February 10, 2014
As I stated previously, Vince Lombardi was one of my idols growing up and he had great influence on me for what he said, what he stood for. Lombardi Time was one of my very first business lessons, it has stuck with me throughout my career, and I still teach it today.
The first time I heard of Lombardi Time was in 1972. Recently off active duty with the US Army, I began my career in retail management with Best Products, one of the pioneers of the Catalog Showroom Industry. I worked for them for 18 years and regard it as one of the most wonderful, educational and fruitful experiences of my life. In fact, I feel I helped them grow from a nine store company when I started to over a 200 store chain before I left.
At one meeting early in my career, the Store Manager showed us a motivational tape staring Vince Lombardi, where an insurance person was trying to sell him insurance. He failed, and the rest of the video was about Coach Lombardi coaching him on where he went wrong in his pursuit of the sale. Along the way the concept of Lombardi Time came up several times and gave me a tool that I continue to use to this day.
Again, just out of the Army, where everything was “hurry up and wait”, punctuality was important, however not an obsession. Then I saw the video. During the film the salesperson interacted with many of the Green Bay Packer players of the 60’s. The one message that came in loud and clear from them was “Lombardi Time.”.
As they explained, Lombardi Time was that you are late unless you are 15 minutes early. In fact, when watching a NFL TV video about Vince Lombardi recently, they commented about the entire city of Green Bay running on Lombardi Time. Think about that, not just a team, but a city: Late unless 15 minutes early. This shows to those involved that the meeting, get together, event is important to you. It gives you time to relax and be mentally sharp for the meeting or event. It gives you time to review notes if necessary and prepare, rehearse, and in a lot of cases gives you the edge by greeting those you will encounter at the meeting or event. One other advantage is that if something unexpected delays you, it gives you a cushion to be “on time” by most everyone else’s standards. The time waiting for others or something to start can always be productively used. Over the past 40 plus years, my guess is that I have been late (based on others standards) less than one percent of the time.
Holding to that standard was easy for me. Getting my employees to the same standard was challenging at times. I can remember having “discussions” with Human Resource people over the years for locking the door to my stores at the time a meeting was to begin. Those showing up late were “locked out” of the meeting. Those showing up late were showing disrespect to the others that made it on time. I loved it when the HR people used to talk about a 5-minute “grace” period before someone was counted late. Then I would retort, “Then why do we have a schedule and an expectation?”
Once I took over a store that had horrendous punctuality problems. I told the managers to enforce the policy of the company, but before an employee got to the last step before dismissal I expected them to arrange a meeting for the employee with me. In the year, I was in charge of that store, I had to talk to only one employee, a college student that liked to “stay up late” and had trouble getting up on Saturday mornings. I explained Lombardi Time and asked him what message did it send to prospective employers, those he worked with, friends, family and himself, if he was consistently late. I told him that the message he sent to the other employees in the store was that they were not important to him. I must have struck a nerve because he was never late again and was still employed at that store when I was promoted to multi-store management.
Starting meetings on time, starting conference calls on time also sends the message to those that show on time and those that do not, that you are not going to waste any of their time by waiting for others to “show up.” It also sends the subliminal message to those arriving late that they need to be on time.
Many of my clients have/had Time Management issues. Well you can’t manage time, but you can manage yourself. I explain to them Lombardi Time and many of them embrace the concept and run with it. I am currently working with a client that has begun to use Lombardi Time as part of his scheduling tool. He told me this week, he has been late to only one meeting since employing Lombardi Time three months ago, and that was only late by a few seconds. He conveyed that it has eliminated stress and the embarrassing call to those waiting on him that he is running late. He is thrilled with the results.
Lombardi Time is not just a concept; it is a religion to many. Thank you Coach Lombardi.