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Monday, July 29, 2013


A few weeks ago, I had a post about a book and made reference to the fact that I would have loved to have read it when I first started coaching.  In fact, it would be in my Top 10 books that I think could've impacted me greatly as a young coach just starting out.  I have since received a great number of requests asking for the complete list and so each day, over the next few weeks, I will list a book that I think young coaches would benefit from reading as they start their coaching journey.  I would imagine that many will be looking for X&O books -- just as I did when I first started coaching -- but instead you will find a list of books that will not only make you a better coach, but a better person. Books that concentrate on teaching, goal setting, communication and leadership.

Book #5

The Score Takes Care of Itself
Bill Walsh, Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh

This is a phenomenal book written by a phenomenal teacher.  In his forward, Hall of Fame quarterback wrote, “That was his thing about 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.

1. Flying by the seat of your pants precedes crashing by the seat of your pants.

2. Planning for foul or fair weather, “scripting” as it applies to your organization, improves the odds of making a safe landing and is a key to success. When you prepare for everything, you’re ready for anything.

3. Create a crisis-management team that is smart enough to anticipate and plan for crises. Being decisive isn’t enough. A wrong call made in a decisive manner is still the wrong call. I hadn’t planned for the “crisis” up in the booth against the Oakland Raiders, and we lost; I had planned for the “crisis” against Cincinnati when we got the ball with two seconds left on the clock and won. The former desperate situation was, indeed, desperate; the latter was not, because we were ready for it.

4. All personnel must recognize that your organization is adaptive and dynamic in facing unstable “weather”. It is a state of mind. Situations and circumstances change so quickly in football or business that no one can afford to get locked into one way of doing things. You must take steps to prepare employees to be flexible when the situation and circumstances warrant it.

5. In the face of massive and often conflicting pressures, an organization must be resolute in its vision of the future and the contingent plans to get where it wants to go.

6. You bring on failure by reacting in an inappropriate manner to pressure.

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.

I might do even less strategizing for a Super bowl game, because in the midst of the extreme pressure I placed a premium on fundamentals, the skills and the execution ability the team already possessed as a result of our concentration and hard work going all the way back to day one of training camp and the previous training camp and the one before that.

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 fictionally 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.

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).

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 member; how they approached the vagaries of competition; and how willing they were to sacrifice for the goals I identified.

On the field (and elsewhere) the assistant coaches and I were conscientious about educating players so they appreciated that when Jerry Rice caught a touchdown pass he was not sole responsible, but an extension of others – including those who blocked the pass rusher, receivers who meticulously coordinated their routes to draw defenders away from him, and the quarterback who risked being knocked unconscious attempting to throw the perfect pass.

Victory is produced by and belongs to all.

Likewise, failure belongs to everyone. If you or a member of your team “drops the ball,” everyone has ownership. This is an essential lesson I taught the San Francisco organization: The offensive team is not a country unto itself, nor is the defensive team or the special teams, staff, coaches, or anyone in the organization separate from the fate of the organization. We are united and fight as one; we win or lose as one.

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.

Combat soldiers talk about whom they will die for. Who is it? It’s those guys right next to them in the trench, not the fight song, the flag, or some general back at the Pentagon, but those guys who sacrifice and bleed right next to them. “I couldn’t let my buddies down,” is what all the soldiers say. Somebody they had never seen before they joined the army or marines has become someone they would die for. That’s the ultimate connection and extension.

The leader’s job is to facilitate a battlefield-like sense of camaraderie among his or her personnel, an environment for people to find a way to bond together, to care about one another and they work they do, to feel the connection and extension so necessary for great results. Ultimately, it’s the strongest bond of all, even stronger than money.