By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
For the past five Sundays I was glued to my TV from 9-11pm. Even if you’re not a sports or basketball fan, I’m guessing you know why.
‘The Last Dance’ docuseries about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty racked up some impressive viewership numbers week after week. ESPN said it became their most-viewed documentary ever, and during Sunday’s finale, there were more than 1 million tweets about the final episode with 20 of the 30 trending topics on Twitter being related to the documentary.
Whether you tuned in or not, there are a number of important lessons (or in some cases reminders) that every college admissions professional can take away.
During the staff training workshops I lead Michael Jordan (MJ) is discussed when we talk about branding. Nike is one of the biggest brands in the world, not because of the “Just Do It” tagline, but instead in large part because of MJ the person. People are influenced by other people. Your campus community is your best brand ambassador. Therein lies lesson number one.
Here are nine other valuable lessons I took away that I encourage you to think about:
- Your mindset is critical. Like MJ, I talk a lot about the importance of having a growth mindset. Growth and success happen quicker when you believe that you are in control of yourself at all times. That means believing that you’re capable of growing, reminding yourself that you control your effort, and not allowing fear of failure or your previous failures to prevent you from trying (i.e. having mental toughness). One of my favorite Jordan quotes is, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
- You need a supporting cast. As dominant as Jordan was, he still needed a supporting cast (Pippen, Rodman, John Paxson, Steve Kerr, Horace Grant, the coaching staff, training staff, and management) to help him win six NBA championships. To give yourself the best chance to achieve your college or university’s enrollment goals, admissions needs to collaborate with, among others, operations, marketing and communications, financial aid, athletics, faculty, tour guides, and high school counselors.
- Master the fundamentals. Jordan never forgot the importance of mastering the fundamentals. Get those down, and the level of everything you do will rise.
- Be consistent. Consistency was arguably both Jordan and the Bulls’ most impressive quality. Michael gave maximum effort in practices and in games, on the road and at home, and against the best and the worst teams. Consistency is such an important part of any effective recruiting plan. You must communicate consistently and have content that’s consistently personal, helpful, and encourages engagement.
- Storytelling is powerful. Facts tell, stories sell. ‘The Last Dance’ was jam packed with powerful storytelling from different points of view. Hearing Steve Kerr explain the mentorship he received from John Paxson which culminated with Kerr making a clutch shot in the finals – just as Paxson had done before. Then hearing Kerr talk about his father’s death and explaining how it factored into the friendship he later had with MJ whose father was also murdered. Those stories, like the stories you can tell about your current students, professors, alumni, or your own personal journey, will help connect the dots, answer the why, and create a connection that makes it easier for the other person to take action.
- Know your territory like Rodman knew how to rebound. Listening to how Dennis Rodman would run through every possible scenario in his head as he worked through each individual rebound was captivating. He talked about practicing the angle of the ball and the trajectory of it. He understood the nuances when different players shot, and that allowed him to put himself in the best rebounding position possible to get the ball on misses. As a territory manager, do you understand the different groups of students you’re working with and have you played out the different questions and scenarios for each one?
- Authenticity wins. If you’re trying to cultivate trust, being genuine and authentic is a must. Throughout ‘The Last Dance’ Jordan, Rodman, Pippen, and many others were not afraid to share their true feelings and emotions. From MJ lying on the ground in the locker room crying uncontrollably and hugging the basketball after the Bulls won their fourth NBA title, which happened to fall on Father’s Day, to Scottie Pippen talking about being underappreciated. That honesty and authenticity was a big reason why this docuseries had such high viewership week after week. If you want to increase engagement and improve your communications with this generation of students, authenticity (and personalization) are absolute musts.
- Don’t be afraid of the big moment. Jordan never shied away from the big shots or big moments because he knew he had put in the work to get rewarded. If you’ve consistently worked hard to build real relationships with prospective students and their families, don’t be afraid to ask for the deposit/commitment.
- A team is a reflection of its leader. Whether it’s a VP or someone leading a specific project, they set the tone for the entire team. We all take cues from leadership. There were critical moments when everyone’s eyes were on either Head Coach Phil Jackson or Michael Jordan to do something. That included Jackson managing big egos, holding the entire team accountable after Dennis Rodman’s Vegas incident, and knowing what motivated each player. We also saw Jordan getting the most out of his teammates by pushing them to their limits much like he pushed himself. A team takes on the personality of its leader(s).
If today’s article was helpful, I encourage you to forward it on to a colleague that you think might also benefit from it. And if this article was forwarded on to you, and you found it helpful, I’d love to have you sign up for my weekly newsletter where it first appeared. You can do that right here at the top of this page.