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It has always fascinated me how intuitively similar sport and business are.

And after reading Bill Walsh's bestselling book The Score Takes Care of Itself, the similarities became crystal clear.

Bill was a legendary football trainer — the American hand-based football variety, not your so-called ‘soccer’ that I’m used to.

He took over the San Francisco 49ers, at a time when they hadn’t won anything substantial, were literally in the last place in the season, and were risking dismissal from the league!

And after Walsh’s organizational changes?

The 49ers won their first Super Bowl Championship ever!

And that wasn’t all…

Under Walsh, the 49ers won:

  • 6 NFC championships and titles
  • 2 more Super Bowls

… which made the 49ers the NFL team of the 1980s!

How the heck is it possible to go from last place to national champion?

The strategies he used to do this are fascinating…

And guess what?

They all can be used in leadership, management, and business in general!

Here are 6 of my favorite ones, that I wanted to share with you:

1) Praise is One of Your Best Tools

Few things offer a greater return on less investment than praise.

Getting praise or recognition for good work increases revenue and productivity by 10-20%.

The opposite is also true — those feeling unrecognized are 3x more likely to quit in the next year.

I’ve written previously how important it is to point out what your teammates are doing right, instead of what they are doing wrong.

Praise your team publicly and highlight their strongest skills to build a motivated team.

2) Prepare & Plan for all Possible Outcomes

Walsh was obsessed with preparation.

He thought about every contingency he could think of because, as he learned the hard way:

"When you prepare for everything, you're ready for anything."

This is more relevant now than ever, as rumors say we are steadily heading into recession.

So, take a moment to brainstorm with your team and think of all possible negative outcomes and how you’ll prepare for them.

I’m running this meeting internally, and will share some thoughts from it with you next week.

3) Set a Great Example & Build a Strong Culture

It’s amazing how much value Bill puts on culture.

"Others follow you based on the quality of your actions rather than the magnitude of your declarations."

As he put it, "When you know that your peers demand and expect a lot out of you and you, in turn, out of them, that's when the sky's the limit."

And that standard started with the example Walsh set as head coach.

What you do is 100x more important than what you say.

Think about it when you want to build the best organizational culture out there.

4) Teach & Infect Others with Your Enthusiasm

Drive matters — when the audience is bored, it's not their fault.

If you want others to be enthusiastic — start from yourself and start teaching.

Teaching is one of the most important characteristics of true leaders.

And when it’s combined with enthusiasm, great things happen.

5) Use the 4 Most Powerful Words in a Manager's Arsenal

No, it’s not, “Get out! You’re fired!” or “I’ll raise your salary!” or even “Who ate my sandwich?”

The 4 most powerful words you can say to individuals on your team are: "I believe in you."

You need to stretch people to help them achieve their full potential…

And the most powerful way to do this is by having the courage to give them ownership, give them challenges, and let them rise to the occasion.

Raise the bar, and let them know you believe in them even more than they believe in themselves.

6) Never Give Up. Never Quit.

Don’t say, “Why me?”

Don’t expect sympathy.

Don’t complain.

Don’t keep accepting condolences.

Don’t blame others.

Expect defeat.

If you’re surprised when you get defeated, you were deluding yourself.

Force yourself to stop looking back and wallowing in misery — allow yourself an appropriate recovery time, but no more.

Instead, tell yourself that you’re going to stand and fight again.

Look forward. And begin planning for the next serious encounter.

And if you’re going to remember anything and apply it to your business, remember this last bit of advice…

The key to performing under pressure is to develop a strong standard of performance and to stick to it no matter what.

I was a soccer fan in my childhood and felt horrible when my team lost.

The only thing that helped was putting it into perspective — surely the players felt 10x worse?

But then the next game would come, and they’d play like they’d never lost a game in their lives… winning even!

As John Lennon said, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end.”