At age 45, in 1959, Vince Lombardi got his first head coaching job at the remote outpost of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He spent years working as an assistant with the championship New York Giants. He was even considered to be their coach in waiting, but he didn’t want to wait anymore, so he took the Green Bay job. At the time, this was the equivalent of making the head coach job in Siberia because not only was it cold and remote, with little population, it was also loserville. The Packers never won anything.
So what did head coach Vince Lombardi do in Green Bay?
In his 8 year career as head coach, he took them to a 105-35-6 record. The Packers won 3 consecutive championships, and were highlighted by winning their first 2 Super Bowls. He established a winning tradition in Green Bay that continues to this day. He was such an example of winning that the Super Bowl Trophy is now named the Lombardi Trophy.
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit” —Vince Lombardi
So what’s the first thing we can learn from Lombardi?
The first big lesson is what he did as soon as he hit the town. He didn’t go in with a lot of concerns and worries. He wasn’t worried about their past losing record. He didn’t care how the players would react to him, as he said “I was more concerned how I was going to react to them.” He didn’t waste time worrying about possibly blowing his chance to have the more glamorous head coaching job in New York City. He was just focused on what he was going to do to create a winning tradition, and win games in Green Bay.
Here’s the first thing he told them.
He let them know that he had never been associated with a loser, and he wasn’t about to start now. He told them that they were going to win one way or the other, and by the way he said it they knew he was dead serious. And then they all fell into line and went on to work behind him, and they knew what the result had to be. The lesson for leaders? Right from the start, before you jump into all of the unlimited number of things you’ve got to do to build a winning program, you’ve got to send a message. You’ve got to be definite, and let your players know there’s going to be a lot of hard work, but it is going to be worth it because…
You’re going to win no matter what.