“The Score Takes Care of Itself” Quotes

I recently read “The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership” by Bill Walsh (with Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh). Below are the quotes I found most interesting. As always, if you liked the quotes, buy the book here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 8.26.15 PM“When I give a speech at a corporate event, I often ask those in attendance, ‘Do you know how to tell if you’re doing the job?’ As heads start whispering back and forth, I provide these clue: ‘If you’re up at 3 A.M. every night talking into a tape recorder and writing notes on scraps of paper, have a knot in your stomach and a rash on your skin, are losing sleep and losing touch with your wife and kids, have no appetite or sense of humor, and feel that everything might turn out wrong, then you’re probably doing the job.’” (5)

“When the inevitable setback, loss, failure, or defeat comes crashing down on you – 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.” (10)

“Take pride in my effort as an entity separate from the result of that effort” (16)

“Winning results from your whole team not only doing their individual jobs but perceiving that those jobs contributed to overall success.” (23)

“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 the 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.” (24)

“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.” (25)

“Before you can win the fight, you’ve got to be in the fight.” (26)

“Consistent effort is a consistent challenge.” (27)

“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.” (30)

“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 situation during a game.” (51)

“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.” (62)

“We have, however, seen a move away from the dictatorial type of leadership, an approach that didn’t fit me and that I do not think is conducive to long-term success, especially in a corporate setting. 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.” (77)

“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.
It is good to remind yourself that this quality – strength of will – is essential to your survival and success. Often you are urged to “go along to get along,” solemnly advised that “your plan should’ve worked by now,” or told other variations that mount to backing away from a course you belive in your heart and know in your head is correct. “ (78-79)

“Once the decision was made, the discussion was over. My ultimate job, and yours, is not to give an opinion. Everybody’s got an opinion. Leaders are paid to make a decision. The difference between offering an opinion and making a decision is the difference between working for the leader and being the leader.” (79)

“Proving that you are right or proving that someone is wrong are bad reasons for persisting. Good logic, sound principles, and strong belief are the purest and most productive reasons for pushing forward when things get rough.” (83)

“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.” (85)

“Be A Leader – Twelve Habits:
Be yourself.
Be committed to excellence.
Be positive.
Be prepared.
Be detail-oriented.
Be organized.
Be accountable.
Be near-sighted and far-sighted.
Be fair.
Be firm.
Be flexible.
Believe in yourself.”

“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.” (90)

“An organization is crippled if it needs to ask the leader what to do every time a question arises. I didn’t want an organizational psyche of leadership dependency, of being sim-dysfunctional without me around making every decision.” (90)

“ A strong company that goes south after the CEO retires is a company whose recently departed CEO didn’t finish the job.” (92)

“Leaders who regularly employ this tactic of demonizing opponents destroy its effectiveness because it’s soon recognized as a ploy to stir up emotions. As soon as that happens, it’s ignored. Nevertheless, it had value in my system because it was used sparingly and performed convincingly.” (95)

“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.” (97)

“From time to time, leaders must show this hard edge. They must make those around them somewhat uneasy, even ill at ease, in not knowing what to expect from you, the leader. THe knowledge that there is this hardness inside you can have a very sobering effect on those who might otherwise be sloppy – those who occasionally need to be reminded of your policies and practices.” (99)

“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.” (99)

“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.” (100)

“You don’t need to shout, stomp, or strut to be a great leader – just do the job and treat people right.” (102)

“Remember that praise is more valuable than blame.” (105)

“Believing your own press clippings – good or bad – is self-defeating. You are allowing others, oftentimes uninformed others, to tell you who you are.” (107)

“If you’re growing a garden, you need to pull out the weeds, but the flowers will die if all you do is pick weeds.” (109)

“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.” (109)

“Employees can thrive in an environment where they know exactly what is expected of them – even when those expectations are very high.” (111)

“You’re not always right, nor is the other person. Sometimes you’re both wrong. Sometimes there are three sides to a coin. I wanted to work with people smart enough to have independent thinking but strong enough to change their opinion when evidence or logic suggested it.” (113)

“Even though I had virtually complete autonomy through most of my ten years as head coach of the 49ers, I was never called Coach Walsh. In fact, everyone in the organization was addressed by their first name, including me. I wanted no barriers such as rank or title to clog up productive interaction.” (115)

“Rank, titles, or inferred status can impede open communication in an environment where people thrive on helping one another.” (115)

“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.” (118)

“The 49ers had talent and were well schooled. Neither matters if the person in charge falters or fails when it matters most. Having a clear idea of what your options are – situational planning – helps you be a leader when leadership is required.” (121)

“The process – seeing someone I had evaluated, selected, and taught break out and do great things – is what it’s really all about for me, the source of my greatest pleasure in leadership. In my experience, this is what it takes to be a good teacher: passion, expertise, communication, and persistence.” (122)

“I came to understand over my years as an assistant coach that when the audience is bored, it’s not their fault. And when they’re plugged in and excited, it’s because of you, the person in charge.” (126)

“Persistence is essential because knowledge is rarely imparted on the first attempt.” (126)

“Bill would say to us coached, ‘I’m going to yell at you in front of the players once in a while. When that happens, don’t get upset with me. Your players will work even harder for you because they’ll feel sorry for you.” (132)

“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.” (138)

“Mastery requires endless remastery. In fact, I don’t believe there is ever true mastery. It is a process, not a destination.” (144)

“Some individuals have ‘situational character’ – their attitude (and subsequent performance) are linked to results. Good results? Great attitude. Bad results? Bad attitude.” (149)

“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.” (152)

“When the bottom 20 percent is dissatisfied – doesn’t feel they’re a real part of your team, that is, appreciated – their comments, perspective, and reactions – their ‘bitching’ – is seen, heard, and absorbed by those who are positive and productive.” (156)

“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.” (161)

“Nobody will ever come back to you later and say “thank you” for expecting too little of them.” (161)

“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.” (162)

“What’s difficult to do is recognize when extra effort, extreme exertion, working ‘as hard as possible’ starts to produce diminishing returns.” (164)

“You never stop learning, perfecting, refining – molding your skills. You never stop depending on the fundamentals – sustaining, maintaining, and improving.” (185_

“Achieving success in a competitive environment requires solving a very complicated puzzle. This is true in all big-time competition. The winners know how to get more pieces of the puzzle in place than the losers.” (192)

“The most talented personnel often are very independent minded.” (202)

“Finding yourself in a position where you believe your only option is to pull off a big surprise often means you haven’t prepared, haven’t done your homework.” (211)

“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.” (218)

“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.” (218)

“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 person – what your value as a person is.” (219)

“If your hard work is coupled with intelligence and talent, you may win. If not, you go back to work and get ready for the next fight without feeling that somehow, having given it everything you’ve got, you are somehow inadequate as a person, that you didn’t measure up. You can’t let that happen to yourself.” (227)

“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.” (227)

“Commitments, publicly to their team, of high performance in the coming battle.” (240)

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