10 ways Michael Jordan schools Cubicle Warriors on competiveness

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Oct 27

Cubicle Warriors succeed in many ways, but underlying all of them is competitiveness. They understand that the workplace, while innovative, collaborative and social, is also a competition for building job skills, getting promotions, and getting paid.

There is a reason there are performance reviews: they keep score.

Michael Jordan, in Golf Digest, gave out 10 Rules from Michael Jordan on Maximizing Competitiveness, and I’d like to adapt them to what is needed for Cubicle Warriors. Here they are:

Focus on the little things

Little things that make the Cubicle Warrior difference: capturing all of your commitments so you can see your full inventory of work. Communicating early when it looks like there will be difficulty in getting a task done. Saying “thank you” when you have received help with a project.

Little things build your reputation. Each time you talk with someone, you add or subtract from that reputation.

Have total confidence in what you can do

If you have the confidence you can do the work, most often you will. That confidence will give you a better shot at doing more with better quality than any of your coworkers who lack your confidence.

Don’t think about the prize; think about the work

Sure, in the end, it is about the performance review rating, the promotion, the pay and getting to the life you want to lead. But the way to get to accomplishment in each of those areas is to do the work in front of you today. If you do the work, think about how to do the work better and innovate new ways of doing the work, the result will be far better than dreaming about the perfect performance review.

Keep it simple

The world is a complex place and the complexity can overwhelm. To keep it simple, focus on what you can control and influence. Can you change the company’s strategic direction? For most of you reading this site, the answer is no, not close. So don’t fret over the company’s direction, focus on what you can control and influence.

Keeping it simple also means keeping your systems simple. Do you have a task management system that appeals to you, keeps your commitments and helps you prioritize your work? If you did, your work would be simpler to get done because you would choose the right work to do right now.

Control your emotions until the round is over

Well, in golf, as in all sports, the game is over at some point. But in business, it’s never over. There is always the next project, next year, the next strategy to implement.

One needs to “round off the edges” of your emotions so as to maintain your perspective in any given situation. Anger doesn’t do much in the workplace; neither do ugly confrontations. Figuring out how to control your emotions in an emotional workplace is a Cubicle Warrior skill.

Use tough losses for motivation

No one wins every game and not everything you do at work will be fabulous. Learning from our experiences is critical to achieving Cubicle Warrior status. If you make the same mistakes over and over, you won’t be on the job very long. It’s OK to make honest mistakes; it’s not OK to ignore the lessons of the mistake.

Competitors always want to have something riding on the outcome

Micheal says it best:

It isn’t the amount of money, it’s something to keep the focus at its highest. Whenever I meet people, they always have this idea that I like to play for big money. My line is always: I play for whatever makes you nervous. That’s enough to give me a competitive edge.

In most business situations, you are working with a team, not against a competitor. So look for what will motivate you to focus on the work that will give you the best outcome.

Nervousness is not a bad thing

When there is a lot on the line, everyone is nervous no matter how much experience they have. The key, according to Michael, is once you start the game (work), does your nervousness go away? If it doesn’t, it means you haven’t prepared enough so that the work becomes second nature to you. Nervousness then means you doubt your ability to get the job done.

At that point, you need to simplify your thinking so you can focus and regain your initiative.

Your personal finance discipline will keep you calm

Michael talks about trash talking in the article here, but trash talking has no place in business relations.

Instead, I’ll add that Cubicle Warriors know how to handle their finances: they live below their means, build for retirement and other obligations, and have one year’s take home pay in the bank. Cubicle Warriors do that because they know a solid financial backing is necessary to keep desperation away during the tough times that befalls their competitors.

Having strong finances means Cubicle Warriors can make the right choice in the moment that reflects their integrity instead of doing something just because it helps them keep their job.

Learn from Tiger’s competitiveness

Tiger is a nice enough guy, but as Michael notes: “he’ll do anything to beat you.”

Nothing illegal, of course. But the tough-mindedness of great athletes to persevere and win is something every Cubicle Warrior needs. Business is relentless and the challenges never end. Having the tough mindedness of a Tiger is necessary to continue to thrive in the workplace.

Getting to greatness working from a cubicle requires work, perseverance, effort and motivation. It’s not that you want the CEO’s job; you want to have satisfying work that helps you achieve your goals in life.

None of that is free.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.