August 20, 2019
Company Culture 09 October 2017
Coaching Goes Corporate
Jay Richards

“Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority”. In this one sentence, the great coach Vince Lombardi nails the barrier dividing sports and corporate life. Lombardi was one of America’s best coaches in the game of football. He is most known for leading the Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowl victories and five league championships. 

What many people do not know is early in his career he coached for The U.S Military Academy, which shaped his coaching style for the rest of his life: Teamwork is Essential, Building Character, and Setting Goals. Lombardi used many more methods, but these three were building blocks he used to create a powerful dynasty.


In all organizations, to succeed, you need to work as a team. If not, the project will fall apart and spiral out of control. This creates stress, distrust, and an unhealthy environment to work in. All of which are silent killers of a strong company culture. As Lombardi once said, “the achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual”. Having employees that work together as one can be an unstoppable force, but it is easier said than done. To achieve this level of teamwork the employees need to trust each other.

Trusting your fellow employees will improve efficiency, product quality, and the overall culture of the organization. It seems crazy that something so simple can create this drastic change, but looking deeper into it, it makes sense. When you trust your co-worker you aren’t worried about whether they get their job done, you aren’t wasting your time checking in and making sure what they have is quality. This gives you more time to improve your own work. Every team member has a responsibility and if not all responsibilities are accounted for, the project can fall apart. 

Thinking of it in a football state of mind, each position has a responsibility. If a defensive lineman is supposed to fill one gap but instead fills a different gap, it will mess the defense up allowing the offense the chance to break for a big play. Just like the defense, a company needs to “fill all the gaps”. Vince Lombardi knew that teamwork started at the bottom, with each person individually. To build a strong culture and a winning company, leaders need to weed out the “bad eggs”

Keep the employees that spread confidence and encouragement and let the others who are a bad influence drown a different company’s culture. “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence”. Help your team realize this. Be confident in your organization, others will follow in your footsteps. Lombardi realized this and would base his ideal team member off of their character and their abilities.

Tip for creating TEAMWORK

Each week take 30 minutes out of a day and hold a meeting. During this meeting do trust exercises. Emphasize to your team how important it is to trust each other. And allow them to follow by example, start putting more trust within your employees. Give them projects, put them in a situation that will show them you trust them to handle it. Not only will this improve the trust of your company, but it also empowers your employees. It lets them know they are useful members of the company.

Building Character:

To be a part of Lombardi’s team the players had to have great character. They needed to be for the team and not for themselves. Having all team members “buy-in” to what the organization is all about creates this feeling of confidence and camaraderie. This can cause a team to soar! 

Willie Davis, defensive lineman for the Packers said, “I can tell you truthfully that more than a few players were shown out of Green Bay because they weren’t buying in, Coach Lombardi approached it with such honesty and openness that I can tell you, right now, and I played for Eddie Robinson and Paul Brown a couple of years, I have never played for a coach with a greater reason of purpose than Coach Lombardi. It really caused me to want to play.” 

In doing so, Lombardi took care of the people who were selfish or lazy. Lombardi dreamed of a team who would play for each other, and through his hard work, that is what he received. A great quote is, “why do I spend more time competing with my coworkers than I do with the actual competition?” If a whole team gets that it isn’t about themselves individually, it’s about themselves as a whole, things run much smoother.

Tip for building CHARACTER

To build your employee’s character you will need to walk the walk after you have talked the talk. Show them you mean business by working hard, getting excited when something goes well, and keeping your head up when something goes poorly. Express your expectations – let them know the company is on a mission and they need to jump on. Get them to buy in!

Setting Goals:

Setting goals for your team give them something to shoot for. An organization should always have short and long term goals. Each short term goal reached is a little win. And when a long term goal is met it is a huge victory. Goals set expectations, and it gives your team something to work toward. One of my personal favorite Lombardi quotes is “success is the singleness of purpose”. Being able to single in on a target, something people can work for, will give them that much more reason to put in the work.

When setting a goal, think SMART!

  • Specific – (Single in on one target)

  • Measurable – (Be able to track the progress)

  • Achievable – (Is the goal attainable with your current resources?)

  • Realistic – (Be honest with yourself. An unrealistic goal can kill the companies moral)

  • Timely – (Put it on the calendar. “On this day we start, and on this day we finish”)

Always take “SMART” into consideration while setting goals for your company. It will help you create a good idea into a great goal.

Lombardi burned the image into their heads: NFL Champions. The goal each week was not to just win, but get better. Lombardi wanted to keep improving every day. The team knew the goal and knew what it would take to reach their goal of Super Bowl Champs. 

Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success, it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure, and the temporary failures. 

The Packers all agreed to put in the work it took to reach their goal. Back to back years (1967 and 1968), Lombardi led his team to two Super Bowl victories and when they reached their goal, there was no better feeling. “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”

Tip for setting GOALS

Reaching a goal gives off the feeling of joy, pride, and relief. It is a good way to track progress and encourages employees by ensuring what they are doing helps the company.  People want to feel a sense of accomplishment.  Without the sense of accomplishment, you are in danger of creating a company of clock-watchers. To avoid this type of employee, set goals to motivate them. Get your workers excited about it. Entice them with a prize, something to make them want to push harder to achieve the goal.

What Will You Settle For?

Vince Lombardi was an incredibly brilliant man. He knew what it took to build a strong team. His impeccable leadership skills brought life to a dying team. Utilizing the power of teamwork, good character, and goals he built a dynasty that will always be remembered. 

Any leader can use these tools to upgrade their organization, whether it is in the corporate world, sports, or life; it is important to put these tools to use. As Lombardi once said, “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” In the end, it is our choice to be great or settle for mediocrity.

“Coaching Goes Corporate” was written by Alec Richards, a freshman at Adrian College.  Alec studies business and also plays football for the Adrian Bulldogs.  He wrote this piece after his summer internship at Denison this past year.  This Article was originally posted at