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A winning philosophy.

Basketball coach Phil Jackson is considered one of the greatest NBA coaches of all time. One of only three head coaches to have led two different teams to the NBA finals, Jackson currently holds an impressive nine NBA titles (a record he shares with the legendary Red Auerbach of Boston Celtics fame).

Well known for his coaching successes, Jackson is equally famous for his holistic approach to coaching players, strongly influenced by Eastern philosophy. His adherence to this approach has earned him the nickname "The Zen Master."

Zen Master or not, I think it's safe to say he knows a thing or two about teamwork. I recently came across a quote from Jackson that speaks volumes about the kind of successful interaction any organization should strive for: "the strength of the team is each individual member ... the strength of each member is the team."


Among the fundamental elements of a team are mission and commitment. Effective teams have a clear mission or purpose, be it a short-term objective or a long-term goal. Regardless of the desired outcome, teams need a well-defined, mutually agreed upon purpose.

To maximize success, team members must be committed to their mission. Commitment develops as members begin to personalize their involvement and take ownership for the team's success.

A shared understanding and purpose among team members, combined with a shared commitment to that purpose, is what distinguishes a group from a team.

Teamwork exists on many levels, in both the professional and personal realms. You might consider your family a team (sometimes you are the coach, sometimes the mascot!), or you may be part of an organized athletic team or volunteer organization--commitment to community and family is a common trait of NTCA members.

On a professional level, there are likely many teams of which you are a member. Your telco's leadership team, for example, or perhaps your local civic organization. Collaboration with your co-workers and professional peers helps affect change and benefits the community in which you live. On a broader scale, NTCA works with you--individuals that make up our association "team"--to spread the message about the critical role independent telcos play in America's prosperity. On a still larger scale, NTCA represents our members (our team) and strives to advance rural interests on an industry-wide level. Through the Coalition to Keep America Connected, we have teamed up with our industry partners to sharpen our message and give strength to the rural voice.

The 'Zen Master's' philosophy rings true in any team-oriented atmosphere. A team is most successful when individual members work together toward a common goal. And individuals are stronger and will achieve more when they can rely on their teammates to help accomplish that goal.

I believe our association is a perfect real-world application of Coach Jackson's theory. Time and again NTCA has drawn strength from the steadfast support of our individual members. And our members know they can rely on NTCA to represent their interests. We have proven there is indeed strength in numbers, and in our shared commitment to a common goal. If we remain focused and dedicated to our cause, we will continue to accomplish great things.

I'd welcome comments at

By Michael E. Brunner, Chief Executive Officer of NTCA
COPYRIGHT 2007 National Telephone Cooperative Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:EXECUTIVEViewpoint
Author:Brunner, Michael E.
Publication:Rural Telecommunications
Date:Mar 1, 2007
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