I was watching some TV today and came across a highlight reel from over 25 years ago of Michael Jordan scoring the winning shot at a playoff game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. In this shot Jordan squares away to shoot at the free throw line directly in front of an opposing team player and manages to release the shot right before the game buzzer. He scores the winning shot for the game and saves the day. There are dozens and dozens of these examples in Michael Jordan’s career which make it even more clear how great he was as a player. The little known fact however is that the previous night in the prior game against the same team, Michael Jordan missed an identical shot at the same time during the game against the same player. Had he scored that shot the team would have ended the series earlier. The thing that strikes me about this story is the fact that in the face of the same challenge, having failed 1 day before Michael Jordan never hesitates and takes the exact shot. He somehow manages to shake off the defeat and does not dwell on the failure. He moves forward having learned from his mistakes to manage and perfect his performance the next time around.
I have seen so many instances in the business world or in project situations where teams and professionals are simply unable to shake off the fear of failing. This is a huge issue in change management because as a professional you can encounter a significant amount of resistance from people because of the fear of the unknown or the fear of failure forces them to cling to the past than look to the future. Jordan, being one of the most celebrated athletes and perhaps the most documented in videos and interviews offers a perspective on this by saying:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
So like Michael Jordan those of us who are involved in project and change management need to put together plans and move forward even when we know that sometimes we will fail and others we will fail.