Unlock your inner Lombardi

What the legendary coach can teach us about engaging and motivating employees in times of change

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Vincent Thomas Lombardi is one of the most revered coaches in the history of sports. He guided his Green Bay Packers to five National Football League (NFL) championships in the 1960s through a combination of hard work, tenacity and exceptional people skills. Lombardi’s coaching tenure was so dominant that the NFL renamed its championship trophy after him.

One of Lombardi’s keys to success was his belief in adaptability. He prepared his teams to succeed no matter what challenges were thrown their way -- foul weather, injuries, unpredictable opponents, you name it. And as the public relations business enters an exciting but unpredictable period of change with the pervasive influence of social media and the shifting dynamics of the media industry, I wanted to revisit some of Lombardi’s timeless lessons and see how they might apply to the communications landscape of 2013 and beyond.

The success of any organization, whether it’s a communications/PR shop or a sports team, is ultimately determined by the strength of its employees. More than ever, it’s critical for business leaders to be able to galvanize, motivate and engage those employees. With that in mind, here are five coaching tips from the master himself:

Cultivate a sense of ownership in the team:

Effective leaders don’t simply thrust a plan on their employees. They engage their team members and make them part of the process. They solicit their ideas and feedback and create a sense of ownership. The result? Team members are more likely to buy in and feel empowered, which can boost morale and productivity. As Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work.”

Attach personal goals for each team member:

While the ultimate goal of team-building is to mobilize your workforce for the good of the company, don’t forget to link the plan to the personal goals of your team members and to recognize great performers. Attaching personal goals to a larger plan can help increase employee engagement. As Lombardi liked to say, “Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged on one thing: the result.”

Lead by example:

One of the most effective ways to connect with your team and to inspire trust is to lead by example. In order for them to buy into the plan, employees want to be assured that the plan won’t change or become inconsequential in time. At every opportunity, demonstrate the relevance and meaning of the plan to your employees and what success will mean to them and the organization. “They call it coaching but it is teaching,” said Lombardi. “You do not just tell them…you show them the reasons.”

Employ the power of positivity:

People respond to positive reinforcement. Adopt a positive stance when coaching your employees. Let each employee know how important their contributions will be to the ultimate success of the project. Injecting a ‘can do’ attitude into the environment can do wonders for your team’s morale and level of engagement. “Confidence is contagious,” said Lombardi. “And so is lack of confidence.”

Teach the importance of perseverance:

There are bound to be setbacks along the way. As the coach, your role is to put setbacks in perspective, remind your team about the bigger picture and get them to refocus. As Lombardi once said, “The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel are the things that endure. These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur.”

At its core, great coaching is about bringing out the best in your people. Great leaders, whether in the sports arena or the world of business, are continually looking for ways to strengthen and empower their people, pushing them to grow and develop so they become better at whatever it is they do. By embracing these five steps, you’ll be well on the way to unlocking your inner Lombardi, helping to foster a more engaged and loyal workforce, which is good news for your company and its bottom line.