Bill Walsh on the Hiring Process
INTERVIEW EDGE • JULY 1995
When football legend Joe Montana officially hung up his cleats this past spring, everyone sang his praises, including ex-coach John Madden, who called him "the greatest quarterback ever to play the game." Bill Walsh, Montana's longtime coach and the man who recruited him to the 49ers, was a lone voice of reason. Walsh pointed out that Montana was anything but a leading light when he joined the team in 1979. In fact, league scouts had warned the coach about Montana's inconsistency and his "average arm."
But as everyone knows, Walsh gambled on Montana and ended up an enormous winner. Over the years, in fact, Walsh has been so successful at recruiting top players that he recently discussed his hiring "strategies" in an article in Forbes magazine. Although Walsh considers the hiring process "possibly the single most important act of top executives," he also calls it a "crap shoot." He has some sound advice for improving the odds:
(1) In the selection process, statistics are less important than the "immeasurables . . . like intuition, dedication, and resourcefulness."
(2) "Stars on one team can turn average on another," so a track record is no guarantee of future performance.
(3) It is crucial to find the right people not just for the glamour spot but for all key positions. ("You can always train a promising quarterback, but you want the head groundskeeper to know what he's doing from day one.")
(4) It is essential to acknowledge and correct hiring mistakes as quickly as possible, even if some egos - including your own - get bruised in the process.