Expert Communicator Series Part 2: Athlete

Expert Communicator Series Part 2:

Professional Athlete

Don’t Let Your Demo be your Last Dance

Professional Athletes are not all masters of communication. Some athletes, such as golfers, are likely experts at reading surroundings and greens, but they are not required to attune themselves completely with another person, in order to perform. Michael Jordan, one of the subjects of The Last Dance, the popular series on Netflix about his rise and the incredible journey and dissolution of the champion team, The Chicago Bulls, is an expert communicator. In the Alan Alda book, If I Understood You, Would I have this Look on my Face, he underscores multiple times the instances in which teams and players require leaders and then expert communication to win games. Evidence is in nature, and in the winning championships of the Bulls. 

Teams in Nature 

Birds migrating, ants building hills, and many many more examples are readily visible in nature of cooperation between animals to accomplish goals. Their exact form of communication cannot be entirely understood, however as Alan Alda points out, they act in synchronization. In an independent study groups scored higher in trust and cooperation when they walk in step with partners or teammates. This is how all animals, insects, and humans build hills and win games. 

In The Last Dance the opening and closing recount the leadership of Michael Jordan on court and Phil Jackson off court with supporting team Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman as the glue that held the Bulls together. They operate in synchronization rarely seen in nature to be unstoppable winning multiple national championships. Each observed the others movements and practicing mirroring and improvising on the court to defeat all teams. So what happened? 

When Teams Break Down: What broke the Bulls

In The Last Dance players and managers began to have communication issues, and issues of leadership. Jerry Kraus, the general manager became resentful of the pay scale and credit for finding Michael Jordan and was fighting with leader Phil Jackson, Dennis Rodman became a liability in his private life to the franchise, Michael Jordan became an overnight sensation, and players resented being in his shadow,  and his own personal gambling problems were outed in the press. These are all emotional disconnects and lack of communication that infiltrated leadership. 

Ultimately, for our purposes, lack of effective leadership and communication broke the Bulls. This is not saying that Phli Jackson or Michael Jordan were not good leaders, they are the best in basketball, however when the rest of the team is out of step with the leaders for their own emotional reasons or trust is not there, then the synchronization that makes them successful is broken. There is no turning back the clock here, but we would like to offer some skill building exercises to keep your team in synch, maintain effective leadership, and foster communication. 

Team Building Exercises 

Alan Alda probably was not thinking at all about the Chicago Bulls or Michael Jordan when he outlined these exercises, but as fans we can’t help but think about whether The Bulls could have benefited from some communication science at times to help understand each other emotionally and keep on playing, like forever. 

Marching and Tapping 

Armies use songs and walking in step as part of their training. Why? Because this intentional walking in step helps communicate in battles. It has the same effect as drills in basketball practice and you see many sports teams with their own anthems to get their head back in the game and get them in sync. Try it in your sales team. Adopt a song and dance or take a note from cheerleaders and try to increase communication with stomping in step. 

Yes, And, Dunk 

We outlined the improv game, Yes, And, whereby actors take the emotions and action from one improv seen and add to it using the information, body language, and mirrored movements from the observed person, Basketball players do this naturally in plays of all sorts from zone defense to man on man. Observing your teammate and adding to the play. Try this improv game with your sales team, then apply it to your demo. Just think how much further your discovery will go when you have your entire team solving client problems by adding to your value with Yes, And. 

Verbal Synch 

Verbal Synch exercises require the participants to not have a visual of their team member. They are back to back and try to finish each others sentences. You can learn a lot from inflections and can communicate with only words. This is an emotional team building exercise that, in a perfect world, would have helped the Bulls members communicate feelings in tense situations, cough Jerry Kraus. Try these exercises with your sales team, remind the team about what they learned before a big demo, and then start observing how the communication improves during client interactions. 

Nothing can beat a demo delivered by a team who is communicating well with the client and each other in synchronization. Nothing can make a demo your last dance, like being out of synch. If you are looking to close more deals with demos and get your team in synch, contact us for more information and more coaching techniques.

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