Bill Parcell – Finding a way to Win

Some very useful stuff taken from Bill Parcell’s book, “Finding a way to Win”

  • When an organization stays the course and holds fast to their philosophy, through good times and bad, they work from a firm foundation. They gain an identity. They stand for something.
  • Every organization, whether it’s floundering or ruling the roost, needs a calm, clear vision. Only people inside the group can chart its course; outside voices must be kept in their place.
  • Division from within is the most dangerous factor that can ruin any organization.
  • When selfishness is tolerated, the entire organization is in jeopardy.


  • The chances my team takes are calculated – only fools gamble at random. But you can’t play safe and pursue your vision: you can’t shrink from risk and expect others to follow you.
  • Explain what you’re trying to accomplish…when people understand the point of the risk, they’re more likely to give their all, in the effort, and less likely to second-guess after ward.
  • It’s one thing to hate failure; it’s another to fear it.
  • When you fail to give your staff meaningful tasks and input, you wind up with robots and yes-men. You stop getting quality advice and innovative ideas.
  • Every way isn’t my way. The challenge is to find the best way, and then collectively commit to it.
  • Confidence is only born of demonstrated ability. 
  • You can’t build an accountable organization without leaders who take full responsibility.
  • Coaches should be judged on three things:
    Do players have a design that allows them to function on game day?
    Are the players prepared to deal with contingencies that may confront them?
    Do the players behave the way the coach wants them to?
  • A competent coach should be able to field a team that is strategically sound, that plays with discipline, that doesn’t beat itself.
  • Leadership is the most visible thing there is – because if it’s not visible, there is no leadership. 
  • No Excuses – excuses and alibis are the main enemies of accountability. On my team we simply don’t accept excuses for failure.
  • Nobody cares what you’re up against. The sooner you put those issues out of your mind, the sooner you can direct your focus toward the real issue: pushing your team toward victory.
  • Establish clear expectations – people can’t become accountable unless they understand exactly what you want.
  • Never blame a game on a player.


  • Be Hard on Yourself–Confident leaders freely admit their own mistakes. And by doing it publicly, they set an example for others to take responsibility.
  • Without new ideas, your organization will stagnate.
  • Coaching is an act of communication – of explaining what you want of people in a way that allows them to do it.
  • I consider preparation the most enjoyable part of my work, and the most challenging. To the extent my teams have succeeded, I’d say that solid preparation – not talent or strategy – was the primary factor.
  • The more you prepare beforehand, the more relaxed and creative and effective you’ll be when it counts.\
  • We don’t want our players to think during a game we want them to react – thinking takes too long. Have the correct moves ingrained in practice so instinct guides them to the right place at the right time. 
  • A team’s practices will predict its performance just about every time.
  • Whenever I send my team into a game with some new wrinkle or adjustment they aren’t fully prepared for, it blows up in my face more often than not.
  • Well-prepared leaders plan ahead for all contingencies, including the ones they consider unlikely or distasteful.
  • Good Preparation begins with Organization:Before my staff meets with our players, we have to budget our time for the week, set our priorities. We decide which points we’ll emphasize in depth, what we’ll go through quickly, and what we’ll skip altogether.
  • People perform most reliably when they’re sure they can handle the task at hand-and that sureness comes only with specific preparation. 
  • When leading a group toward important achievement, don’t compromise your standards based on people’s complaints or conventional workloads.
  • You’re constantly balancing mental preparation against physical wear and tear. As the old saying goes, you want to work smarter, but not always harder.
  • I emphasize the obvious all the time, especially with a younger team, because it’s the obvious things that beat you if they’re not taken care of.
  • The road to execution is paved by repetition. 
  • Be a Teacher, Not a Drill Sergeant
  • To teach you have to listen as well as talk. When we experiment with something new in practice, our players’ feedback is invaluable.
  • Trial and error is part of the process; it’s rarely fatal to try something and fail. The greater danger lies in hiding behind tradition while the world keeps turning. Resourceful managers tinker and adapt until they find the winning formula.
  • There are always problems on a football team, as in any other business. And there are coaches, and managers, who can sit around indefinitely expounding upon those problems. Those people will not help you find a way to win.
  • Resourcefulness is simply resilience – a refusal to quit or give in, even when all seems bleak. 
  • You’re not truly successful until you’re challenged at the top level of your ability – and you consistently marshal your best effort.
  • The main threats, the ones that tear you down, are all internal: complacency, distraction, all the petty jealousies that come with the distribution of credit.
  • In a competitive environment, to remain the same is to regress.
  • Measure Excellence by Performance, not Reputation. 
  • I wouldn’t ask a player to do something I wouldn’t do with my own kids. I don’t want them to think that I would ever compromise them.
  • The team that makes fewer mistakes will generally get the opportunity to win, even when the opposition has more talent.
  • The disciplined team has to get beat by somebody; it refuses to beat itself.
  • There is always a way to compete, even against superior forces, but it requires strict adherence to a calculated plan.
  • Mental errors reflect poor concentration or inadequate preparation. 
  • A Physical error can also result from poor concentration, but physical errors are typically caused by an athletic mismatch, where you’re up against someone whose ability is greater than yours.
  • What sets disciplined people apart?
    The capacity to get past distractions
    Focus on the task at hand.
    The willingness to condition mind and body for the task at hand
    An ill-disciplined body makes for a weak mind.
    The ability to keep your poise when those around you are losing theirs.
  • Organizations can’t improve without setting the highest standards. But they also need to measure achievement against their real potential at a given time. 
  • What the quick-fix guys miss is that there’s a process at work here – there are steps you need to take to build a successful organization, and if you try to skip one you’ll trip.
  • The disciplined course isn’t always the daring course or the exciting course. It’s the course that gives your organization the best chance to prevail.

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