Mentorship and The Last Dance


About a week after leaving isolation, I had "caught up" on everything I had missed on Netflix over the past year or so. Among other shows, I found myself viewing The Last Dance, which follows the professional life of Michael Jordan, with great interest. Jordan was a huge star – not only due to his unquestionable game-related talents, but also due to his leadership skills. From my position as a CEO mentor of eight years, I found myself wondering:







IS IT RIGHT TO CONSIDER MICHAEL JORDAN A MENTOR?


First, Jordan was competitive; a person for whom each and every game meant winning, all or nothing. Throughout his career he avoided hanging around with "losers" and pushed his teammates to their maximum, even at the price of their dissatisfaction. Jordan's purpose was clear; concentrated in a single idea: winning each and every game, even at the cost of his personal relationships.



ABOVE ALL- WIN!


Jordan's teammates have said that during training, he would threaten, frighten, shove…. names and insults were also thrown around freely. But the proof was in the pudding, and they admit it worked. He managed to inspire values of competitiveness and victory in his team members. This is where Start-Up values come into play; those ethics which the founders are raised on, which they bring from home as part of their DNA. In Jordan's case, these same homebred ethics were what drove him to fulfil his dream of being a six-time world champion.



SO WHAT DO MICHAEL JORDAN AND A MENTOR ACTUALLY HAVE IN COMMON?

  1. A CEO selects a mentor to serve as his confidant; someone who will be able to tell him even what he does not particularly wish to hear. The agreement is a personal rather than a business one. This is precisely how Jordan treated his teammates. Moreover, on those occasions when he identified weak/young members of the team, he took them under his wing for better or for worse, training and moulding them in his image, insofar as was possible.

  2. One of the mentor's tasks is to give the CEO measurable, quality targets to meet. In Jordan's case it was summed up as win, win, win – and be the world champion.

  3. Empowerment, direction and constantly moving the goalposts and the focus – Throughout this series, Jordan empowers the players through indirect and occasionally harsh means. Long term, however, these means lead to the target – winning.


The series is fascinating, educational, encouraging and provides one more, unique look at one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. Even LeBron James was heard to say after winning his last (recent) championship that he needed to go back and re-watch the series as a sort of "homework".



On a personal note - in business (including family businesses), even when the aim is to reach the highest peak (Mt. Everest rather than Mt. Tavor), there is no justification for cruel, vicious or threatening language. Difficult things may still be expressed in a polite, respectful manner which will nonetheless rock the boat as needed, while maintaining a trust-based, real personal relationship.


At the end of the day, the root of all mentor-mentee relationships is trust.


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