You’re Fired Mr. Jordan!

Published on May 2, 2003

Here’s a surprising headline: “Jordan Surprised and Inflamed as Wizards Show Him the Door”. Michael Jordan fell victim to the trap most overachievers fall into. They move into management thinking everyone should have the same attitude, skills and dedication they had when they were playing.

Jordan’s downfall as an executive was heightened when he gave up his partial ownership of the Wizards to return as a player for the team. He reportedly ripped the younger players for not doing things his way. By the time he retired as a player for the third time, there was no going away party. According to published reports, there was relief in the locker room.

Jordan arrived at the Wizards in January 2000, when the franchise had reportedly lost $40 million the year before. It is interesting to note that during Jordan’s tenure the franchise had profits of approximately of $30 million. Michael Jordan single-handedly turned around the finances of a franchise and even this was not even enough to save him from being “fired” as an investor and executive of the Wizards.

While this may be hard for us to believe, the Wizards thought this was the best move it could make for the organization as a whole. Yes, there was significant profit in the short term. However, there was turmoil and the win/loss record during Michael’s tenure did not improve at all. So, where did Michael go wrong?

To start, he did not have the patience for developing players. Very few people are going perform exactly as he did. We are all different and it is the coach’s responsibility to identify and build upon the strengths and weaknesses of the players. While Jordan was not the coach, he did hire the coach and together they created an environment that was quickly rejected by the players. Larry Bird had the same frustration coaching the Indiana Pacers. He just couldn’t accept the fact that players today were different, so he chose to retire.

An executive/coach succeeds on the attitudes, dedication and skills of the players on the team. If you lose their motivation to listen to you, you have lost the game before it even begins. Yes, you want people with similar attitudes, but, you must also accept people for who they are and work with their strengths. If you feel they are not good enough, you find new players. If there are no players out there qualified to play on your team, then maybe your expectations are too high and you need to re-evaluate what you are looking for. Or, maybe you need to re-evaluate your method of coaching without giving up on your ideals.

Michael Jordan also did not accept the fact that a successful executive has to work full time at being effective. Reports claim his calendar was chock full of events and commitments that had little to do with the Wizards. A leader in name is not as effective as a leader involved in building the organization. Just like constructing any kind of building, it takes a lot of hard work, time and effort to get the job done.

Michael will forever be remembered by many as the greatest basketball player of all time. As for being an effective leader, hopefully. Michael Jordan realizes more work needs to be done. He did get noticed and other teams are interested in his services. If Jordan decides this is really what he wants to do, it is probably only a matter of time until Jordan hits his stride as an NBA team executive with another team. After all, he knows what it takes to win..”

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