Vince Lombardi’s Success Formula: “Task + Relationship Excellence = Results”

September 30, 2014
Mike Stallard
Connection Heroes

I once attended a meeting where it seemed that everyone was focused on the people or relationships in a business and believed that doing so would bring success.

Don't believe it.

Great leaders focus on achieving BOTH task excellence and relationship excellence. This dual focus produces sustainable superior performance.

Managers who are solely task focused eventually burn people out. Managers who are solely relationship focused don't set sufficiently high performance standards and challenge the team to accomplish them.

However, managers who focus on task and relationship excellence inspire their teams to work together to reach their goal. When the team does reach the goal, the resulting sense of pride inspires, engages and energizes the team to keep performing at the top of their game.

You'll find a passion for task excellence in all the great leaders. In John Eisenberg's book That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory, Fuzzy Thurston, an All-Pro guard who played for the great coach said, “We realized in his first season that we were going to be a very good team...Lombardi wasn’t going to stand for anything less.”

That's the attitude it takes to be great. It's the relationship excellence that keeps people feeling connected to their leader and makes task excellence sustainable.

Most people don't know that side of Vince Lombardi's character. They've heard the quote "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing" improperly attributed to Lombardi. The quote was actually from a movie entitled Trouble Along the Way.

Instead, Lombardi taught that winning isn't everything, but making the effort to win is. It's similar to basketball coach John Wooden's philosophy that winners achieve competitive greatness by giving their very best efforts all the time and thus receive a sense of satisfaction from knowing they've given their all.

Vince Lombardi had a passion for relationship excellence too. He loved his players. He told them they must love one another and said love made the difference on their team. In addition, he abhorred cheating and taking cheap shots at an opposing player. He viewed it as unethical and illegitimate behavior that was inconsistent with being a winner. Winning the right way, with character and virtue rather than vice, was what Lombardi believed and taught.

Today's leaders can learn a lot from Lombardi's emphasis on both task and relationship excellence. Without both, your team will fail to achieve sustainable superior performance.

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Michael Lee Stallard is a thought leader, speaker and leading expert on how human connection in workplace cultures affects the health and performance of individuals and organizations. In addition to Fired Up or Burned Out, he is the primary author of Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy and Understanding at Work.

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