6 Ways to Tune Up or Totally Transform Your Culture

Is your team’s culture in need of a minor tune up, a major transformation, or somewhere in between?

If you’re like most coaches and captains, there are some subtle if not significant things you can do to improve your team’s culture. As with most things, an accurate diagnosis of the current state of your team’s culture is a critical place to start.

Rating Your Team’s Culture

As I discuss in my How to Build and Sustain a Championship Culture book, an effective way to assess your culture is to rate how much your team currently values both Results and Relationships.

RESULTS obviously pertains to how much your team is fully committed to achieving winning results on the field or court but also includes being successful in the classroom and in the community as well.

How focused and committed to successful results is your team on a 1 (low) to 10 (high) scale?

RELATIONSHIPS involves how much your team is committed to developing and maintaining strong, honest, and trustful relationships with each other.

How much does your team respect, trust, and love each other on 1 (low) to 10 (high) scale?

How you, your staff, and athletes rate your team on these critical intangible factors provides you with a more tangible and objective measure of the current health of your culture. After studying thousands of both thriving and barely surviving cultures, I have categorized them into 8 Kinds of Cultures.

Mind the Gap

Once you assess your team’s current culture with the help of your coaching staff and team leaders, compare where you are now to where you would like to be. In short, compare your present culture with your preferred culture.

What kind of culture do you have now compared with what kind of culture you would like to have?

Notice especially if there is a bigger gap between where you are now with your culture and where you want to be when it comes to Results or Relationships.

Do you have a bigger gap with where you want to be on Results?

Or is there a bigger gap with where you want to be on Relationships?

Be sure to initially focus your time and attention on closing the gap in the area that needs the most help using the strategies below.

3 Ways to Close the Results Gap

If you discover your team has a bigger gap when it comes to committing to Results, I highly recommend implementing a combination of these three solutions.

1. Conduct More Competitive Practices

If you need your team to ratchet up the Results area, the best place to start is to conduct more competitive practices.

Make the vast majority of your drills competitive whenever possible. You can have your athletes compete against the clock, compete against hitting a certain standard, and/or compete against each other.

Placing a premium on Results in practice trains your athletes to realize that Results matter.

Reward the winners of the competitions and have consequences for the losers.

(Check out our How to Develop Relentless Competitors book for more ideas on making your practices more competitive.)

2. Establish and Evaluate Your Key Performance Indicators

Another way to increase the focus on Results is to establish or highlight your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). KPIs are the major battles your team needs to win to help you win the overall game.

Using football as an example, the team that wins the turnover battle, field position game, yards per play, third down conversions, and finishes drives successfully generally wins the game the vast majority of the time.

By discussing these key battles (KPIs) often with your players, working on them in practice, focusing your game plan on them, posting them on a visible chart in your locker room, closely monitoring them during and after the game, and rewarding your athletes for achieving these Results, you help your players understand, focus on, and execute the critical areas that lead to winning Results. (See our What It Takes to Win Championships book to see how the Dallas Stars used KPIs with their team.)

3. Have your Captains drive results and hold themselves and teammates accountable

Work with your captains and team leaders to help you set and sustain a strong focus on Results for your team. Your captains should be your most competitive athletes and most focused on winning drills and games. Empower them to establish, endorse, and enforce a winning standard for the team with their intense focus, strong work ethic, undying determination, and relentless competitiveness.

Encourage your captains to bring it every day and hold their teammates accountable to know the playbook, be crisp in their execution, finish weight workouts, run to the next drill, pay attention to the coaches, and touch every line in conditioning. Create and insist upon the daily discipline necessary to do all the little things in practices and workouts so this emphasis on Results carries over to game day.

3 Ways to Close the Relationships Gap

While some teams struggle in the Results area, others have a larger gap when it comes to Relationships. If you notice you need to increase your team's focus on Relationships, here are three things you can do:

4. Plan Team Building Activities for Practices

Most athletes love team building activities so occasionally schedule some in at the start or end of your practices. The activities don’t need to take a lot of time but athletes like to break out of the rut of practice and do something different and fun while bonding as a team. We have a ton of practical team building ideas in our Championship Team Building book and 50 in our Peak Performance Playbook.

5. Set Up Rotating Accountability Partners

A great way to promote Relationships (and Results) is through setting up weekly Accountability Partners. Each week, pair up your athletes so they connect with someone different from the team.

At the beginning of the week, give them five minutes to talk about their specific goals for the week and how their teammate can best support them. Encourage the Accountability Partners to warm up together, stretch together, and partner together as much as possible during the week.

The Accountability Partners help your athletes not only get to know each other better each week, but also hold each other accountable for achieving their goals. Switch up Accountability Partners every week and ideally start the program in the preseason to allow more of your athletes to get to know each other throughout the year. (Check out our Teammate's Accountability Manual for a proven plan to set up Accountability Partners for your team.)

6. Work with your captains to plan safe Social Events

Work with your captains to plan some fun, meaningful, and safe social events for the team. Scheduling some team events roughly once a month such as team dinners, pumpkin carving contests for Halloween, bowling night, gingerbread house decorating, secret Santas, board game nights, team karaoke nights, etc., are great ways for your team to bond. Provide your team with opportunities to get to know each other and strengthen their bond off the field/court/track.


Ratcheting Up Results and Strengthening Relationships

Tuning up or transforming your team's culture depends on developing a strong focus on both Results and Relationships.

Use these and many other strategies to help identify and close the Results and Relationships gaps with your team's culture. Like making sure your car is in good running condition, you must sometimes make some minor tune ups as well as some major overhauls from time to time when getting your team to run effectively and cohesively.


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