Why Do Great Teams Focus on Culture First?

If you want to build a high-performing team you must first build a championship culture. In Above the Line, Urban Meyer tells coaches that “Leaders create culture. Culture drives behavior. Behavior produces results.” Winning begins with culture.

Team Culture, Championship Culture, Organizational Culture, Culture, Team Building, Sport Psychology, Mental Performance Training, Mental Conditioning, Leadership

Championships Are Built on Culture

When you think of athletics teams who consistently compete for championships, who comes to mind?

Alabama football? Duke men’s basketball? North Carolina women’s soccer? East Carolina baseball? Arizona softball? University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball? New England Patriots?

Tim Elmore says, “Every organization has a culture either by default or by design.”

What do these programs have in common? They have intentionally built a winning culture – by design.

“X’s and O’s are important but culture is the rock that your organization must be built upon,” said Mike Smith, former Atlanta Falcons head coach.

What is Culture?

In its simplest form, I say that culture is made up of your team’s attitudes plus their behaviors.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “It’s how we do things.” In so many words, a person saying this is telling you about the culture of their team.

However, culture is more messy and complicated than that. It consists of multiple facets and impacts everything across your organization, top to bottom.

As Jeff Janssen so eloquently put it, “Culture is the powerful and pervasive set of collective beliefs, values, and standards that subtly yet significantly influence and impact everyone and everything in your environment.”

Now that we have a sense of what team culture is, you may be wondering What difference does it really make? Let’s have a look.

Does Culture Really Matter?

Why do great organizations put a premium on building and sustaining a championship culture?

The short answer is that your culture will determine your trajectory. Culture impacts everything, especially your results.

In fact, studies show that culture accounts for “20-30% of the differential”  between organizations with an intentional culture and those without.

I offer 5 compelling reasons teams and organizations should be intentional in building a championship culture. Doing so…

1. Casts a Compelling Vision

You can’t have a championship culture without a clear and compelling vision. Once that vision is in place and communicated, it sets the tone for the type of culture your team will embody.

2. Establishes Clear Standards

A culture by design gets everyone on the same page. Everyone on the team knows what is expected on and off the playing surface. Team members know which character, attitudes, and behaviors are acceptable and which aren’t.

3. Required to Win Championships

Legendary 49ers head coach, Bill Walsh, put it this way. “The culture precedes positive results. It doesn’t get tacked on as an afterthought on your way to the victory stand.”

When taking over at Ohio State University, Urban Myer observed that training the right behaviors won’t stick if the culture doesn’t support it. The culture is the foundation that your strategy, skill, and effort are built upon.

4. Attracts the Best Staff, Coaches, and Athletes

A championship culture is like a magnet for pulling in people who fit what you believe, expect, and exemplify.

“Mediocre people don’t like high achievers, and high achievers don’t like mediocre people,” according to Nick Saban. Oil and water don’t mix. You want to attract people who fit the culture you’re building and protecting.

5. Predicates Long-term Success

Talent may win a lot of games or even a single championship, but it won’t last.

Jon Gordon, author of You Win In the Locker Room First, writes, “Culture drives expectations and beliefs. Expectations and beliefs drive behaviors. Behaviors drive habits and habits create the future.” That’s how you build a successful program for the long haul.

Start With Culture

Regardless of what level you coach or lead, know that success begins with culture. Choose to be intentional and design the culture you want. A championship culture doesn’t evolve by accident. It starts with casting a vision, defining values, and establishing clear standards. Get your team on the path to long-term success.

If you’d like my help to build, grow, or sustain a championship team culture in your organization, please contact me to set up a free consultation.

Question: Why else is culture so important for long-term success?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.


Please note: I encourage reader discussion, however, I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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