The Score Takes Care of Itself

My Philosophy of Leadership


  • On Amazon
  • ISBN: 978-1591842668
  • My Rating: 6/10

What is it about?

The Score Takes Care of Itself is about the leadership lessons from Bill Walsh, a successful American football coach who won three Super Bowls with his teams.

My impression

I found The Score Takes Care of Itself an informative book about leadership practices from the world of sport. Albeit a sport – American football – I'm not familiar with. So the names of famous people in this field didn't say anything to me. The same applies for the special terminology.

While most of the advice is timeless, there's also advice that feels dated and sounds like a recipe for burnout.

For my taste, the book was too long. Especially the chapters written by acquaintances could have been omitted, they seemed to be filler material.

My notes

Foreword: His Standard of Performance by Joe Montana

Bill got all of us striving to be perfect in games and practice. [...] Without all the screaming that coaches usually do, he was very focused and demanding because he was making you test yourself, take yourself to different limits. He said that if you aim for perfection and miss, you're still pretty good, but if you aim for mediocre and miss?

That was the thing about his perspective: Being really good wasn't good enough. He taught us to want to be perfect and instilled in the team a hunger for improvement, a drive to get better and better. We saw his own hunger for perfection, and it was contagious.

You might think that trying to meet his extremely high expectations would tighten you up, but Bill didn't jump on you for a mistake; he came right in with the correction: "Here's what was wrong; this is how to do it right." Over and over, without getting all upset, he taught the smallest details of perfecting performance.

Bill's Final Lecture on Leadership by Steve Jamison


Prologue: To Succeed You Must Fail

I would never write anything that suggests the path to success is a continuum of positive, even euphoric experiences – that if you do all the right things everything will work out. Frequently it doesn't; often you crash and burn. This is part and parcel of pursuing and achieving very ambitious goals. It is also one of the profound lessons I have learned during my career, namely, that even when you have an organization brimming with talent, victory is not always under your control. Rather, it's like quicksilver – fleeting and elusive, not something you can summon at will even under the best circumstances. Almost always, your road to victory goes through a place called "failure".

There is no guarantee, no ultimate formula for success. However, a resolute and resourceful leader understands that there are a multitude of means to increase the probability of success. And that's what it all comes down to, namely, intelligently and relentlessly seeking solutions that will increase your chance of prevailing in a competitive environment. When you do that, the score will take care of itself.

My Standard of Performance: An Environment of Excellence

How to Know if You're Doing the Job


Coaches Aren't Supposed to Cry: Survive One Minute at a Time

NFL football is no different from any professional endeavor, boxing or business or anything where the stakes are significant and the competition extreme: When knocked down, you must get up; you must stand and fight.

When the inevitable setback, loss, failure, or defeat comes crashing down on you – losing a big sale, being passed over for a career-making promotion, even getting fired – allow yourself the "grieving time", but then recognize that the road to recovery and victory lies in having the strength to get up off the mat and start planning your next move. This is how you must think if you want to win. Otherwise you have lost.

Failure is part of success, an integral part. Everybody gets knocked down. Knowing it will happen and what you must do when it does is the first step back.

When you stand and overcome a significant setback, you'll find an increasing inner confidence and self-assurance that has been created by conquering defeat. Absorbing and overcoming this kind of punishment engenders a sober, steely toughness that results in a hardened sense of independence and a personal belief that you can take on anything, survive and win.

[...] when downturns occurred during the upcoming years, I tried to adhere to some simple dos and don'ts for mental and emotional equilibrium in my personal and professional life; nothing profound, just a few plain and uncomplicated reminders that helped me manage things mentally and stay afloat:

My five dos for getting back into the game:

  1. Do expect defeat. It's a given when the stakes are high and the competition is working ferociously to beat you. If you're surprised when it happens, you're dreaming; dreamers don't last long.
  2. Do force yourself to stop looking backward and dwelling on the professional "train wreck" you have just been in. It's mental quicksand.
  3. Do allow yourself appropriate recovery – grieving – time. You've been knocked senseless; give yourself a little time to recuperate. A keyword here is "little". Don't let it drag on.
  4. Do tell yourself, "I am going to stand and fight again", with the knowledge that often when things are at their worst you're closer than you can imagine to success. Our Super Bowl victory arrived less than sixteen months after my "train wreck" in Miami.
  5. Do begin planning for your next serious encounter. The smallest steps – plans – move you forward on the road to recovery. Focus on the fix.

My five don'ts:

  1. Don't ask, "Why me?"
  2. Don't expect sympathy.
  3. Don't bellyache.
  4. Don't keep accepting condolences.
  5. Don't blame others.

My Standard of Performance: High Requirements for Actions and Attitudes

Emblematic of the organizational dysfunction were the organization's substandard headquarters and training facility. There wasn't enough space for a regulation-size football field, so the team used two "semifields" [...]. The weight room was sparsely furnished with rusting weights, the showers ran cold if somebody flushed a toilet, and our offices were worn, sparse, and cramped. Consequently, I approached building the 49er organization with an agenda that didn't include a timetable for a championship or even a winning season. Instead, I arrived with an urgent timetable for installing an agenda of specific behavioral norms – actions and attitudes – that applied to every single person on our payroll. To put it bluntly, I would teach each person in the organization what to do and how to think. The short-term results would contribute both symbolically and functionally to a new and productive self-image and environment and become the foundation upon which we could launch our longer-term goal, namely, the resurrection of a football franchise.

I came to the San Francisco 49ers with an overriding priority and specific goal – to implement what I call the Standard of Performance.It was a way of doing things, a leadership philosophy that has as much to do with core values, principles, and ideals as with blocking, tackling, and passing; more to do with the mental than with the physical. While I prized preparation, planning, precision, and poise, I also knew that organizational ethics were crucial to ultimate and ongoing success.

It began with this fundamental leadership assertion: Regardless of your specific job, it is vital to our team that you do that job at the highest possible level in all its various aspects, both mental and physical (i.e., good talent with bad attitude equals bad talent).

An Organization Has a Conscience

Great teams in business, in sports, or elsewhere have a conscience. At its best, an organization – your team – bespeaks values and a way of doing things that emanate from a source; that source is you – the leader. Thus, the dictates of your personal beliefs should ultimately become characteristics of your team.

A philosophy is the aggregate of your attitudes toward fundamental matters and is derived from a process of consciously thinking about critical issues and developing rational reasons for holding one particular belief or position rather than another. Many things shape your philosophy, including your background, experiences, work environment, education, aspirations, and more. By adhering to your philosophical tenets you are provided with a systematic, yet practical, method of deciding what to do in a particular situation.

It is a conceptual blueprint for action; that is, a perception of what should be done, when it should be done, and why it should be done. Your philosophy is the single most important navigational point on your leadership compass.

