How To Prepare Your Team For The Inevitable

This lion stands across the road from where I live in Richmond. 

I pass him every day (at least once) and he reminds me of a favourite lesson that a hero of mine liked to teach.

The Legendary Bill Walsh was Head Coach of the San Francisco 49ers NFL Team from 1979 to 1988. He’s considered to be one of the greatest coaches of any sport there has ever been.

With Walsh in charge, the 49ers won three Super Bowls and were the victor in over 60% of the games they played. 

He’s also credited for changing the way the game of Gridiron (American Football) is played – creating the West Coast Offence, an intricate way of advancing towards a score, which is the basis of how all the NFL teams play the game today.

So (obviously) I studied his coaching methods and processes in an attempt to help me coach my teams to win.

One of Walsh’s favourite lessons was that failure is inevitable (and in many cases a prerequisite) on the route towards success. So, the Leader must prepare their team for defeat. 

He would teach this by telling a story:

“When a wildebeest or zebra is finally trapped by the lion, it submits to the inevitable – its head drops, its eyes glaze over, it stands motionless and accepts its fate. The posture of defeat is also demonstrated by man – chin down, head dropped, shoulders visibly slumped – as players leave the field in the later stages of a game when things are going against them.”

He would assert:

“Even in the most impossible situations – stand tall, keep your head up, shoulders back, keep moving, running, looking up, demonstrating your pride, dignity and defiance.”

By contrast the lion needs to make their body as big as it can to tackle its prey, which is much larger. 

Body language is incredibly important!

In the hope that some of the Walsh magic will rub off on my team, I tell them that they need to be lions and lionesses – not zebra. (Yes, the plural of zebra is in fact zebra – I had to look it up though…).

Posture has the power to change your body on a chemical level. 

Recent research shows that low power body postures raise cortisol levels — the primary hormone involved in stress. 

By contrast, high power postures lower levels of the stress hormone. 

Not only that but the research shows that you can “fake” the chemical composition of your body, just by adopting a different posture. 

When your team is under pressure, which do you think is better to adopt — a low power or high power posture?

I want my team to have high power body language:

Raised chin, head high, shoulders back, chest out. Making themselves as physically big as they can. 

I want them like this in all situations. Even if they feel low. 

Giving themselves a high power posture will lower their cortisol. Make them less stressed. And be more able to perform at the best of their ability.

It goes the same for your team members – teach them to be a lion (or lioness), not a zebra! 

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