Coaching the Doctrine of Excellence

A Conversation with Skip Hall About Integrity and Staying on Track

For 40 years, Coach Hall has coached the Doctrine of Excellence—a set of principles that result in recruiting and retaining great teams and achieving superior results in sports, business and life. 

Skip is the 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. Over his coaching career, Skip’s teams went to 12 bowl games, including 3 Rose Bowls and the Orange Bowl. Coach Hall had the privilege of coaching and working with players and future coaches such as Jack Lambert, Warren Moon, Nick Saban, Gary Pinkel, Chuck Pagano and hundreds of others. After 30 years of coaching college football, Skip transferred his coaching skills to the business arena.

We sat down with Coach Hall, who is a recruitment specialist and executive coach with Price Associates, to talk more about the principles that make teams great. 

What is the Doctrine of Excellence?
Years ago, before ESPN, there was a program called Wide World of Sports. The tagline was “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” The program’s intro showed a skier heading down a ramp, and halfway down the skier had a horrible crash—arms and legs going everywhere.

This is essentially the basis of the Doctrine of Excellence. We want victory. We don’t want defeat. To achieve victory we need to stay on the track that’s going to give us the win.

Through my 30 years of coaching and 16 years in the business arena, I’ve identified the coaching principles that will help lead us to victory and keep us from going off track and ending up like that skier. These lessons can be applied to teams, businesses and even family life. The Doctrine of Excellence is what we can do to stay on track, no matter what we’re doing.

What are some of the principles in the Doctrine of Excellence?
There are many principles to the Doctrine of Excellence, but I’ll give you just a few. The first principle that I think is so important is about leadership. Everything Rises or Falls on Leadership. Every team needs solid leadership at the get go. A leader’s job is to get the most of the abilities and talent that their people have. 
Another important principle is Mentors Matter Greatly. I use the story of the farmer that entered his mule in the Kentucky Derby. He knew the mule wouldn’t win, but he thought the association would be good for him. In other words, he wanted his mule around thoroughbreds. We want to try to make our people the best that they can be. 

Character Counts Greatly. Integrity, ethics and values are the cornerstones of any successful team or organization. There is no compromise on that. Everybody needs to understand that and buy into it and be a part of it, otherwise they shouldn’t be a part of the team. What we do in life echoes through eternity. Excellence is achieved; it’s not stumbled upon—it’s built on discipline and tenacity of purpose. Excellence is not about one thing; it’s about everything that we do. Leaders are coaches, and the highest calling of leadership is to unlock the potential in others.

Why are these principles important for teams?
Without these principles, much like the example of the skier, we can get off track and ultimately we’re going to end up in a heap. When your team knows what’s expected and the track is clearly defined, they can feel comfortable in that and don’t need to worry about what they can or can’t do. That will lead to victory and that’s why these principles are needed for those in authority.

How can you use these principles to recruit?
When we’re talking about culture, we’re talking about the right fit. I like to say that culture trumps ability. What I mean by that is when we bring people onto the team, even if they are highly skilled, if they don’t fit the culture there are going to be problems. Remember that people are attracted, not persuaded. If you have a culture of integrity and ethics, the right people will be attracted to that. We know we’re going to get the right fit naturally, without having to persuade anyone to take a job. 

When I first became a coach at BSU, I wanted a visual reminder of our culture and the unity of our team. I put a sign above the locker room door that said, “Together We Win.” That became a part of our battle cry, and it was even carried on after we were gone. When you’re on a team, there are usually a lot of rules—do this, don’t do this. I only had one rule as a coach: The team comes first. Whatever hurts the team has to be dealt with. 

And let's never forget about passion—an instrument of influence, encouragement and affirmation relating to leadership, team building and life.

To learn more about Coach Hall’s leadership philosophies and speaking, click here.