Specifics of My New Standards

I would tolerate no caste systems, no assumption of superiority by any coaches, players, or other personnel. Regardless of the size of an employee's check or the requirements of his or her job, I made it clear that he or she was 100 percent a member of our team, whether he or she was a superstar or secretary, black or white, manager or maintenance man.

The Prime Directive Was Not Victory

I directed our focus less to the prize of victory than to the process of improving – obsessing, perhaps, about the quality of our execution and the content of our thinking; that is, our actions and attitude. I knew if I did that, winning would take care of itself, and when it didn't I would seek ways to raise our Standard of Performance.

[...] I sought individuals who had the ability to work with others. A fundamental element in this is not only the ability of a person to understand his own role and how it fits into the organization's goal, but a knowledge or understanding of other people's roles. Part of my job was to facilitate this mutual understanding and appreciation.

The Top Priority Is Teaching

I was insisting that all employees not only raise their level of "play" but dramatically lift the level of their thinking – how they perceived their relationship to the team and its members; how they approached the vagaries of competition; and how willing they were to sacrifice for the goals I identified. Much of this relates to the respect and sensitivity we accorded one another and to an appreciation of the roles each member of our organization fulfilled. Each player had a connection to and was an extension of his teammates.

Victory is produced by and belongs to all. Winning a Super Bowl (or becoming number one in the marketplace, or reaching a significant quarterly production quota, or landing a big account) results from your whole team not only doing their individual jobs but perceiving that those jobs contributed to overall success. The trophy doesn't belong just to a superstar quarterback or CEO, head coach or top salesperson. And this organizational perception that "success belongs to everyone" is taught by the leader. Likewise, failure belongs to everyone. If you or a member of your team "drops the ball", everyone has ownership.

Leaders sometimes wonder why they or their organization fail to achieve success, never seem to reach their potential. It's often because they don't understand or can't instill the concept of what a team is all about at its best: connection and extension. This is a fundamental ingredient of ongoing organizational achievement. (Of course, incompetence as a leader is also a common cause of organizational failure.)

That is the measure, in my opinion, of any great organization, including a team of football players – that willingness to sacrifice for the team, to go the extra mile, the extra five or fifty miles. And it starts with the leader and your leadership staff. It has a transformative effect. Bonding within the organization takes place as one individual and then another steps up and raises his or her level of commitment, sacrifice, and performance. They demand and expect a lot of one another. That's extremely important because when you know that your peers – the others in the organization – demand and expect a lot of you and you, in turn, out of them, that's when the sky's the limit.

Winners Act Like Winners (Before They're Winners)

The culture precedes positive results. It doesn't get tacked on as an afterthought on your way to the victory stand. Champions behave like champions before they're champions; they have a winning standard of performance before they are winners.

In a way, an organization is like an automobile assembly line; it must be first class or the cars that come off it will be second rate. The exceptional assembly line comes first, before the quality car.

Seek to Be Near the Summit

Within our organization the Standard of Performance served as a compass that pointed to true north. It embraced the individual requirements and expectations – benchmarks – required of our personnel in all areas regardless of whether things were going well or badly. That's the toughest thing – constancy amid chaos or presumed perfection. If things are going well, points being scored and games won, your organization may be elated and lose focus; if things are going poorly, [...] people are likely to be despondent and start looking for the exit.

Establishing Your Standard of Performance

  1. Start with a comprehensive recognition of, reverence for, and identification of the specific actions and attitudes relevant to your team's performance and production.
  2. Be clarion clear in communicating your expectation of high effort and execution of your Standard of Performance.
  3. Let all know that you expect them to possess the highest level of expertise in their area of responsibility.
  4. Beyond standards and methodology, teach your beliefs, values, and philosophy.
  5. Teach "connection and extension". An organization filled with individuals who are "independent contractors" unattached to one another is a team with little interior cohesion and strength.
  6. Make the expectations and metrics of competence that you demand in action and attitudes from personnel the new reality of your organization. You must provide the model for that new standard in your own actions and attitude.

How I Avoid Becoming a Victim of Myself

The key to performing under pressure at the highest possible level, regardless of circumstance, is preparation in the context of your Standard of Performance and a thorough assimilation by your organization of the actions and attitudes contained within your philosophy of leadership. With that comes the knowledge that you – and they – can step into that high-pressure arena and go about your work while the score works itself out. Rather than feel that somehow I had to get a supreme effort from our personnel – "try harder and harder" – I trusted that it was going to happen because we had prepared thoroughly.

The Walsh Way: The Organization Man by John McVay


Success Is Not Spelled G-E-N-I-U-S: Innovation, Planning, and Common Sense

Opportunity Is in the Eye of the Beholder

Creating gold from dross is alchemy; making lemonade when you're given lemons is leadership; making lemonade when you don't have any lemons is great leadership.

The West Coast Offense: From Checkers to Chess


Lessons of the Bill Walsh Offense

  1. Success doesn't care which road you take to get to its doorstep.
  2. Be bold. Remove fear of the unknown – that is, change – from your mind. Respect the past without clinging to it: "That's the way we've always done it" is the mantra of a team setting itself up to lose to an organization that's not doing it that way any more.
  3. Desperation should not drive innovation. Here's a good question to write on a Post-it Note and put on your desk: "What assets do we have right now that we're not taking advantage of?"
  4. Be obsessive in looking for the upside in the downside.

Welcome Skeptics to Your Team

Unfortunately, too often we find comfort in what worked before – even when it stops working. We get stuck there and resist the new, the unfamiliar, the unconventional.

Share the Glory

Few things offer greater return on less investment than praise – offering credit to someone in your organization who has stepped up and done the job.

Write Your Own Script for Success: Flying by the Seat of Your Pants (Is No Way to Travel)

Contingency planning is critical for a fire department, football team, or company and is a primary responsibility of leadership. You must continually be anticipating and preparing to deal with what management expert Peter Drucker characterized as "foul weather". He viewed it as the most important job of leadership. He may be right, but I would expand Drucker's category to include "fine weather" [...].

Having a well-thought-out plan ready to go in advance of a change in the weather is the key to success. I came to understand this when I realized that making decisions off the top of my head was a recipe for a bad decision – especially under pressure.

The motto of the Boy Scouts, "Be Prepared", became my modus operandi, and to be prepared I had to factor in every contingency: good weather, bad weather, and everything in between. I kept asking and answering this question: "What do I do if ...?" It's the same for you, of course: "What do you do if ...?" Most leaders take this no deeper than the first level inquiry. You must envision the future deeply and in detail – creatively – so that the unforeseeable becomes foreseeable. Then you write your script for the foreseeable.

