The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh

  1. Ultimate guide to Bill Walsh’s leadership principles. Told by his son through the perspective of 5 key pillars – Joe Montana, John McVay (director of football operations), Mike White (assistant at UC Berkeley and briefly at SF), Bill McPherson, Randy Cross (SF defensive lineman)
Key Takeaways
  1. Do all the right things and the score will take care of itself
  2. Bill wanted to attain perfection and one of his strengths was showing his team it was possible and the road to get there. His technical knowledge and attention to detail are legendary, brought in the best staff possible, taught everyone to hate mistakes
  3. Extremely demanding but quiet about it. Was extremely self assured but not cocky. Bill’s thinking and approach was always ahead of the curve and enlightened
  4. Most big things are simple in the specific, much less so in the general. Bill was a genius in making the complex comprehensible, the comprehensible achievable
  5. Bill was incredibly respectful to everybody on his staff
  6. Bill loved lists and believed it was a roadmap to his success
  7. What he loved more than anything was finding a great talent and teaching him how to reach his full potential
  8. There is no formula for success, no absolutes. But there are many things which can increase the probabilities of success (PIPER)
  9. Failure an integral part of success. Getting through this and knowing how to recover gives mental strength and confidence. Expect defeat, force yourself to move forward, allow yourself time to grieve, know you will stand again, begin planning no matter how small to succeed. No matter what, don’t blame others
  10. His process called the standard of performance. Planning, precision, poise. Do everything at the higher level and the outcome will take care of yourself
  11. An organization is a conscious and organic entity which needs to be consciously cultured. Follows your philosophy – what needs to be done, when and why. Primary focus always on the process and continual improvement
  12. Was a stickler for details and “trivial” details which add up to the overall image and performance. Culture always precedes results
  13. Most valued characteristics – Functional intelligence, talent, character, eagerness to adopt standard of performance, ability to work with others
  14. Winners act like winners before they’re winners
  15. All people want to feel like they’re part of something special
  16. Always be open to serendipitous moments and chance happenings. The best are better at turning lemons into lemonade. The west coast offense came out of a botched play (series of short passes to confuse the defense)
  17. Success doesn’t care how you get there (don’t be rigid and closed to innovation, be bold and remove fear of the unknown, desperation should not drive innovation, be obsessive in looking for the upside in the downside
  18. Few things offer better ROI than praise, giving credit where credit is due
  19. Vital to have plans for both situations when things are going well and poorly. First to script many plays before hand. ask self “what would you do if…”
  20. Leaders must be decisive once they have made up their mind. No good answer as to how to know when have made the wrong decision
  21. Leaders – believe can make a positive difference, Be themselves and the best version of it, committed to excellence, positive, prepared, detail oriented, organized (especially how you spend your time), accountable, able to zoom in while still seeing big picture, fair and ethical, firm on values, flexible to new situations, believe in themselves, be a leader (where you’re going and how to get there)
  22. Good details to fret about – patience, delegating, continuous improvement
  23. Great organizations are self sustaining and self perfecting. This is a prime role of the leader
  24. The leader has expertise and must have a hard edge beneath it all even if it isn’t often shown
  25. Joe Montana was not your typical alpha male leader. Above anything he lead by example and never had a sense of entitlement
  26. Bring out the most in people by treating people like people, seek positive relationships with all, afford everyone equal respect, blend honesty and diplomacy, allow for a wide range of moods, avoid pleading with players, make each person aware their wellbeing a great importance, avoid VIP treatment, speak well of former employees, treat families well, first name basis, don’t let animosity linger
  27. Good communication and lack of boundaries between different ranks is very important
  28. Find incredible mentors who will teach you and encourage you
  29. Mastery a continuous process of remastery. In fact, it is never attainable. A process rather than destination
  30. Argues that having a big ego (pride, self confidence) is necessary but egotism (arrogance) is to be avoided at all costs
  31. The bottom 20% of your team often decides victories (backups, customer service representatives). Make sure they understand they will have a big role to ply at some point and to be ready for it
  32. Few things inspire like hearing “I believe in you”
  33. Leaders must be acutely aware of pushing their team when necessary but also when to let off
  34. Bill had a no enemies policy for himself and the 49ers. One enemy can do more harm than 100 friends
  35. Wanted to create a unique and welcoming environment so disallowed hazing and it was expected that veterans would help train their replacements
  36. Like attracts like. Bill always aimed for character in his coaches and players
  37. Treating people right the core of sustainable success. Treat all fairly, find what a person does best and let them loose, set up most effective environment possible, acknowledge uniqueness of each employee, most talented people often strong minded and must deal with as appropriate, if good of group and individual not aligned must explain why, lay out duties and expectations very clearly, expectations must be high but attainable, interactions must be understood so no territorial feelings get hurt
  38. Those who perform best are those who best remove tension, anxiety and fear. Get in the zone
  39. Don’t underestimate or overuse humor as a pressure valve under serious stress
  40. A pretty package cannot sell a poor product
  41. Tips – don’t isolate yourself, create a network of smart and trusted individuals, delegate abundantly, avoid temptation to equate self worth with winning,
What I got out of it
  1. Awesome read. These books on leadership and coaching have been very influential for me this year (Holtz, Wooden, etc.)

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