Bill Walsh: The Innovator

If you’ve been following my blog it’s no secret that I like to draw parallels between sports and leadership/management.  The greatest NFL coach in the 1980’s, and perhaps of all-time, was Bill Walsh.  Over the course of just over a decade he won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers, and turned the once struggling franchise into a dynasty.

So what made him and his teams so successful?  Well, first and foremost, he was ahead of his time in regards to offensive football.  Walsh was one of the early pioneers of the “West Coast” offense, which confused teams and defenses for years to come.  Many successful coaches of that era won a lot games running the traditional schemes of the day.  There was nothing wrong running “status quo” offense at a high clip.  But what separated Bill Walsh and his teams was his innovative approach to offense; doing something that no one else was doing in the NFL.

This principle of innovation as a key to success can easily be applied to business.  It is safe and easy to continue with the status quo.  In fact, I don’t believe that there’s necessarily anything inherently wrong with sticking to tried and true methods, and trying to do them well (think “In n Out” burgers).  However, I believe that innovation and trying new things can lead to breakthroughs that safe, or “conventional wisdom” doesn’t easily afford.

It can be risky to try and navigate uncharted waters, and it may lead to an increased risk of failure.  But I believe that leaders can’t be afraid to try new things and to innovate.  This is part of what lead to the rise of Apple and Steve Jobs, or more recently Tesla and Elon Musk. My challenge to you is to take some time to reflect on how you can do something better than you’ve been doing it; look to innovate.  Doing so may lead to a breakthrough that you may otherwise never have discovered.



Reflective Action

In a recent post I mentioned that my team and I are reading, “Building the Bridge as You Walk on It,” by Robert Quinn.  We just got done reading a chapter entitled, “Reflective Action,” which presents this idea as one of the key concepts of the book.

In this chapter Quinn argues that often times we focus either too much on reflection, with too little action, or (more commonly) we focus too much on the action while giving little time for refection.  He contends that in order to enter “the fundamental state of leadership,” it’s important that both reflection and action are emphasized.

With my team at work our mission it to “Make a Difference Daily.”  Recently we got individual “one line a day” journals with the challenge to take some time every day to reflect on how we’ve made a difference, or what we can do to make a difference each day.  It’s nothing big, but hopefully it will help us remember to take some time each day for reflection and thought.

My challenge to you is to commit to setting some time aside each day for reflection/thought/meditation (or however you want to phrase it).  Doing so can help you achieve the balance required for reflective action.  Thank you for stopping by my blog!

Don’t Be Afraid To Try New Things

In a recent blog post I mentioned that I would be taking a family trip down the California coast, and that I would give surfing a try for the first time.  Well, our trip has now come and gone, and I wanted to let you know how my first surfing experience went.  I took a lesson from Van Curaza at Pismo Beach and it was awesome!

Van has over 40 years of surfing experience and clearly knows his stuff.  The majority of the lesson actually took place on the beach, rather than in the ocean, as he taught me the basic fundamentals of surfing (where to put my feet, how to lay on the board, how to stand on the board, etc.).  It all seemed pretty straight-forward, and I was fairly confident that once I got out in to the water I would be able to replicate what we were practicing on the sand.  Yeah…that didn’t happen.

Getting out in to the water seemed to have an amnesia effect on me, as if I had suddenly forgotten everything that we had been practicing on the sand.  After repeatedly falling off the board and becoming increasingly discouraged and frustrated, I finally caught a wave and was able to stand up without falling.  Van told me before we started that there’s nothing like catching a wave; he couldn’t have been more right.  And while I couldn’t really do much in the way of tricks once I got up, just being able to ride the wave made it worth it.

I’m glad that I decided to get out of my comfort zone a little bit and try something I had never done before.  And that’s my challenge to you, to pick one thing this summer that  you’ve never done before and give it a try.  Life’s full of amazing adventures that we can experience if we’re willing to try new things.

Personal Revitalization

In some of my recent blog posts I’ve been writing about the importance of finding a good work/life balance, and not burning yourself out.  I’ve been reading a great book with my team at work entitled “Building the Bridge as You Walk on it,” by Robert Quinn.  The fourth chapter of this book is entitled, “Personal Revitalization.”

In this chapter, the author tells a story of a business owner named Mark.  Mark had consistently worked 60 to 70 hour weeks for many years and was beginning to feel burned out (understandably).  He decided to take a 10 day sabbatical during which he read another book by Quinn entitled “Deep Change.”  This book caused him to reassess his priorities and values.  As a result he decided to spend more time with his family and less time at work.

By doing this he found himself revitalized and soon began working with more energy and purpose.  While he was technically in the office less than before, he was more productive and enthusiastic while there, which in turn had a positive effect on his employees and business.  As you might expect, he also noticed that his relationships at home improved as well.  My challenge to you is to take some time to consider your priorities and values, and to determine if where you are allocating your time aligns with these priorities and values.  The more aligned our time is with our priorities and values, the happier, and more energized and revitalized we will be.

The Power of Unplugging

Next week I’ll be taking my family down the California coast.  We’ll be starting in Monterey for a couple of days, and then heading down Highway One to Pismo Beach, where we’ll spend several days relaxing, enjoying the sun, and where I’ll thoroughly embarrass myself by taking my first surfing lesson.

Aside from the quality time with my wife and kids, one of the things I’m looking forward to the most is UNPLUGGING.  It seems like the norm these days with just about any management/administrative position is a daily dose of dozens, if not hundreds, of emails; in addition to dozens of phone calls, voicemails, and text messages.  And if you’re anything like me, it’s not uncommon to check your inbox first thing in the morning, and right before bed…and many, many times in between.

In one of my recent posts I discussed the dangers of “burnout,” and why relaxation, or down time, is so important.  Along those lines, I think it’s also important to completely unplug from work, school, etc. at least once or twice per year (if not more).  The times when I have done this in past I have felt a renewed sense of energy, and have returned to work with more enthusiasm, drive, and commitment.  While it can sometimes be hard to completely unplug from emails and phone calls, and lead to some catching up upon your return, the “battery recharge” you will feel as a result is worth it.

My challenge to you is to figure out a time or two before the end of the year to completely unplug from your daily demands, and to do this for at least a couple of days.  I think you will find that it is well worth it.