Leadership, Excellence and Motivation with Dr. Skip Hall, Former Football Coach

If you are looking for Dr. Michael Karlfeldt interviews Dr. Skip Hall, former BSU football and Washington University football coach. Since retirement over a decade ago, Dr Hall has spoken with businesses, organizations, executives and management teams on the subjects of leadership and excellence.

Skip Hall is a former head football coach at Boise State University, assistant head coach at the University of Washington and the University of Missouri, and assistant coach at Colorado and Kent State. During 30 years in coaching, his teams went to 12 bowl games, including 3 Rose Bowls and the Orange bowl. He had the privilege of coaching players such as Jack Lambert and Warren Moon.

Skip is a member of the American Football Coaches Association and has served as a board member for the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. In 1990 Skip led Boise State to the National Semifinals. Skip Hall gave Jim Zorn his first coaching job. Jim went on to become the head coach of the Washington Redskins. Jim Mora (former head coach of the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks) is a former player of Skip's.

After 30 years of coaching college football, Skip transferred his skill set into the business arena with Aflac. Recruiting, coaching and building strong teams has been his forté for 40 years. He was a Recruiting Coordinator and Regional Manager with Aflac for 10 years, and also has served as Managing Director for Principal Financial Group in Boise, Idaho. He serves as the College Recruiting Coordinator for Aflac. He is also part of the Aflac Heisman trophy promotional team.

Dr. Karlfeldt: With me I have coach Skip Hall, former BSU, and also former Washington University coach. So, Dr. Hall, you have several principles you have applied a coach. But they also apply to personal life, and also in business.

Dr. Skip Hall: Exactly. And I like to call it coaching a doctrine of excellence. Because those same principles and practices apply: they were good back in the day, they're good today, people use them in business, you can use them at home. After my 30 year coaching career, I've spent the last 15 years speaking to businesses, organizations, executives, management teams, and sharing these principles that are all about the pursuit of excellence.

Dr. K: Because the same kind of mindset that you would need to use out on the field, you can apply at at any level.


SH: Exactly. I like to tell the story: 1959 Vince Lombardi, was hired as a Green Bay Packers coach. And the Packers had been 1-10 and 1 the year before, the worst record in the history of their program. Vince was hired and came in the first day, he shook hands with the owners and the management, and thanked them for hiring him.

Then he went to the players and coaches and this is what he said - and I know this is true because this was told to me by Bart Starr, their quarterback at the time: He said:

"Men, today we're going to pursue passion. We're going to pursue perfection with a passion, knowing full well we'll never quite reach it. But along the way we'll catch excellence."

And that became the standard of the Green Bay Packers for the next seven years. And they won five of the seven world championships during that time. He was all about excellence, he was all about the pursuit of excellence. And I think that's what we need today in our culture too. I'm a little concerned that we're a becoming a nation of mediocrity.

Dr. K: Yeah.

SK: We've got more harvesters than we do planters. We need people that pursue success, and excellence and want to help lead us to better things.

Dr. K: It's that extra little drive that gives you the edge.

SK: Exactly.

Dr. K: If you kind of set your mind on it, then the rest of the body will follow.

SH: Exactly. And some of the coaching points and principles I that I talk about are motivation, which is an inside job. You can't give it to somebody. And people say, "Well, motivation doesn't seem to last." Well neither does a shower, and that's why you take one every day.

Dr. K: Exactly.

SH: And motivation is the same way. And talk about culture, how people are really the key. It's culture almost trumping ability in many situations. And then the power of who: Who do I know? Who knows me? Who can we use to help us get to where we want to go?

Dr. K: So the culture and who, they seem to be intertwined quite a bit.

SH: They do, they do.

Dr. K: So finding the right culture may not always be one that is the best in every way, but it is the one that fits, so to say, the whole team work.

SH: Fits is a good word. It needs to fit. I kind of use this as an example.

Another principle coaching point is vision. The why and the vision. I think Helen Keller said it best when asked:

"Is the worst thing in the world to be blind?

And she said, "No. The worst thing is to be able to see and have no vision."

And vision and lack of vision is really the problem. And I think a lot of folks get caught up in that.

Dr. K: Well I think a lot of people don't have anything that drives them. Like the passion.

SH: Exactly.

Dr. K: The Green Bay Packers, they gave them the vision, they gave them the passion. And that is what gives you that energy. Because they were saying football players, but now they had passion.

SH: Another key coaching point is: understand the times. This separates a lot of the businesses, and organizations and leaders. I learned something from Tom Landry a long time ago, coach of the [Dallas] Cowboys.  And he said this:

"How you handle the adversity and situations is more important than the adversity itself."

And that's very true. Being innovative and being able to handle the thing. The leaders that can handle the change best will not only survive, they'll thrive.

Dr. K: Yeah, exactly. We have all these challenges. Everybody faces challenges. It's not hanging your energy onto the challenge, but  always hanging your energy onto the solution.

SH: Precisely.

Dr. K: How can we correct this and how do we move forward.

SH: Another key thing is having a great plan and a system that you can follow and that's there day after day after day. I use Coach Peterson as a great example. That's a system that's been built up over the years. And that's really important, because people know what to expect, they know their role, and there's a system in place.

Dr. K: You can see that obviously with what he did to our team here, BSU. And now is in Washington. Your former stomping grounds.

SH: Oh yeah. Don James was my mentor and taught us this, and we had a system that really was comprised of three things: sound fundamentals, attention to detail, and hard work. And that's the good old-fashioned way that still is effective today. There's no shortcuts.

Dr. K: That's the thing, people always try to find the new shortcut, so to say How can we get away from doing the hard work. How can we get away from these basic principles you're talking about. And make it the easy way. And there never is.

SH: There never is. And the foundation of all this is really still all about integrity. It's still got to be built on integrity. The cornerstone is still integrity; and doing the right things, and doing it the right way. That still is going to last for the test of time.

And when people sense that a leader has that capacity to care, is "coaching 'em up", and I like to say they have a "heart like a magnet", they attract people, and and a "head like a compass", they know where they're going. Those are the kind of people that are going to be achieving excellence.

Dr. K: Exactly. Those are the ones that move you forward.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash. 

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