By Diamond Richardson
One of the interesting topics of discussion about Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII was the face-off between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens was a family affair, at least for the Harbaugh family. Jim Harbaugh is the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and his brother, John Harbaugh, is the Raven’s head coach.
Both coaches have been praised for their exemplary leadership abilities, and credited with being large parts of why their teams had the opportunity to play for the coveted title of Super Bowl champions on Sunday. Mercury News recently ran an article specifically about the effect Jim Harbaugh’s leadership skills have had on the 49ers. Although Jim did not walk away victorious this weekend, he still is a huge part of taking the 49ers so far this season. Journalist Monte Poole summed all of Jim Harbaugh’s teachings into what he called “Jim Harbaugh’s Five Commandments.” These five commandments are applicable to all kinds of leaders, on and off of the field. Here are the commandments and what they can teach us on how to be a more effective manager:
1) Fiercely protect the team. Jim’s players know that their coach has their best interests at heart. Your direct reports should feel the same. As a manager, you do not only represent your company and your product or service. You also represent your employees, and it is your job to have their best interests at heart. After all, without them, there would be no product. Learn to frame your decision-making in light of what will be best for your most important investment, your people.
2) Never recognize failure. This should not be interpreted to mean completely ignoring failure. For Jim Harbaugh, it simply means not letting it take control of his team. Jim recently made some unpopular changes to the 49ers’ roster, including removing quarterback Alex Smith from his starting position. Many people called the move a mistake after the 49ers suffered a tough loss to the St. Louis Rams, but Jim does not play into negative media attention. He simply continues his pursuit of excellence and re-adjusts when he makes mistakes. As a manager, you will not always be perfect and you will not always make the right decisions. But you cannot dwell on your mistakes. You must quickly learn from them and move on.
3) Praise all under your command. Jim makes it a point to celebrate the accomplishments of his team. In the article, he is quoted as saying “being a great teammate, doing the best to your God-given ability each and every time is a great gift that you can give to another man — to have his back. That’s a strong phrase. But I don’t think that’s just something our guys talk about. I think it’s who they are.” As a manager, you should be happy to praise your employees. It is important to do this on a one-on-one basis. However, praising them in a public setting is also necessary. It lets your employees know you want everyone else to celebrate his or her accomplishments just as much as you do. Your employees will feel more confident when approaching new projects with your praise in mind.
4) Men first, players second. “Because the players perceive Harbaugh to be loyal to them as men first and football players second, they continue to follow his lead and hang on his every word,” Poole writes. It is critical as a manager that you are able to do the same. Learn to see your employees as people with opinions, interests outside of work and unique skills. This will help you to better connect with them. It will also give you greater insight into which projects will be better for which employees, based on their unique skill set. When you view your team as a unit, you miss the opportunity to exploit valuable differences.
5) Do whatever must be done to achieve the best possible result. While talking about his admiration for Jim, 49ers defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said, “He wants us to get better as individuals and as a team. He wants us to be better than we were yesterday, and he wants us better yesterday than we were the day before that.” Just as Jim demands consistent, high performance from his players, you as a manager need to demand the same from your employees. Holding your employees accountable to high standards is good for your organization and your employee’s personal growth. You cannot constantly worry that they will not meet those expectations. If you have the right people in the right jobs, trust that they will rise to the occasion.
Do you have any other management lessons you have learned from coaches?