What is Your Culture?

I was lucky enough to be in the room a few years ago for a conversation with a very successful and prominent coach. There were about 12 coaches there to hear him speak.

The coach asked a question, “What do you center your team around.” Not all responded, but most said, “our culture.”  All around the room.

His response, “I don’t know what that means.”

He went on,

“For me, I center everything around one simple question, What’s best for the team. Every decision. The players do the same.”

He explained a bit more and answered more questions, but this one response has stayed with me.

Don’t talk about “culture”–talk  very specifically about your team.  The word culture is like the word technology–overly broad with too many different interpretations.

What is your team culture?  Do your players know? Can we see it from the outside?

When you have a very clearly defined culture, a set of values, shared language, a plan, principles that you believe in, and accountability, all your decisions get easier.

This does not mean executing them is always easy, but making the decision to act gets easier.

So, what’s your culture?

Recently I was in Utah to help lead a retreat for a very high-end, high-quality sporting goods store.  They sell great stuff that’s way out of my price range, but super valuable for people who spend their lives on the slopes or outdoors and need quality.

The owners were in the room, as were the leaders of each of their divisions and all of their stores. It was a funny, bright engaged group.

The view out the window was stunning.  Fortunately I was facing the window, and the group  was not, or we would never have held their attention.

Here’s a photo from my morning hike!

What is your culture?

 

Basically the retreat was a positive experience on many levels.

The company asked us to center the retreat around the book The Culture Club by Daniel Coyle, which they were reading in a company wide book club.

The Culture Club seeks to answer the question: why do some groups excel while others fail?

He says culture.

But more importantly he tells us his three keys to setting up this culture.

First Key: Make it Safe. Foster Belonging.

Each member of the team must feel comfortable speaking his or her mind. Strong groups foster a sense of belonging and understand how to develop this through common language and “signals of belonging.” 

These signals must be consistent and used often in order to foster this.

You can’t toss it out every now and again and think it will have an effect.

The Second Key: Be willing to Share Vulnerability

 Of course these two (safety and vulnerability) are linked, but he makes  a very interesting point that we often wait until we are certain that it’s safe–until we trust a situation–before we show who we are:

“Normally we think about trust and vulnerability the way we think about standing on solid ground and leaping into the unknown: first we build trust, then we leap. But science is showing us we’ve got it backward. Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust–it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.”

The Third Key: Have a Sense of Purpose. Tell Your Story Well.

This third point circles me back to that prominent coach I started this post with: What do you center your team around? What are the defining values everybody is aware of?  What’s the story you tell internally and externally?

In The Culture Code Coyle gives some great examples of this including touching briefly on the All Blacks, the New Zealand Men’s Rugby Team.

He does not mention the book Legacy , but it is one of the best examples of a clear culture I have ever read.

They know how to tell their story. How to create a sense of belonging.  And, how to be willing to take a step back, be vulnerable, and let others shine.

James Kerr, Legacy’s author, writing for The Telegraph reminds us of 5 of the values they focus on:

Sweep the Sheds— literally everyone cleans up after themselves as a reminder of their value of personal humility

Follow the Spearhead–all three points as one; they don’t tolerate anything else

Champions do Extra–Speaks for itself, but the focus is on incremental gains

Blue Head–Maintain their calm and demeanor, but read the book to see the contrast to the “red head”

Leave the Jersey in a Better Place–Again, speaks for itself, but a clear picture of legacy.

Common language creates a sense of belonging. Values that remind us to be vulnerable to one another. And, most importantly a common sense of purpose and story.

I highly recommend Legacy when you get a chance. It’s a blueprint for building the team you really want.

In the meantime–stop speaking about “culture” and start speaking about the specific culture you are creating and why it matters.

 

 

Be a Magnet: Work Culture

Magnet photo

Forbes takes a look at the recent decision by Yahoo to end their work from home programs and mandate that all employees now work out of the office.  The article brings up an interesting point for coaches and their teams. Do you mandate behavior or can you create an atmosphere that people voluntarily want to belong to and participate in? In other words, are your policies a magnet for great people or do you need to mandate?

