Coaching Resource: Jim Harbaugh – 3 Keys to Being a Successful Coach

Chris Vannini, Coaching Search (

Harbaugh on Honesty:

“Be honest in everything you do. You’ve got so many choices, and there are choices and way to be dishonest. It’s easy to get a dishonest edge. You can get that dishonest edge in recruiting, with empty promises, with fixing grades, how you fill out your expense report. My dad taught us to never lie, never cheat, never steal. Any success that is gained by that dishonesty is going to get undermined. It’s not worth it. That’s the value of it.

“The value of becoming a person that’s a known person of character, integrity, and that is priceless. It can’t be bought. It’s got to be earned. The grade is easy, when it comes to integrity. It’s either 100 percent or it’s 0 percent. An easy grading scale on that one.”

On outworking other people:

“Whether you’re starting a new job or in your current job, future goals or the job that you’re in, do one more thing. Find one more thing to do, because everybody else is going to doing exactly what they’re told to do, what they’re expected to do. Everybody’s doing that. If they don’t do that, then they get weeded out, so they’re not there anymore anyway. As a coach, find one more thing to do. It doesn’t have to be advertised. Just do it. Just do that.

“You’ll run the risk of doing extra stuff, right? But that’s what you want. You want the extra responsibility. You want the extra trust. That’s the goal. You want more. Do the job and one more thing. What else can I do? Who you’re working for or with, is there something more I can do? One more thing. You’ll get ahead of your competition. Everyone’s doing what they’re asked.”

On obedience:

“Obedience is an underrated talent. It’s the ability to put oneself under somebody else’s authority, under somebody else’s direction, and that’s a rare and valuable trait in everything. A football play, everybody has an opinion or thinks they can help with how a play should be run. But someone’s got to coordinate. In order for that play to be run well, it requires precision. Precision requires obedience. When you coordinate, you appreciate that.”

Harbaugh on Schembechler’s three keys:

“I had great advice from Bo, to be a successful coach. He told us this when we were playing. Three keys to being a successful coach, success being happy in life. In descending order, No. 3 was to work hard and finding ways to outwork somebody else. Find the ways to do one more thing. No. 2 was pick a profession that you love. Hopefully, you love this profession of coaching and changing lives. If you don’t, somebody else will outwork you. Somebody that loves it will outwork you. And the No. 1 most important thing was marry wisely.


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