Creating the right culture
Clarity of objectives is the starting block of a sound organisational environment, where people live and breathe the same values: this is what we call ‘culture’.
Have you ever been asked to form a new team? Or take over a team? Or even expand your team?
All can be very daunting and somewhat challenging. Team members come with many different perspectives, from different environments with varying views on what is right and how to behave. As a leader, your number one focus may well be to create the right culture. Let’s evaluate what that would take.
In 2015 I was very fortunate to be the lead coach and director in charge of pulling together top athletes to compete at the Sniper World Championships in Australia. A pretty daunting task, yet one full of opportunities. There would be a total number of 16 who made the cut to embark on the long haul flight. To kick it all off was a robust selection period, a total of 45 arrived and all at their peak and ready to perform. One first thing that I had to set was the culture. In order for a team to depart and compete at the highest level, we all had to understand what was expected.
From the outset I realised I had a major challenge. There was one athlete who, in his field, was simply the best. He had travelled the world competing at the highest level and he was the one who instantly thought he had a place on the flight. The problem I had was the skills and experience he had, he kept well and truly under his hat, he had the mind-set of “why share my knowledge? If I do, others may compete better and put my place at risk”. During the selection period there were elements of ‘One Team’ that we all understood i.e eat together, help set up together, travel together, help each other when required. But when “in the moment” you were competing for your seat.
As selection came to a close, I had to have a conversation with the athlete who excelled, he was very single minded and didn’t appear to be the team player that was needed. I had a frank feedback session with him and made it very clear that the only way we would compete as a team is by us all sharing our knowledge, experience and expertise, even if it meant sharing some of your individual brilliance. The answer would dictate if he had a seat or not. He gave the answer that was required and the 16 (yes, he was one of them), plus support staff, made the journey to Australia.
As the lead coach, developing others comes with the role, but it didn’t stop with me. I asked everyone to spend 30 mins with each other and talk through what they do in order to perform to the best of their ability. I found this very useful as everyone found a new “thing” that would help them perform even better. After each rehearsal, everyone shared what they had learnt and what they will do next time for that 1% marginal change.
I’m sure you will have heard of a “Blame culture” and I’m sure you will agree it is pretty poisonous in an organisation. The third cultural norm was to adopt a “Just culture”! The theory behind it is very simple – if you see something wrong or you’re unsure about anything “Just” say something. They would never be frowned upon, never be judged, never be undermined. They would be listened to! This gave each athlete the confidence to say exactly what they were feeling instead of bottling it up, which would have consequences like sleeping deprivation, poor diet or even not talking to anyone.
Live by the values
Fortunately, when we deployed to Australia the organisation that sponsored us to compete already had well established values. As the lead coach and director it was my job to ensure the values were lived, everyday! By embedding the values well, the culture is being formed. The values that we lived by were the following:
- Selfless Commitment: putting others before yourself. You may get tired and worn out, but if someone needs to help or support, you do what is right.
- Respect for others. It doesn’t matter what standard you are at nor the background you have come from, everyone carried respect for all those that they were fortunate to work alongside.
- Loyalty. Remain loyal to the common cause. Protect the brand and be proud of who you are representing.
- Integrity. No matter how difficult things are, show integrity and be true to yourself. Be honest, be real and take ownership.
- Discipline. Act within the organisational policies and act within the law. If you don’t, then follow up on the correct protocol every time! Be consistent.
- Courage. Have the courage to make the decision. Have the courage to challenge in the right manner and with respect.
You really don’t need a long list of words or comments to frame your culture, it requires thought, get those close to you to help shape the framework.
What is the company brand?
What is really important to you?
And what is really important to the organisation?
Once you’ve decided, then think about how you’re going to embed it. From that moment onwards, live it, in and out of work! When your employees/team leaders start to embrace the culture set, you will achieve what you desire.
As a leader, and as I’ve already alluded to, you have to lead and set the example. If you undermine any of the values, it will affect the culture that you desire to embed. Good luck!
P.S. 2015 was the first time Great Britain won the Sniper World Championships.