Winning Culture. Lessons from the sports world.

“Winning culture. Lessons from the sports world” by, Joseph Clementi

Is there a correlation to high-performance minded organizations and sports teams with a winning mentality? Consequently, is the culture of leadership tied to high-turnover, low-performance, and a toxic environment?

There are breadcrumbs along the path indicating the dysfunction of an organization, if someone in the organization is willing to identify them. Similarly, sports teams that have a record of losing leave a set of clues that point to organizational failures.

Sure, its’ easy to quantify the wins and losses by the level of talent on the field.  In fact, talent does play an important role in the balance of athleticism on the opposite side of the field. Talent on the field in of itself is only a partial indicator of future success. It takes a full fleet of individuals to build a winning sports team and many of those individuals never have their names on the backs of jerseys. 

Prior to the players competing in the game it is essential the support team performs their responsibilities at the highest levels. This administrative function is critical to on-field performance. The functions such as scheduling travel, coordinating payroll, to scouting teams’ reports, playbook development, and player development are essential for a winning organization.  

The support teams act like the center position on the football field. The center is coordinating the plan (blocking schemes) to the people responsible for implementing the tactical procedures.  If one aspect of the call is incorrect, his teammates will be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. This communication is fundamental for the play to be successful. 

A winning culture starts with organizational leadership as they’re responsible for building the culture of the organization.  The organizational leadership develop the core values as the basis for the team to operate in. Those values outline the strategic methods and tactical aptitudes required to move the team in the direction to achieve its mission. A winning culture is created through synchronizing the message so that everyone knows the objectives.

Low-performing organizations bear resemblance to teams with a record of losing. They lack structure, culture, core values, and communication that is essential for a combined effort.  Losing cultures always seem to have skeletons’ in the closet that eventually raise their ugly heads. There is a direct correlation to the high-level of turnover at the leadership role, the poor results on the field, and the customer loyalty. Those teams that constantly lose on the scoreboard and have a record of losing are constantly trying to find the elusive magic pill to fix their woeful environment.  The next-best and brightest is put into a toxic environment that doesn’t value leadership, structure and whose core values are simplified to a financial calculation. 

Consequently, one-hit wonders are hired to “turn the corner” by implementing short-term plans to increase revenue. In the beginning, the team looks revitalized, refreshed and experiences early success.  Eventually, poor leadership muddies the water when behaviors revert and that toxic culture of losing begins to creep back in.

As a lifelong Washington football fan, I am appalled at the alleged behaviors of the leadership in that organization.  It shouldn’t surprise you that the product on the field is equally poor. While there is talent, the prior leadership has created an “alleged” hostile environment and the talent was unsuccessful overcoming the lack of leadership. 

The good news is that there is a chance to change and respectively, Washington hired a great leader that emulates his core values to the organization.  It will take some time to lead the cast of talent to deliver on those expectations however, there seems to be a clear plan and consistent message.

The sports to business analogy connect many facets of the operation.  There is no substitute for leadership, core values, culture, and clear actionable strategies. Whether you are a manager, a player or, support, it is vital to value a workplace that supports a holistic environment.

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