I learned through years of coaching that far-reaching contingency planning gave me a tremendous advantage against the competition because I was no different from anyone else; it was almost impossible for me to make quick and correct decisions in the extreme emotional and mental upheaval that accompanied many situations during a game. I defy you to think as well – as clearly – under great stress as you do in normal circumstances. I don't care how smart or quick-witted you are, what your training or intellect is; under extreme stress you're not as good. Unless, that is, you've planned and thought through the steps you're going to take in all situations – your contingency plans.

If I'd done my work properly, little would arise that hadn't been anticipated; we'd seldom be caught off guard or have to come up with a plan in a panic. Of course, there's always something you can't anticipate, but you strive to greatly reduce the number of those unforeseeables.

Consequently, you must not only have a plan but also prepare for what happens if the plan works or fails or if an unexpected situation suddenly requires a completely different approach. What then? And what happens after that? And after that? The military is known for doing this – war gaming, thinking through its response to all contingencies. The more thorough, the more extensive, the more rehearsed, the better you perform under the pressure of any situation that calls for an immediate decision.

What is the width and depth of the intellect you have applied to your own team's contingency planning? What is the extent of your own "scripting"? What could happen tomorrow, next week, or next year that you haven't planned for, aren't ready to deal with, or have put in the category of "I'll worry about that when the time comes"? Planning for the future shouldn't be postponed until the future arrives. When you're thorough in your preparation – "scripting" is a part of it – you can almost go on automatic pilot and reduce the chance of making emotional and ill-considered decisions.

Control What You Can Control: Let the Score Take Care of Itself


Protect Your Blind Side: The Leadership Two-Step: Move/Countermove

[...] you may have to prompt yourself to continually and aggressively analyze not only your personnel but your organization's vulnerabilities: What's our blind side? What are the implications of the competition's recent initiative? What's our countermove to their move? Or is one even necessary?

[...] all solutions are only temporary. They last until your competitor makes a meaningful countermove to your own countermove. At which time it's your turn again. The key is to quickly recognize the nature of the threat and then to creatively and expeditiously respond to it. Otherwise, the game will be over before it begins.

The Archaeology of Leadership: Seek Reward in the Ruins

Progress, or lack thereof, in sports and business can be measured in a variety of ways, some much more subtle than others. Often it takes a keen eye and a strong stomach to dig through the "ruins" of your results for meaningful facts. A season's won-lost record (or your market share, sales figures, stock price) may not – will not – tell you what you need to know to be fully informed about the strength of your organization.

[...] it is often difficult to assess these interior, or buried, signs of progress or dysfunction, strength or weakness, because we become transfixed by the big prize – winning a championship, getting a promotion, achieving a yearly quota, and all the rest. When that goal is attained, a common mistake is to assume things are fine. Conversely, when you or the organization fall short of the goal, the letdown can be so severe you're blinded to substantive information indicating that success may be closer than you would imagine.

In planning for a successful future, the past can show you how to get there. Too often we avert our gaze when that past is unpleasant. We don't want to go there again, even though it contains the road map to a bright future. How good are you at looking through the evidence from the past – especially the recent past? There's a certain knack to it, but basically it requires a keen eye for analysis, a commonsense mind for parsing evidence that offers clues to why things went as they did – both good and bad. And, of course, it often requires a strong stomach, because what you're rummaging through may include not only achievements but the remains of a very painful professional fiasco.

The Walsh Way: The Problem Solver by Mike White

[...] he knew that organizations have leaders within, not just one leader, the CEO or head coach, but interior leaders who make possible or prevent what the guy in charge is trying to accomplish. In football they're called locker-room leaders, and ultimately they play a major role in creating the culture of the team – instilling either a positive or negative mindset. Every organization has them, influential people who've got your back – or are putting a knife in it. Bill understood that at one end of the scale there were locker-room leaders who were positive and supportive and at the other end influential players who were very negative. Most important, he understood that all the guys in the middle could go one way or the other; they were up for grabs.

Some of his most talented players were among the dissenters; on paper, at least, their talent held the key to our future. Bill was smart enough, strong-willed enough, to get rid of talented people if they were contributors to a negative organizational culture – not team players.

Fundamentals of Leadership: Concepts, Conceits, and Conclusions

"I Am the Leader!"

Someone will declare, "I am the leader!" and expect everyone to get in line and follow him or her to the gates of heaven or hell. My experience is that it doesn't happen that way. [...] others follow you based on the quality of your actions rather than the magnitude of your declarations.

Declaring, "I am the leader!" has no value unless you also have the command skills necessary to be the leader.

The Common Denominator of Leadership: Strength of Will

There is no one perfect or even preferable style of leadership, just as there is no perfect politician or parent. [...] We have, however, seen a move away from the dictatorial type of leadership [...]. You may get results for a week or a few months, but the cumulative effects of bullying people, creating an environment of ongoing fear, panic, and intimidation, are a situation where employees become increasingly tuned out and immune to all of your noise. And, of course, the talented ones look for a job with a better outfit.

Some leaders are volatile, some voluble; some stoic, others exuberant; but all successful leaders know where we want to go, figure out a way we believe will get the organization there (after careful consideration of relevant available information), and then move forward with absolute determination. We may falter from time to time, but ultimately we are unswerving in moving toward our goal; we will not quit. There is an inner compulsion – obsession – to get it done the way you want it done even if the personal cost is high.

The difference between offering an opinion and making a decision is the difference between working for the leader and being the leader.

Be Wrong for the Right Reasons

It's a delicate balance: You must persevere to achieve anything of import, but at what stage does perseverance become pigheadedness? When does your unswerving determination to do it your way – what you deem the "right way" – take you and your organization over the cliff?

So the question is this: How do you know when it's time to quit, to try another approach, to move in a different direction, regardless of whether it's a commitment to a football team's running game, a company's marketing plan, or a new hire? When is it time to say, "I'm wrong"? Here's the answer: There is no answer; there is no cut-and-dried formula.

We all have in our mind inspiring examples of individuals who persevered beyond the point of reason and common sense and prevailed. We tend to ignore the more numerous examples of individuals who persisted and persisted and finally failed and took everybody down with them because they would not change course or quit. We ignore them because we never heard about them, Failure rarely garners the amount of attention that victory does.

A leader must be keen and alert to what drives a decision, a plan of action. If it was based on good logic, sound principles, and strong belief, I felt comfortable in being unswerving in moving toward my goal. Any other reason (or reasons) for persisting were examined carefully. Among the most common faulty reasons are (1) trying to prove you are right and (2) trying to prove someone else is wrong. Of course, they amount to about the same thing and often lead to the same place: defeat.

A leader must have a vision, which is simply an elevated word for "goal". Significant time and resources will be applied to achieving that goal. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that you proceed and persist for the correct reasons; your tactics must be sound and based on logic seasoned with instinct.

Few things are more painful for a leader than losing because your reasoning is faulty, your conclusions flawed, your logic skewed by emotions, pride, or arrogance. One of the great leadership challenges is to recognize when hubris has you in its grip before it is too late to change.

