Coach John Robinson is a former American football player and coach best known for his two stints as head coach of the University of Southern California (USC) football team (1976–1982, 1993–1997) and for his tenure as head coach of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams (1983–1991). Robinson’s USC teams won four Rose Bowls and captured a share of the national championship in the 1978 season. Robinson is one of the few college football head coaches to have non-consecutive tenure at the same school. In 2009, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. He is a Board Member for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which is named after Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott, and is awarded annually to college football’s Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year.

Coach Robinson has become a good friend.  I had the pleasure of getting to know him almost 10 years ago when I asked him to present at a Molnlycke Health Care national sales meeting.  Coach Robinson was the head football coach when I was at USC. So, while I knew of him, I had not met him before he came to speak to us at Molnlycke.

Coach had a number of key points about coaching and leadership that he made at the national sales meeting:

  • Understand what (as a team) we do well.
  • Teams often get distracted from their core when times are good.
  • Great teams know their strengths and stick with them….the 49ers were a great passing team under Coach Bill Walsh.
  • The Rams under Coach Robinson were primarily a running team.  (The same is true about the USC Trojans during his tenure.)
  • The Rams eventually lost focus and began to become a passing team…in the end, they were mediocre at both passing and running.
  • Great organizations know who they are and they tell people who they are (they live their mission and values).
  • Focus on the positive in all you do…remember the sales call where you really made it….not the ones where you failed…..the same is true about sports, focus on the positives.
  • There is no substitute for practice:  Kobe Bryant uses a number of drills to stay at the top of his game.


My younger son, Matt, and I were able to attend Coach Robinson’s 80 birthday celebration in Los Angeles.

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Leadership Lessons from Coach Robinson