Is a good coach like a good CEO?
We know, thanks to Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers, that a mediocre team, can, without changing much of the personnel, become great with a new leader in charge. One change at the top, and a sad sack turns into a championship contender.
Nancy Ross knows how. She's an executive coach. Usually in the employ of Silicon Valley technology companies, Ross says a good leader can alter the landscape of a football team, just like it can alter the landscape of a struggling company. "He or she has to get what's really going on there," Ross says, "and then, it's all about whether people working for the executive have confidence in that person."
It doesn't always work, of course. Dynamic, passionate leaders come and go in the sports world, just like they do in executive boardrooms. But, Ross says, when people really believe in the message and the process, things can change in a hurry. Ross says when a new leader takes over, you'll know within 30 days if the troops are buying in.
During Harbaugh's press conference after the big win over the Saints, someone asked him how his team got so much better so quickly. His answer, "how can we get better than yesterday? If we can get one percent better each day, we're 30 percent better in 30 days" sounds like an executive, hired to get a one proud company back on track.
Ross says it's the little things that make a great CEO, or coach. "People skills to convey confidence" are big. Getting those around you to buy in .. just as important.
There's a story San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told his team not too long ago, one that has quickly turned into an inspirational message for a squad that has surprised everybody with its 7-1 start. It's about Harbaugh's childhood as the youngest son of former longtime college coach Jack Harbaugh, back when his family never complained about constant moving or tiny, cramped homes. Jack actually would get so energized while driving his kids around that he'd shout, "Who has it better than us?" Every time, Jim would scream with his older brother John and younger sister Julie, "Nobody!"
When Harbaugh told this story, he didn't rely on predictable histrionics or dramatic embellishments. He delivered the tale the same way he usually speaks, with a clear, measured tone designed to drive home the larger point. If the 49ers wanted to look at their circumstances heading into this season -- the most notable being a mere six weeks to get acclimated to their first-year coach after the NFL lockout -- they could find ample reason to wilt. If they wanted to do what Harbaugh did back in the day, which was focus intensely on the positives, they might just create magic.
It's a message that has so resonated with the 49ers that they chant "Nobody!" every time Harbaugh yells, "Who has it better than us?" after practices and games.
"We ran with it," 49ers inside linebacker Patrick Willis said. "The whole point is that no matter what people say on the outside, we have enough for what we need. I don't know if he meant for that to become a motivational story but that's exactly what it is now."
Linebacker Patrick Willis noticed Harbaugh's unique approach early on in camp when Harbaugh would come to team meals. "Normally, you'll see guys wanting to get up and leave the cafeteria when the coach comes in. But he comes in and talks to everybody. He'll sit down with the starters. He'll sit down with the guys on the practice squad. I saw him once walk up to a table where all the seats were taken and he just found a way to squeeze right into space between a couple guys. And nobody left."http://www.footballs...s-got-it-better
What Harbaugh has done as a head coach, in college at Stanford, and now in the NFL by taking the San Franciscon 49ers to the Super Bowl, has been monumental.
It’s amazing how the 49ers are considered the NFL’s most-talented overall team. In 2010, the season before Harbargh arrived, the 49ers were 6-10. They hadn’t compiled a winning record in eight years. They were a study in NFL dysfunction. Mike Singletary, the previous coach, was a dignified Hall of Fame linebacker, a teammate of Harbaugh with the Chicago Bears, who could not control his squad.
The 49ers have reached the Super Bowl for the first time since the salad days of Bill Walsh and George Seifert at head coach, and Joe Montana and Steve Young at quarterback They started winning immediately under Harbaugh. They lost, narrowly, to the Giants in the NFC championship game last year. Sunday, they trailed the Falcons 17-0 on the road - and still won.
This is not new. It is, rather, Harbaugh’s second so-called miracle. Stanford was 1-11 the season before he took over. He was soon upsetting the likes of USC, when it was at its very best during its scandal-marred days of Pete Carroll, and then eventually dominating the PAC 12 Conference. Stanford was 12-1 Harbaugh’s last season there.
These weren’t just building programs. These were lightning fast bottom-to-top turnarounds.
In the process, Harbaugh has had these moments that have made him the coach many love to hate.
Harbaugh has, what tactful people refer to, as a “strong personality.”
Maybe that’s what make him a great coach. It’s incredible how team-oriented the 49ers have become. Keeping Colin Kaepernick at quarterback after Alex Smith returned from a concussion was one of the gustiest moves ever by NFL coach. Smith was playing very well before he was hurt, but Kaepernick is clearly better.
If the 49ers win the Super Bowl, there will many people across the football landscape muttering under their breath: "That &%#@^ Harbaugh."
Jim Harbaugh isn’t necessarily liked, but it is impossible not to respect what he has accomplished as a coach.
It has been unquestionably brilliant.