Bill Walsh’s Standard of Performance

Bill Walsh was one of the NFL’s most successful, innovative and highly respected Head Coaches, leading the San Fransisco 49ers from ridicule to ‘World Champions’  in just 3 seasons.  He built a team that would win 4 Super Bowls in 11 years and coached some of the sport’s greatest stars of all time, including Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.

Having worked in High Schools, Colleges and the NFL, under a number of influential coaches, Walsh arrived at San Fransisco with a fully formed philosophy and approach to leadership that he implemented with a fierce, single-minded commitment; turning an ailing franchise into standard bearers for a new kind of football.

Key to Walsh’s approach was his belief that by focusing on the culture of the organisation and establishing a commitment to performing at the highest level possible, at all times and in all roles (coaches, players, admin staff, receptionists etc.) a winning team would naturally emerge. In his words – ‘The score takes care of itself’ 

The values and beliefs of Walsh’s culture were spelt out in what he called his Standard of Performance, a set of actions and attitudes that he sought to instill in every member of his organisation –

  1. Exhibit a ferocious and intelligently applied work ethic directed at continual improvement.
  2. Demonstrate respect for each person in the organization and the work that he or she does.
  3. Be deeply committed to learning and teaching, which means increasing my own expertise.
  4. Be fair.
  5. Demonstrate character.
  6. Honor the connection between details and improvement, and relentlessly seek the latter.
  7. Show self-control, especially where it counts most – under pressure.
  8. Demonstrate and prize loyalty.
  9. Use positive language and have a positive attitude.
  10. Take pride in my effort as an entity separate from the result of that effort.
  11. Be willing to go the extra mile for the organization.
  12. Deal appropriately with victory and defeat, adulation and humiliation (don’t get crazy with victory nor dysfunctional with loss).
  13. Promote internal communication that is both open and substantive (especially under stress).
  14. Seek poise in myself and those I lead.
  15. Put the team’s welfare and priorities ahead of my own.
  16. Maintain an ongoing level of concentration and focus that is abnormally high.
  17. Make sacrifice and commitment the organization’s trademark.
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