Protect Your Turf

Leaders who don't understand what their territory is and how to protect it will soon find themselves with no turf to protect.

Be a Leader – Twelve Habits Plus One

In my view a truly effective leader must be certain things. Here are twelve habits I have identified over the years that will make you be a better leader:

  1. Be yourself. [...] Your style will work for you when you take advantage of your strengths and strive to overcome your weaknesses. You must be the best version of yourself that you can be; stay within the framework of your own personality and be authentic. If you're faking it, you'll be found out.
  2. Be committed to excellence. [...] At all times, in all ways, your focus must be on doing things at the highest possible level.
  3. Be positive. I spent far more time teaching what to do than what not to do; far more time teaching and encouraging individuals than criticizing them; more time building up than tearing down. There is a constructive place for censure and highlighting negative aspects of a situation, but too often it is done simply to vent and creates a barrier between you and others. Maintain an affirmative, constructive, positive environment.
  4. Be prepared. (Good luck is a product of good planning.) Work hard to get ready for expected situations – events you know will happen. Equally important, plan and prepare for the unexpected. "What happens when what's supposed to happen doesn't happen?" is the question that you must always be asking and solving. No leader can control the outcome of the contest or competition, but you can control how you prepare for it.
  5. Be detail-oriented. Organizational excellence evolves from the perfection of details relevant to performance and production.
  6. Be organized. [...] Great organization is the trademark of a great organization. You must think clearly with a disciplined mind, especially in regard to the most efficient and productive use of time and resources.
  7. Be accountable. Excuse making is contagious. Answerability starts with you. If you make excuses [...] so will those around you. Your organization will soon be filled with finger-pointing individuals whose battle cry is, "It's his fault, not mine!"
  8. Be near-sighted and far-sighted. Keep everything in perspective while simultaneously concentrating fully on the task at hand. All decisions should be made with an eye toward how they affect the organization's performance – not how they affect you or your feelings.All efforts and plans should be considered not only in terms of short-run effect, but also in terms of how they impact the organization long term.
  9. Be fair. [...] I believe your value system is as important to success as your expertise. Ethically sound values engender respect from those you lead and give your team strength and resilience. Be clear in your own mind as to what you stand for. And then stand up for it.
  10. Be firm. I would not budge one inch on my core values, standards, and principles.
  11. Be flexible. [...] Consistency is crucial, but you must be quick to adjust to new challenges that defy the old solutions.
  12. Believe in yourself. To a large degree, a leader must "sell" himself to the team. This is impossible unless you exhibit self-confidence.
  13. Be a leader. Whether you are a head coach, CEO, or sales manager, you must know where you're going and how you intend to get there, keeping in mind that it may be necessary to modify your tactics as circumstances dictate. You must be able to inspire and motivate through teaching people how to execute their jobs at the highest level. You must care about people and help those people care about one another and the team's goals. And you must never second-guess yourself on decisions you make with integrity, intelligence, and a team-first attitude.

Sweat the Right Small Stuff: Sharp Pencils Do Not Translate into Sharp Performance

While it is critically important to concentrate on the smallest relevant aspects of your job without losing sight of the big picture, it is easy to become so completely overwhelmed by ongoing setbacks that you start focusing on issues completely extraneous to improvement in an attempt to keep from having to look at intractable problems.

As a leader, when you find yourself with a host of problems that seemingly defy solution and start dwelling on the least relevant or even irrelevant aspects of your job – constantly sitting on the phone with nonessential conversations, doing endless e-mailing, writing memo after memo, fiddling around getting all your pencils sharpened and lined up perfectly, being excessively concerned about hurting feelings and trying to make sure everyone is comfortable, straightening out your desk drawer, getting wrapped up in the details of the annual Christmas party, and a million other kinds of stupid busywork, tell yourself this: "There'll be plenty of time for pencils, parties, and socializing when I lose my job, because that's what's going to happen if I continue to avoid the hard and harsh realities of doing my job."

The tangential aspects of your job become attractive because they're monumentally easier to control than what you're there to do; specifically, to create high performance; this is the toughest part to live with, concentrate on, and control.

Good Leadership Percolates Down

The trademark of a well-led organization in sports or business is that it's virtually self-sustaining and self-directed – almost autonomous. To put it in a more personal way, if your staff doesn't seem fully mobilized and energized until you enter the room, if they require your presence to carry on at the level of effort and excellence you have tried to install, your leadership has not percolated down.

Ideally, you want your Standard of Performance, your philosophy and methodology, to be so strong and solidly ingrained that in your absence the team performs as if you were present, on site. They've become so proficient, highly mobilized, and well prepared that in a sense you're extraneous; everything you've preached and personified has been integrated and absorbed; roles have been established and people are able to function at a high level because they understand and believe in what you've taught them, that is, the most effective and productive way of doing things accompanied by the most productive attitude while doing them.

[...] an organization is crippled if it needs to ask the leader what to do every time a question arises.

Ultimately, you hope your ideas and way of doing things become so strongly entrenched that the organization performs as effectively without you as with you.

The responsible leader of any company or corporation aggressively seeks to ensure its continued prosperity. It's the mark of a forward-thinking leadership. A strong company that goes south after the CEO retires is a company whose recently departed CEO didn't finish the job. If everything goes great when you're around but slows or stops in its tracks when you're not there, you are not fulfilling your responsibilities. Your leadership has not percolated down.

Nameless, Faceless Objects

Demonizing the competition is a common but contrived method for stirring up emotions. We see it used in sports (most frequently), business, or war to motivate people, to light a fire under them. [...] I generally preferred the opposite approach in characterizing the other team and its players. To me they were objects that were both faceless and nameless: Nameless, Faceless Objects. My logic was that I wanted our focus directed at one thing only: going about our business in an intensely efficient and professional manner [...]. I felt that moving attention away from that goal to create artificial and manufactured "demons" was artificial and usually nonproductive, especially when done repeatedly [...].

Whether it's sports, sales, management, or almost any other competitive context, consistent motivation usually comes from a consuming desire to be able to perform at your best under pressure, namely, the pressure produced by tough competition. If a player needed me to light a fire under him by turning the other team into a demon, he was lacking something I couldn't give him.

The Rules May Change, But the Game Goes On: I Strike Out the First Time, Not the Second


You Must Have a Hard Edge

[...] a leader needs a very hard edge inside; it has to lurk in there somewhere and come out on occasion. You must be able to make and carry out harsh and, at times, ruthless decisions in a manner that is fast, firm, and fair. Applied correctly, this hard edge will not only solve the immediate difficulty, but also prevent future problems by sending out this important message: Cross my line and you can expect severe consequences. This will have ongoing benefits for your organization.

