A highly respected leader remarked recently that mediocrity is fast becoming the byword of our times. Every imaginable excuse is now used to make it acceptable. Budget cuts, time deadlines, majority opinion, and hard-nosed practicality are outshouting and outrunning excellence. Those forces seem to be winning the race. Incompetence and status quo averages are held up as all we can expect, and the tragedy is that more and more people have virtually agreed. Why bother with the small stuff? Why bother with the genuine now that artificial looks so real? There are no shortcuts—as my mentor, coach Don James, instilled in his coaches and players—sound fundamental coaching, attention to detail and hard work is what it takes to be successful.
In the 1958 season, the Green Bay Packers finished with a record of 1-10-1, the worst in Packer history. The players were dispirited, the Packer shareholders were disheartened, and the Green Bay community was enraged.
On February 2, 1959, Vince Lombardi was hired as the Head Coach and General Manager of the Packers.
On the day he was hired, he walked into the team headquarters, thanked the ownership for giving him this opportunity and then spoke directly to the players and coaches. What he said completely transformed the thinking and the actions of everyone. He said, “Men, we are going to pursue perfection with a passion—knowing full well that we will never achieve it, but along the way we will catch excellence”. This story was told to me by Bart Starr, the prolific quarterback of the Packers at a leadership seminar a few years ago—he recalled every word. Vince went on the say that he was “not even remotely interested in being just good”.
By 1961 the Packers had won the NFL title and went on to win a total of five championships in seven seasons and never had a losing season under Lombardi’s leadership. Lombardi developed a culture that strove for perfection and settled for excellence. It wasn’t about one thing, it was about everything! Coach Chris Petersen, now of the Washington Huskies, models and coaches this in his football program with tremendous results.
Excellence is difficult to communicate because it can easily be misread as neurotic perfectionism or snooty sophistication. But it is neither. On the contrary, it is the stuff of which greatness is made. It is the difference between just getting by and soaring—that which sets apart the significant from the superficial, the lasting from the temporary. A commitment to excellence is neither popular nor easy. But it is essential. It is built on discipline and tenacity of purpose.
Be Excellent—Coach Excellence!
Skip Hall is a senior executive coach and speaker for Price-Associates specializing in team building, motivation and results. He is also senior executive vice president of Hall and Associates, a financial services firm with offices in Boise and Seattle. For thirty years coach Hall coached football at the Division 1 level, serving as the assistant head coach to legendary coach Don James at Washington for twelve years and then became the head coach at Boise State from 1987-92. He was a part of twelve Bowl games, including three Rose Bowls. He had the privilege of coaching or mentoring Nick Saban, Gary Pinkel, Jim Mora, Jim Zorn and Chuck Pagano—all highly successful head coaches in college or the NFL. He also has a great relationship with new Husky coach Chris Petersen and they share much of the same philosophy of building championship teams which Skip shares in his presentations.
For the past fifteen years, he has consulted, coached and been a keynote speaker for business management and leadership teams all over the country. His presentation “Coaching the Doctrine of Excellence” has been well received at each opportunity. Known as a superb storyteller, coach Hall is frequently asked to speak on matters related to building winning teams, developing leaders and creating cultures of excellence.
Skip enjoys college football, golf and biking when not working. He and his wife Virginia have two children and three grandchildren.