What can coaches learn from professional football? A lot, in fact.
From rookies, to wide receivers, to star quarterbacks, football coaches take the time to train and support every player on their team, regardless of their role. Professional sports coaches know that when every member of the team succeeds, the whole team succeeds.
Bill Walsh, Hall of Fame coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 1979 to 1988, is widely recognized for his success with turning the team around. In 10 seasons, the 49ers won six division titles, three conference championships, and three Super Bowls. He introduced the “West Coast Offense” approach to football, which remains the dominant style of play in the 30+ years since he first initiated it.
More importantly, 29 people in Walsh’s coaching tree went on to become head coaches themselves, meaning that Walsh’s coaching had a long-lasting and far-reaching impact in the world of professional sports. Of these individuals, 26 coached against the 49ers, and six coaches worked with teams who won at least one Super Bowl title.
Not only did Bill Walsh fundamentally change the way professional football coaches train and support their teams, but his efforts raised the bar in professional sports for everyone, regardless of whether or not they were on the same team.
What Makes Bill Walsh Different?
The most important thing we can learn from Bill Walsh is that he coached everyone, regardless of whether or not they would stay, go, or eventually compete against him.
Often, businesses will refrain from investing in professional coaching or adopting a “coach approach” to leadership and executive training because they fear that empowering their employees will empower them to the point where they eventually leave the organization. However, if we use Bill Walsh as an example we can see that training leaders to achieve their full potential has far-reaching and long-lasting positive impacts which can fundamentally change an industry.
Coaching peers and team members within your organization shows your commitment to ensuring their personal and professional growth, regardless of whether or not they stay with your organization in the long-term.
3 Steps to Coaching the Bill Walsh Way
1. Get Personal
The best coaches have frank, honest discussions with their teams and understand their values, motivations, and challenges at an intimate level. By listening and building trusting relationships, coaches can show that they value people over profit, and their commitment to assisting the individual, not just the organization.
2. Coach for Future Potential
Coaching is rarely intended to be an exercise with short-sighted goals; instead, professional coaching is designed to equip employees, teams, leaders, and executives with the skills they need to continue to lead and shape their industry.
By articulating the long-term benefits of working with a professional coach or developing a coaching culture within an organization, coaching candidates feel supported by their peers and place of work to achieve their maximum potential.
3. Be Proactive
The most effective coaches don’t just look for the best and brightest coaching candidates; they take the time to understand each individual’s goals and aspirations, and develop uniquely tailored plans to accelerate growth in order to meet personal and professional goals.
By proactively looking for opportunities to improve existing systems, cultivate unique skills, and align those efforts with business results, coaches can have a long-lasting impact that will span generations over a company’s lifetime.
Bill Walsh is remembered by football fans for his exceptional coaching, but what sets him apart from other professional sports coaches is the long-lasting impact of the 29 coaches he influenced. His legacy isn’t just about the team he led to success, but to the individuals who continue to benefit from his efforts today.
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