The Inner Voice vs. the Outer Voice

Leadership is expertise. It is not rhetoric or cheerleading speeches. People will follow a person who organizes and manages others, because he or she has credibility and expertise – a knowledge of the profession – and demonstrates an understanding of human nature.

Whatever great excitement you may stir up in your employees with a rousing speech about a big quarter or blowing away a sales quota starts to evaporate the minute they exit the conference room. The true inspiration, expertise, and ability to execute that employees take with them into their work is most often the result of their inner voice talking, not some outer voice shouting, and not some leader giving a pep talk. For members of your team, you determine what their inner voice says. The leader, at least a good one, teaches the team how to talk to themselves. An effective leader has a profound influence on what that inner voice will say.

The great leaders in sports, business, and life always have the most powerful and positive inner voice talking to them, which they, in turn, share with and teach to their organization. The specifics of that inner voice varies from leader to leader, but I believe all have these four messages in common:

  1. We can win if we work smart enough and hard enough.
  2. We can win if we put the good of the group ahead of our own personal interests.
  3. We can win if we improve. And there is always room for improvement.
  4. I know what is required for us to win. I will show you what it is.

Montana's Leadership by Example: Cool, Calm, and Collected

Montana's kind of leadership is a great starting point, in my view, for what any good leader strives to do, namely, bring out the best in people. In order to manage people effectively, you must act responsibly and professionally in your capacity as leader. In this regard, you should employ an approach that is based on the following principles:

  1. Treat people like people. [...] Treat each member of your organization as a unique person. I was never pals with players, but I never viewed any of them as an anonymous member of an organizational herd.
  2. Seek positive relationships through encouragement, support, and critical evaluation. Maintain an uplifting atmosphere at work with your ongoing positive, enthusiastic, energizing behavior.
  3. Afford everyone equal dignity, respect, and treatment.
  4. Blend honesty and "diplomacy". At times, it is both humane and practical to soften the heavy blow of a demotion or termination with compassion and empathy. It will also help prevent or reduce a toxic response that can ripple through the organization when word spreads that someone feels he or she has been treated roughly without cause. Nevertheless, "rough treatment" serves a purpose occasionally.
  5. Allow for a wide range of moods, from serious to very relaxed, in the workplace depending on the circumstances. Set the acceptable tone by your own demeanor, and develop the fine art of knowing when to crack the whip or crack a joke.
  6. Avoid pleading with players to "get going" or trying to relate to them by adopting their vernacular. Strong leaders don't plead with individuals to perform.
  7. Make each person in your employ very aware that his or her well-being has a high priority with the organization and that the well-being of the organization must be his or her highest professional priority.
  8. Give no VIP treatment.
  9. Speak in positive terms about former members of your organization. This creates a very positive impression and signals that respect and loyalty extend beyond an individual's time on your payroll.
  10. Demonstrate interest in and support for the extended families of members of the organization.
  11. Communicate on a first-name basis without allowing relationships to become buddy-buddy. Deep resentments can develop when others see you playing favorites by exhibiting a special bond with select members of the group.
  12. Don't let differences or animosity linger. Cleanse the wound before it gets infected.

Don't Let Anybody Call You a Genius

[...] it's easy to get caught up in or enamored of lofty titles, praise, and flattery as you subconsciously attempt to become the character others have created out of who you are. That character isn't you, but it's an addictive attraction if the plaques, awards, and commendations start rolling in. Believing your own press clippings – good or bad – is self-defeating. You are allowing others, oftentimes uninformed others, to tell you who you are.

The real damage occurs when you start to believe that future success will come your way automatically because of the great ability of this caricature you have suddenly become, that the hard work and applied intelligence you utilized initially are not as crucial as they once were. That's when you get lazy; that's when you let your guard down. When that happens, you're not a genius – you're a genuine fool.

The Leverage of Language

You demonstrate a lack of assuredness when you talk constantly in negatives. When attempting to help someone attain that next level of performance, a supportive approach works better than a constantly negative or downside-focused approach.

If you're growing a garden, you need to pull out the weeds, but flowers will die if all you do is pick weeds. They need sunshine and water. People are the same. They need criticism, but they also require positive and substantive language and information and true support to really blossom.

If you're perceived as a negative person – always picking, pulling, criticizing – you will simply get tuned out by those around you. Your influence, ability to teach, and opportunity to make progress will be diminished and eventually lost. When that happens, you become useless, a hindrance to progress. When your feedback is interpreted as a personal attack rather than a critique with positive intentions, you are going backward.

Don't Beat Around the Bush (When Describing a Bush)

Employees can thrive in an environment where they know exactly what is expected of them – even when those expectations are very high. When it comes to telling people what you expect from them, don't be subtle, don't be coy, don't be vague.

Don't Mistake Grabbin' for Tackling

"Don't mistake activity for achievement."

Communication Creates Collaboration: Big Ears Are Better Than Big Egos

Quality collaboration is only possible in the presence of quality communication; that is, the free-flowing and robust exchange of information, ideas, and opinions. And "having big ears" – the skill of being a great listener – is the first law of good communication. (The second law is "When you're not listening, ask good questions.")

[...] communication is not a one-way street; it's a two-way, three-way, every-way street. This is a challenge for some of us to put into practice, because it's usually a hell of a lot easier to tell somebody what to do than to listen to his or her suggestions and ideas (especially when you think that you have all the answers on a wide range of subjects).

An individual doesn't need to be an expert to ask an intelligent question or offer useful insights. A sentence beginning with the words "This may sound dumb, but ..." can be the start of a fruitful discussion if you've hired talented and intelligent people. The person most familiar with a topic – you, for example – can get myopic, in need of an outside perspective.

Be a King Without a Crown

A leader who just wants to hear "yes" is like a child who only wants to eat candy. [...] a leader who wants people standing in line to agree with him or her will soon be history, having sailed into the sunset as captain of the ship of fools. This involves setting aside your ego, resisting the temptation to let the world know how smart you are or think you are. If you're doing your job, the team will recognize your abilities. In turn, you must recognize their talent and bring forth their potential in a collaborative way.

"Listen and learn" isn't a bad motto; neither is "Listen and lead". In most organizations the leader's example sets the tone for everyone else. One of the greatest and most neglected skills in leadership is the ability to listen.

Create Uncertainty

[Effective leaders] understand that if you're predictably difficult or predictably easygoing, others become predictably comfortable. In a highly competitive environment, feeling comfortable is first cousin to being complacent.

Play with Poise


Teaching Defines Your Leadership

People say there are winners and losers in life. But typically, it's more like this: There are winners, and there are people who would like to be winners but just don't know how to do it. Intelligent and talented people who are motivated can learn how to become winners if they have someone who will teach them. Leadership, at its best, is exactly that: teaching skills, attitudes, and goals (yes, goals are both defined and taught) to individuals who are part of your organization.

In my experience, this is what it takes to be a good teacher: passion, expertise, communication, and persistence.

