Team Culture

Culture is the most important element in a Team. It should be a high performance culture. This culture should be in the Team/organisation all the time, day in day out, in everything everyone does. It should not be just talk.

The culture should be set unilaterally by all members of the organisation and facilitated by the management. Everyone should know what the Team/company values are and work in line with these values in everything they do. A clear VISION should be set. A mission statement should be known by everyone and be integrated into everything the Team does. These values/vision/beliefs have to be unilaterally agreed. If what the team is doing goes against the companies vision/values/belief/mission statement then this activity should be stopped. When the whole Team, not just the owner/higher management come up with the culture people are more likely to take ownership of it.

Culture is “your first competitor’. It is the one thing a team can grow and enrich in meaningful ways that is 100% within its control and budget, when tackled cleverly. Of course, culture is an easy word to bandy about. Anyone who works in large organisations or has studied business will have heard of the ‘utmost importance of culture’. Often confused with morale, do these groups or organisations ever really address it outside of token gestures such as a team-building day here and or a night out there? When an organisation or team is truly committed to its culture, it is orchestrated from the top down, but generated from the bottom up. It is the team players/members/employees who should be charged with growing and enriching it.

There should be weekly CULTURE meeting at the start of every week discussing what the team culture is and what the team can do this week to meet and exceed this culture. The team members should be required to drive the culture session. In this way the team members acknowledge the issues and come up with the answers themselves. What did we do last week that might have gone against our culture? What are we currently doing that goes against our culture. Re-affirm in this meeting what the culture is and what’s expected of everyone this week. The more this culture is re-enforced it eventually becomes the done thing. By meeting weekly it does not allow time for anything anti-culture develop. The management should see themselves as facilitators, not directors. They merely pose the questions. What does a good culture look like? The team may decide that it involves everyone parking their own agendas and their egos for the sake of the collective. How can we grow and enrich our culture? The team may decide that simple things, like greeting everyone in the morning, shaking their hand to show that you acknowledge them and their contribution. Or by being vulnerable enough to walk up to a new member of the team and take him/her for a coffee rather than leaving him to integrate on his own. What does poor culture look like? The team may offer examples such as cliques forming, not recognising constructive criticism, a negative attitude when not getting their own way. These are the very issues every organisation/sports team faces. Universally agreed standards rather than black and white rules. There should be no charter.

Team members/players should be treated as adults and by pushing the responsibility onto the group, the standards should be agreed, expectations should be set.

The management should keep these “Culture Meetings” on point. These meetings cost nothing only time. The danger, of course, is that these meetings could lead to a bitching session but when properly facilitated, the common sense approach and collective goodwill they generate should enable everyone in the set-up to get on the one page very fast.

Togetherness should probably be the one word that sums up a good Team Culture. It should not be just a word. All members of a Team should take part in any Team Building exercises and Meetings. There should not be a distinct line of Us and Them (i.e., Management and Players/workers). The management should be Transformational Leaders. The management’s responsibility is to set the Team and the team members up for success and nothing else. No personal agendas, no scape goating, no setting people up for failure. Management has to treat everyone the same, no exceptions. The top players or the young academy boot boy should all be equals. The consequences of success and failure should be the same for all.

Inherently Bad Apples (“culture suckers”), should be cast out sooner rather than later. Some people will never change even if all the time and effort in the world is put in to them. In a team this time is always better spent with the Good Apples. The time, recourses and effort to change a Bad Apple is always taken away from the Good. A bad Apple will always return to type when the big pressure comes on. They are never worth the effort. Organisations/Teams need to be ruthless on this.

Teams need to “feed the fire”. The fire is the collective ambition burning within the set-up. The team should acknowledge that sometimes various bits of fire wood (players/team members/employees) might get damp (lose form, attitude) but that these bits of wood can be warmed and dried out by the central blaze so that they get brought back into the burning process. However, rotten wood (bad attitude players/team members) should be seen as different. They are no use to the team and the message should be clear – rotten wood, no matter how talented, never changes. It must be thrown out or it will dampen the collective fire. This need to be ruthless should go hand-in-hand with the conviction that character always trumps talent. “No-one is bigger than the team”. (often quoted, seldom enforced).

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