“Rather than attempting to spur communication and collaboration by fiat, Yahoo would be wiser to concentrate on creating an atmosphere that acts as a magnet: that gives its workers the flexibility in their work arrangements that they crave, but that pulls them into the office as much as possible by providing them a strong sense of meaning, satisfaction and joy….

In short, employees shouldn’t go into the office because they have to; they should go because they want to.

“The funny thing is, Yahoo may be building just that kind of spirit. As the company’s financial performance has started to turn around, what’s emerged is what Reses describes as “positive momentum.” “From Sunnyvale to Santa Monica, Bangalore to Beijing—I think we can all feel the energy and buzz in our offices,” she says.

What a shame if a misguided mandate becomes a buzzkill.”

 

 

The Element of Luck

Can you make your own luck? Can you deal with some failure in order to create success?

There was an interesting interview up on Wired.CO.UK  with Frans Johansson, the author of the new book The Click Moment.

I want to point to one interesting question and response.  The question reminded me that not only do individuals need a “growth mindset” to be successful, which I have written about before, but companies and teams do as well.

You have to be willing to make your way through some failure in order to get to the point of success.

Here’s the question and answer:

“What sort of people do you need for this kind of approach?
You need a passionate team that has the wherewithal to stick with it through the inevitable mistakes they’ll make. This requires companies to reward output instead of punishing failure. Action matters more than sitting and running numbers. If you decrease the cost of failure you will see that people’s risk tolerance will go up.”

The implication for coaches is clear:

Celebrate risk taking.  Create a culture in which your athletes try new things, see the effort and intent over the outcome and you will end up with a team willing to learn, to explore, to get out of the comfort zone. In other words, a team that can make your own luck.

I do not mean this in a vacuous way where praise is without meaning. Instead,  when the consequences are real, winning and losing are on the line, hold steady to your principles. When success comes, even if it is later and appears to be separate, the ability to stay the course will have mattered.  To some degree you made your own luck, by the ability to stay the course through the difficult.

For instance, in that tight game when an athlete tries something you have been working on for weeks and fails. Acknowledge that courage even if you need to suggest the alternatives within the context of that particular game.

Make it safe to grow. Make your own luck.

Building Culture

Gary Curneen is up at Just Football with the final segment of a three-part series on Jose Mourinho, the Coach of Real Madrid.  It’s an enjoyable and laudatory recap of the teachings from an NSCAA special topics course on training and building culture.

Within it are a handful of important points any leader or coach will find valuable.

Part I of the series focuses on Mourinho’s approach to coaching, particularly leadership and building team culture.

Relationships, with staff and players are central to his core philosophy:

“Mourinho then asked his staff how long they have been working together. When one informed him that it has been since 2001, Mourinho then explained that he and his staff have worked with many players over the past 12 years, but when they move on to another club, they never view the player as an ex-player.

Instead, once you play for Mourinho and his staff, you are always one of ‘theirs’. “Forever is forever”, he told us. This is a unique bond that is not evident in professional football. Again, by creating this bond with the players, he can get top performances for a long period of time.”

Part II  focuses on a training session and will be interesting to soccer coaches primarily.

Part III  contains two key points which are useful to coaches, but transcend any one sport:

The first lesson, a coach should envision how he wants a team to play then create the training sessions that will get them there. Here’s a quote:

“Mourinho explained that the selection of training exercises should always be consistent with the way you would like to play. “You can’t create a contradiction with the idea you want for the game.” Mourinho added, “If your team does not play from the back during the game, do not incorporate this in to your exercises.”

He went on to answer what the rest of the world has always questioned: where does he get his training drills/exercises?

”Don’t go to books or websites. First decide how you want to play. Think about it and sleep on it. From that idea, the exercise then arrives.”

The second key point here is the balance between the amount of details coaches require to succeed and the proper amount to provide to players. Plain and simple coaches need to steep themselves in every detail, but players require significantly less to succeed.

Money quote:

The attention to detail in these reports was always of the highest degree because that is the base of how you prepare for a match, Morais explained.

However, Mourinho was quick to point out that the information given to the players could not be as detailed. “Do not give thousands of information pieces to players.” Mourinho added, “It has to be short and objective.”

Head over to Just Football to read the full series.