FOCUS ON CULTURE WHEN YOU TAKE OVER

 
April 07

Whether you're a new manager in the English Premier League, a new head coach in the National Football League or taking over any of the NCAA sports programs, you face the same pressure of building a winning program. This is true in sports as it is in business. You are expected to deliver results and achieve immediate success.

Most managers and coaches who take over programs focus on building succes in one of two ways. They either focus primarily on talent, or primarily on building the right culture. The preferred course for many and the most obvious is to look at talent but the most successful and more sustainable winning strategy is to first focus on culture. While talent is critical, far too many get trapped in the talent game and emphasize movement of people like chess pieces on a board at the expense of how that talent is connected and integrated. They get mired in this exercise and don't take the time to look up. The exceptional manager looks at talent of course, but emphasizes connectivity or chemistry of the pieces which depend more on developing attributes such as clarity of purpose, consistency, collaboration and adaptability. These are not visible skills that are measured in a talent assessment. They are required attributes or traits of high performance teams and organizations. 

Over twenty-five years of research has proven the impact and causal effect culture has on performance. High performance cultures produce high results and low or dysfunctional cultures produce mediocre or poor results. Certainly one can argue that talent impacts performance as well, however, we know all too well how talented teams and organizations under-perform in the absence of a high performance culture and team chemistry. Culture impact on performance is a much stronger causal relationship than talent over time. Knowing this, successful leaders and coaches are quick to assess the leadership and culture landscape. They are able to evaluate the vital signs of a healthy and adaptive team culture and they deal with weaknesses immediately. Then, they consistently reinforce new behaviours and the values that drive them.

If you're taking over, here’s where you ought to start:

1. Own the culture and appreciate that performance depends on it. Understand and accept the fact that culture is critical for success and you’re completely responsible for it. Despite historical success, there are things that need to be re-aligned because that’s how complex human systems work. They are dynamic and messy. Your introduction has changed the organization's and team's network dynamics. Trust has to be re-deployed as an asset and your value system plays a huge part in everyone’s buy-in. Culture is the flip-side of leadership. You must embody the culture you desire. And while you personally own the culture and must live it every single day, the speed of change depends on commitment from all and your selected leaders most of all.

2. Find the real leaders and work with and through them. You can’t make one-on-one deals and influence all in the same way. High standards, values, strategy are your domain, but influence and integration of all is the domain of your leaders. Be very careful in selecting this group of individuals … yes, it is a group. In a squad of 30 there’s about 5 players who are critical in building the high performance team chemistry essential for adaptive networks. First find these leaders and then weave back the fabric that was dismantled as part of the change in leadership.

3. Use values to connect and re-energize. It’s probably a fact that you have high integrity, care for your people, and are committed to a high purpose. The question is how clear and authentic are your personal values and is there room for clarifying them so that the team’s and your values are one and the same? Values are the glue that bind and build high levels of trust where personal sacrifices are made and exceptional performance emerges as an outcome. Most bosses pay a passing fancy to values. The best wear values on their sleeves . They also know what set of values motivate and inspire their team.

It's not easy or obvious, but it is immensely rewarding to inspire your team and build a sustainable high performance winning culture. After all, that's what you are expected to do, nothing less. True in sports and business teams. 

 

tags: team, culture, chemistry, leadership
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