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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

THE TOP PRIORITY IS TEACHING

From "The Score Takes Care of Itself," by Bill Walsh with Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh:

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.