Passion is a love for the act of teaching itself – believing in your heart that it is not a means to an end, but an end in itself. In order to have passion, you must love the topic you teach.

The greater your expertise, the greater your potential to teach, the stronger and more productive you can be as a leader. Without it you are disabled and will garner less and less respect from your team because they will sense that you're not on top of things, let alone able to teach them something meaningful. People know when you don't have the answers.

Successful teaching is a two-way process. Just as a pass is not successful until the receiver catches it, successful teaching requires reception, retention, and comprehension of your message. Some teach by word, others by deed – their example is the teacher. The best teaching uses both forms of communication, word and deed. And in all situations, enthusiasm for the subject matter is what powers the communication connection to those you teach.

The Thrill of Teaching


The Walsh Way: The House Cleaner by Bill McPherson


Essentials of a Winning Team: People, Priorities, and Performance

Money Talks. Treating People Right Talks Louder

The most important attribute of any organization is the way it treats its people, its commitment to the individuals on the team.

Money may buy you the best car in racing, but it won't go very far (or fast) unless you treat it right. The same goes for the individuals on your team. The highest-paid, most talented people that you can go out and hire will not perform to their potential unless they feel as if they are part of something special – a family that treats them right.

You're as Good as Your Good People

[...] an organization is only as good as the people who work there and [...] the leader determines who works there.

The Over and Under: The Art of Managing Confidence

When you reach a large goal or finally get to the top, the distractions and new assumptions can be dizzying. First comes heightened confidence, followed quickly by overconfidence, arrogance, and a sense that "we've mastered it; we've figured it out; we're golden". But the gold can tarnish quickly. Mastery requires endless remastery. In fact, I don't believe there is ever true mastery. It is a process, not a destination. That's what few winners realize and explains to some degree why repeating is so difficult. Having triumphed, winners come to believe that the process of mastery is concluded and that they are its proud new owners.

Success Disease makes people begin to forego to different degrees the effort, focus, discipline, teaching, teamwork, learning, and attention to detail that brought "mastery" and its progeny, success. The hunger is diminished, even removed in some people.

You feel content after navigating up the hard and treacherous road to victory. This is understandable; you should feel satisfaction and contentment. But when it lingers – sets in – you and your team are suffering from Success Disease. It can create a lack of respect for the competition, a feeling of superiority, and an assumption that you can win at will, turn it on when it counts. [...] And, of course, when you couple contentment with underestimating the competition, you – all by yourself – have set yourself up for defeat.

There are specific actions I took based on the lessons learned after the 49ers' experience with Success Disease following our first Super Bowl championship. They are very effective, although there is no guarantee that in following them you will fend off the fallout from achievement; specifically, Success Disease:

  1. Formally celebrate and observe the momentous achievement – the victory – and make sure that everyone feels ownership in it. Praise, bonuses, and other rewards can make it special.
  2. Allow pats on the back for a limited time. Then formally return to business as usual by letting everyone know the party is over. Nevertheless, don't tighten down too far. Victory can produce enormous energy – so powerful and overwhelming that in sports grown men will burst out in tears and run around like little children at Christmas. You must channel that powerful force and enthusiasm into the work ahead to solidify and build on the gains made by your team in achieving their recent success.
  3. Be apprehensive about applause. Instruct your team on the pitfalls of listening to accolades from those outside (and even inside) the organization. The praise can become a hindrance to buckling down to the hard sacrifice that will be required ahead.
  4. Develop a plan for your staff that gets them back into the mode of operation that produced success in the first place. Don't assume it will happen. Hold meetings to explain what steps must be taken to sustain momentum; refocus personnel by covering in detail why success was achieved; review with them why they prevailed.
  5. Address specific situations that need shoring up; focus on the mistakes that were made and things that were not up to snuff in the success. Point out deficiencies and the need to find remedies for them.
  6. Be demanding. Do not relax. Hold everyone to even higher expectations. Don't relax your Standard of Performance. The Standard of Performance is always in a state of refinement to raise performance. That's your gold standard, the point of reference above everything else, including the won-lost record, Super Bowl titles, shareholder value, quotas, sales, or praise from people who don't have to get down in the trenches with you and do the real work.
  7. Don't fall prey to overconfidence so that you feel you can or should make change for the sake of change. Change is inevitable, but change is not a casual consideration.
  8. Use the time immediately following success as an opportunity to make hard decisions, including elevation or demotion of individuals who contributed – or didn't – to the victory.
  9. Never fall prey to the belief that getting to the top makes everything easy. In fact, what it makes easier is the job of motivating those who want your spot at the top. Achievement, great success, puts a big bull's-eye on your back. You are now the target – clearly identified – for all your competitors to aim at.
  10. Recognize that mastery is a process, not a destination.

The Under: Strive to Be a One-Point Underdog

Ideally, I wanted to instill in each member of our group the belief that, regardless of the opponent, we were a one-point underdog, that the upcoming team was just a little better than we were or had motivation enough to really raise their level of play [...]. I wanted our team to believe that we could win, but only if we worked hard.

Seek Character. Beware Characters

It's worth remembering that some individuals have "situational character" – their attitude (and subsequent performance) are linked to results. Good results? Great attitude. Bad results? Bad attitude. [...] A leader must be able to identify these types of situations and not shy away from removing malcontents from the organization. It takes true character to stay with an organization when things seem to be at their bleakest.

Some define character as simply aspiring to high ideals and standards. I disagree. Many people have lofty aspirations. Unfortunately, aspiring isn't enough. You must also have the strength of commitment and sacrifice to adhere to those standards and ideals in both good times and bad.

In building and maintaining your organization, place a premium on those who exhibit great desire to keep pushing themselves to higher and higher performance and production levels, who seek to go beyond the highest standards that you, the leader, set. The employee who gets to work early, stays late, fights through illness and personal problems is the one to keep your eye on for greater responsibilities.

A Big Cheer for a Big Ego

Here's what a big ego is: pride, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-assurance. Ego is a powerful and productive engine. [...] Egotism is something else entirely. It's an ego that's been inflated like a hot-air balloon – arrogance that results from your own perceived skill, power, or position. You become increasingly self-important, self-centered, and selfish, just as a hot-air balloon gets pumped with lots of hot air until it turns into some big, ponderous entity that's slow, vulnerable, and easily destroyed.

In evaluating people, I prize ego. It often translates into a fierce desire to do their best and an inner confidence that stands them in good stead when things really get rough.

The Bottom 20 Percent May Determine Your Success

A leader who ignores this element of the organization – the "bottom 20 percent", those who play subsidiary or special roles – is asking for trouble. When these individuals begin to feel extraneous, their discontent can spread through your entire organization just like a cancer spreads through a body.

Avoid the Dance of the Doomed

Even in the worst circumstance [...], do not unravel mentally or emotionally; continue to fight and execute well, even if the cause appears to be lost; act like professionals.

