrendering personal wants at work is an experience anyone can create. You can choose to let go of your need to be right, your desire to win, your insistence on having your way, your egotistical impulse to look good at the expense of others. All of these things distract from connecting with your best self and with others. Clinging to "me" in the face of "we" is a disservice to the magical experience that can emerge when you surrender to something greater than yourself.