Bill Walsh is the former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and a Pro Football Hall of Fame member. When he took over the 49ers, they were without a doubt one of the worst teams in the NFL. In just three short seasons, he took them to a Super Bowl championship. This book details his philosophy on leadership and establishing a Standard of Performance. I really enjoyed the read, and I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for leadership tips. For more background, the book inspired this post.
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.
Bill took a very different approach to winning football games. Instead of focusing solely on winning, he focused on installing a Standard of Performance, an expectation of excellence that drove his players to be the best. He detailed six steps to creating your own Standard of Performance:
- Start with a comprehensive recognition of, reverance for, and identification of the specific actions and attitudes relevant to your team’s performance and production.
- Be clarion clear in communicating your expectation of high effort and execution of your Standard of Performance. Like water, many decent individuals will seak lower ground if left to their own inclinations.
- Let all know that you expect them to possess the highest level of expertise in their area of responsibility.
- Beyond standards and methodology, teach your beliefs, values, and philosophy.
- 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.
- Make the expectations and metrics of competence that you demand in action and attitudes from personnel the new reality of your organization.
I loved what he had to say about sharing success across the team:
…were conscious about education players so they appreciated that when Jerry Rice caught a touchdown pass he was not solely responsible, but an extension of others—including those who blocked the pass rushers, 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…And this organizational perception that “success belongs to everyone” is taught by the leader.
This was an excellent point about realizing that others (not just the head coach or CEO) shape the attitudes and values of the team:
…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.
Some notes on a self-sustaining team:
The trademark of a well-led organization in sports or business is that it’s virtually self-sustaining and self-directed—almost autonomous…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.
Lastly, you, as the leader, shape how your team reacts to situations. You are responsible for teaching them how their inner voice should react to situations.
For members of your team, you determine what their inner voice says. The leader, at least a good one, teachers the team how to talk to themselves. An effective leader has a profound influence on what that inner voice will say.