Use the Four Most Powerful Words

Joe Montana and Steve Young are quarterbacks who came to the 49ers with the highest personal expectations of themselves; neither lacked in confidence, and both believed they could do just about anything. I let them know I thought they could do even more than anything. You can do the same with your own talented staff and personnel. The most powerful way to do this is by having the courage to say, "I believe in you", in whatever words and way are comfortable for you. These four words – or their equivalents – constitute the most inspirational message a leader can convey. There are many different ways to do it, but the fundamental and underlying message must always be the same: "I believe in you. I know you can do the job." Few things embolden and create self-confidence in a person like hearing those words from an individual whose judgment he or she respects, especially if that person is you, his or her boss.

As a leader you must have the strength to let talented members of your organization know you believe in them – nurture their belief in themselves, teach them what they need to know, and then watch what happens. It's amazing and one of the things I love most about leadership – teaching a person how to reach higher and higher, to achieve great things with his or her talent.

Extreme Effort Requires Extreme Prudence

Aggressive leaders – effective ones – push individuals hard, and then we push harder, knowing that one of our responsibilities is to get that extra effort necessary for an organization to achieve top results. A good leader believes that he or she knows the secret (or secrets) for bringing a group up to maximum productivity, and in fact, if you don't know how to do it you'll soon be gone. However, it's just as important to understand that "extra effort", in whatever form it takes (mental, physical, emotional), cannot be sustained without eventual damage and diminishing returns. There has to be a very acute awareness on your part as to the level of exertion and the toll it's taking on those you lead.

One of your great challenges is finding the middle ground between the well-being of the people who work with you and the achievement of your goals.

The art of leadership requires knowing when it makes sense to take people over the top, to push them to their highest level of effort, and when to take your foot off the accelerator a little. If your team is constantly working on adrenaline, in a crisis mode, running as hard as they can, they become vulnerable. When an emergency arises, when the competition suddenly presents an unexpected threat, your team has no next level to step up to, no reserves to draw on. The best leaders are those who understand the levels of energy and focus available within their team. They also recognize which situations require extreme effort and which do not.

The Bubba Diet: You Can't Transplant Willpower

Whether it's a 350-pound tackle, an employee, or a child, we must try our best to encourage, support, and inspire, but eventually – ultimately – people must do it for themselves. No one else can do it for them, including you, regardless of whether you're a head coach, CEO, manager, nutritionist, or doctor.

"Conventional Wisdom" Is an Oxymoron

Occasionally, when striving to go beyond conventional results, you must go beyond the conventional and against popular opinion. This means trusting your own judgment enough to be resourceful, innovative, and imaginative. It means resisting the herd mentality. To put it another way: Conventional wisdom often produces conventional results.

Make Friends, Not Enemies: Al Davis, Howard Cosell, and Monday Night Football

Enemies take up your time, energy, and attention – commodities too valuable to squander frivolously.

Hold on Until Help Arrives: Keep Your Boss in the Loop

Positive results – winning – count most. But until those results come through your door, a heavy dose of documentation relating to what you've done and what you're doing, planning to do, and hoping to do may buy you just enough extra time to actually do it. Whether they read it or not, flood your superiors with information that is documented – projections, evaluations, reports on progress, status updates. Then ask for periodic meetings. In a very professional way, force them to understand that you're doing everything you possibly can and that it's documented [...]. Open and honest communication with your superiors, both written and verbal, is a valuable tool in keeping them from coming to the wrong conclusions. It can be the difference between being stabbed in the back or patted on the back.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

While mollifying those who may decide your fate during a losing streak or turnaround effort – the boss, board of directors, or shareholders – you also need to be absolutely disciplined in focusing your own attention on what really matters. Here are a dozen daily reminders that will help keep you on the right track:

  1. Concentrate on what will produce results rather than on the results, the process rather than the price.
  2. Exhibit an inner toughness emanating from four of the most effective survival tools a leader can possess: expertise, composure, patience, and common sense.
  3. Maintain your level of professional ethics and all details of your own Standard of Performance.
  4. Don't isolate yourself. Keep in mind that as troubles mount, your relationships with personnel become even more critical. They are the key to holding the staff together. (Don't get too friendly, however. Familiarity can be deadly.)
  5. Don't let the magnitude of the challenge take you away from the incremental steps necessary to effect change. Continue to be detail oriented.
  6. Exude an upbeat and determined attitude. Never, ever express doubt, but avoid an inappropriate sunny optimism in dark times.
  7. Hold meetings with staff educating them on what to expect; teach them that the immediate future may be a rough ride but that things will change under your leadership and with their support.
  8. Don't label some concept or new plan the thing that will "get us back on track". Keep in mind that simple remedies seldom solve a complex problem.
  9. Ensure that an appropriate level of courtesy and respect is extended to all members of the organization. When things are tough, civility is a great asset.
  10. Don't plead with employees to "do better".
  11. Avoid continual threatening or chastising.
  12. Deal with your immediate superior(s) on a one-to-one, ongoing basis. Expect betrayal if results are not immediate. (You extend the time before betrayal occurs by keeping your superiors in the loop.)

Make Your Own Mentors: A PhD from the University of Paul Brown, et al.

My expertise accumulated because I made it my job to study others, to learn along the way.

The Walsh Way: The Fog Cutter by Randy Cross


Thin Skin, Baloney, and "The Star-Spangled Banner": Looking for Lessons in My Mirror

How You Get Good: No Mystery to Mastery


Sine Qua Non: Your Work Ethic – What William Archibald Walsh Taught His Son

Among other things, I knew the example I set as head coach would be what others in the organization would recognize as the standard they needed to match (at least, most of them would recognize it). If there is such a thing as a trickle-down effect, that's it. Your staff sees your devotion to work, their people see them, and on through the organization.

What does total effort and 100 percent commitment and sacrifice look like? The leader [...] is the one who answers that question by example for the entire team; you demonstrate in your behavior what it looks like. Just talking about it, exhorting those in your organization to "give it all you've got" is close to meaningless.

The Perfection of the Puzzle


The Gladiator Mentality: Get Your Mind Right


I Never Sang "The Star-Spangled Banner"


My Strengths?


Unleash Mentors: Tell Your Team to Teach

My philosophy of team members teaching new arrivals the organization's system, not just X's and O's but the attitudes and actions of performance, is essential to a self-sustaining winning organization. It is accomplished through mentoring within your organization. And for mentoring to exist, members of your team must truly believe that their first loyalty is to furthering the good of the group: "What is good for us is good for me."

Everyone must have an attitude of helping one another. Are you teaching that to those you lead? Do you teach that being on your team includes sharing their knowledge? That an employee strengthens himself or herself when he or she strengthens another member of the organization?

