What is Your Culture?

Photo by Margarida CSilva on Unsplash

The sports world is full of discussions on culture, how to develop it, and how it affects a team’s ability to sustain winning over a period of time. Usually, it feels like people can’t really put their finger on how to describe it, or how to really develop it. They just know that it is important.

Most recently, the culture of the Golden State Warriors has come into the spotlight. Certainly, any time sustained winning is involved, people start to notice. And because success leaves clues, it’s natural for people to start looking for them, as they try to determine how and why an organization has been so successful.

Without question, talent plays a part in their (and any) success, but we would be shortsighted to credit everything they have done to the talent they have on their roster. This is not the space for the Kevin Durant/Lebron James/Super Team debate. No matter where you stand on that, it’s important to understand that talent isn’t everything, and in fact, it may not be the most important.

So what clues have the Warriors left behind?

Tony Robbins, master motivator and self-help expert, who, as a friend of the Warriors’ ownership group has observed the team firsthand, had this to say:

“These guys love each other…When all of your energy is unified and none of it is dividing you, you’ve got more energy to win…And these guys are unified. There’s only so much energy in an organization or any individual and internal politics sucks that energy away. There’s no internal politics on this team.” 

The Warriors’ culture left other clues along the way as well:

–  During the Warriors’ first round playoff match-up against the Portland Trailblazers, Kevin Durant, owner of a $26 million dollar per year contract (and the hatred of millions for changing teams) showed why Golden State is a special organization. After completing his pre-game warm-up, mostly in silence, working up a sweat, shot after shot, Durant walked around to all of the ball boys who had rebounded for him, shook their hands, and told them “Thank you”.

–  Mark Jackson, the coach of the Warriors before their current assent, and now a television commentator, had this to say:

“An underrated part of the Warriors team is their unselfish spirit. It’s contagious”. 

–  The primary core value for the organization is joy. The other three are mindfulness, compassion, and competition.

Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, known perhaps as much for the culture he creates as for his in game coaching, has a really interesting philosophy on creating a great culture. Carroll said,

“…One (of the things) is language. It’s important to have a vocabulary in the organization, and not use synonyms. ”  -Washington Post

In other words, Carroll and his staff don’t use words that sound like what they are about, they have a very distinct way of talking about who they are and what they are doing, and they don’t waiver from that, try to soften the meaning, or talk around who they are. They are very direct and intentional, so nothing will get lost in translation. One synonym leads to another, which leads to another, until eventually, you may find yourself further and further from your initial intentions. 

A good culture, then, requires continuity.

In Angela Duckworth’s research on grit, she found that culture reinforces the identity of “this is who we are and this is how we do things around here”.

“It’s different from the way other people are, (and that’s okay, because) you’re in your group, not in their group.”

Every team, business, school, and organization has a culture. Some of them are good, some of them are destructive, and others are just okay. But everyone has one.

And be advised, while talent is a valuable asset, it’s not enough. Great cultures can compete with less talent, but great talent in a bad culture can, and usually does, see a quick and premature demise. Ex: Enron – The Smartest Guys in the Room

Whether you have a little or a lot, don’t get stuck on your talent.

The most important question is:  What’s your culture?

Maybe you think  of your business, or your classroom, your team, or even your family.

But what I really wonder about, is your culture.

What do people get when they get you?

What clues do you leave behind when you come and you go?

What/who do you love?

What energy is expressed in your interactions?

Are you overcoming your own “internal politics”?

What kind of continuity do you have, in your speech, your values, and your actions?

Are you settling for synonyms?

How do you do things around here?

Don’t worry if it’s different from the way other people are. It’s probably better that way. You’re in your group, not in their group.

Much Love,


One thought on “What is Your Culture?

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