Don't Do unto Others (What Paul Brown Did unto Me)

In your own professional activities, remember that a reputation for fair play – treating people right – can be a big part of a potential employee's decision to join you or a current and valued employee's desire to remain.

When it comes to deciding how you treat people, exploitation, expedience, and self-interest are a formula for creating a team of individuals who will soon be looking to join another team.

Nine Steps for a Healthy Heart

People matter most – more than equipment, investors, inventions, momentum, or X's and O's. People are at the heart of achieving organizational greatness. Too often aggressive leaders forget the human part of the equation – the most important part. Let me suggest nine steps you can take that involve treating people right, for having a healthy heart in your organization:

  1. Afford each person the same respect, support, and fair treatment you would expect if your roles were reversed. Deal with people individually, not as objects who are part of a herd – that's the critical factor.
  2. Leadership involves many people, each with their own need for role identity within the organization. Find what a person does best, utilize and emphasize it, and steer clear of his or her weaknesses.
  3. Demonstrate a pronounced commitment to employees by providing a work environment that enables them to achieve their maximum potential and productivity.
  4. Acknowledge the uniqueness of each employee and the need he or she has for a reasonable degree of job security and self-actualization.
  5. The most talented personnel often are very independent minded. This requires that you carefully consider how you relate to and communicate with this type of individual.
  6. While at times a divergence may exist between the good of the group and the good of the individual, in a best-case scenario the group's and the individual's "good" should be the same. When this is not the case, you are well served to explain the reasons behind the divergence to the person who feels badly treated – for example, when he or she is passed over for promotion.
  7. People are most comfortable with how they are being treated when their duties are laid out in specific detail and their performance can be gauged by specific metrics. The key is to document – clarify – those expectations.
  8. It is critical that employee expectation levels be reasonable, attainable, and high. While you should exhibit flexibility in the work environment to accommodate the needs of employees, you should be inflexible with regard to your expectations of their performance.
  9. Establish a protocol for how members of the organization interact with one another. This is essential to preventing compartmentalization and "turf protection". Let them know their first priority is to do their job; their second priority is to facilitate others in doing their jobs.

Seriously, Don't Be Too Serious

There's not a lot of room for joking around in the midst of competitive challenges, whether on the football field or in the marketplace. Humor is often a sign of being removed from the focus and commitment necessary to do the job well – a casual attitude about a serious endeavor. But a leader also runs the risk of pushing so hard, with deadly solemnity and grim-faced determination, that he or she creates an oppressive and performance-limiting workplace. You need to recognize when it's time to lighten up and let some of the steam – pressure – vent. This requires the ability to gauge when and how it is appropriate to utilize humor.

Does pressure improve performance? Yes, up to a point, but let me suggest the following: Regardless of context, those who are able to perform best are those who are best able to remove tension, anxiety, and fear from their minds. There's a phrase for it: "being in the zone".

You want your team to push hard, to feel as if they will come up short without total effort. But total effort doesn't mean total anxiety. I believe optimum creativity and high performance [...] are most likely to succeed when the individual or group has an attitude that is seemingly a paradox; specifically, both relaxed and intense. That's when things really happen.

The Last Word on Getting in the Last Word

If you care about how you're perceived by others, including the public, it's good to remember the following: Criticism – both deserved and undeserved – is part of the territory when you're the one calling the shots. Ignore the undeserved; learn from the deserved; lick your wounds and move on.

Thinly Sliced Baloney (Can Make a Good Sandwich)

In all cases, I emphasized to the people in our organization that their response to rumors, gossip, and hearsay should be the same: Focus only on doing your best to maintain and improve your level of performance; concern yourself only with that which you can control, and you can't control rumors.

Surprising News Re: The Element of Surprise

The principle of assuming the other person is unprepared, believing the competition will not adjust or is inflexible, or being convinced you can just outsmart the opposition with the element of surprise, is bad.

Don't Delay Delegating (Famous Last Words: "I'll Do It Myself")

Somehow in my mind I believed that I was the best qualified to do almost every job, especially when it came to the offensive part of our game. In one sense, it stemmed from confidence; I was absolutely sure that if I did the job it would not get screwed up. Well, that can only take you so far. Pretty soon you're on overload while very talented people in the organization are being underutilized.

Cut Your Losses Before They Cut You

When you make a mistake, admit it and fix it. Don't let pride, stubbornness, or possible embarrassment about your bad decision prevent you from correcting what you have done. Fix it, or the little problem becomes a big one.

Look Below the Surface: There's More Than Meets the Eye

You must be willing to account for a person's emotions and state of mind when you judge his or her actions. Frequently we misinterpret behavior because we don't allow for explanations other than what is most obvious; we don't look below the surface.

A Pretty Package Can't Sell a Poor Product

In your efforts to create interest in your own product, don't get carried away with premature promotion – creating a pretty package with hype, spin, and all the rest. First, make sure you've got something of quality to promote. Then worry about how you're going to wrap it in an attractive package. The world's best promotional tool is a good product.

Zero Points for Winning (Means You're Losing)

Losing, however you define it, even the thought of losing, can become so psychologically crippling that winning offers little solace and no cause for celebration because you've imposed an internal accounting system on yourself that awards zero points for winning and minus points for losing. You can never get ahead on points. [...] This can occur as your expectations and the expectations of others get higher and higher – they keep raising the bar on you, and you keep raising it on yourself.

[...] any kind of loss, mistake, or setback becomes very disturbing, even devastating, because you've attached your self-image to the results of the competition. Winning can become insidious for the same reason, that is, you allow the victory to begin determining your self-worth, how you feel about yourself. Either way, you are putting yourself on a slippery slope when you start believing that the outcome of your effort represents or embodies who you really are as a person – what your value as a person is.

[...] there are times when you must stand up for yourself even if the consequences include being fired. That's easier said than done, as evidenced by the fact that I didn't do it.

What Do I Miss Least?

One of the lessons I learned was how people change with success or failure. People's behavior and attitudes can be transformed in the most positive or most disturbing ways.

[...] it was unpleasant to know that doing a good job in the NFL wasn't much different from doing a bad job. Both will get you fired; the latter just gets you fired sooner. You know you're there as a coach temporarily, only while you're very successful, only when you do a fantastic job. Then you learn that even a fantastic job is inadequate. The norm becomes the impossible, and when you don't achieve the impossible, your head's on the chopping block.

What Do I Miss Most?

Nothing is more gratifying than creating something that you're sure no one else has ever seen or thought of and having it succeed.

Quick Results Come Slowly: The Score Takes Care of Itself

Superb, reliable results take time. The little improvements that lead to impressive achievements come not from a week's work or a month's practice, but from a series of months and years until your organization knows what you are teaching inside and out and everyone is able to execute their responsibilities in all ways at the highest level.

The Walsh Way: A Complex Man. A Simple Goal. By Craig Walsh