What's your team culture?

HARARE - Culture is one of the most essential yet overlooked aspects of building a championship program.

You can be an absolute genius with coaching the skills and drills but if you don’t have a positive and productive culture, you’re in trouble.

Unfortunately, many coaches don’t realise the full impact of their culture until it’s too late.

All sports teams have this thing about them, an aura, a feeling, a way of doing things, traditions, expectations, internal workings, rules, expectations, look and feel, branding and codes.

It is what identifies them and sets them apart from other teams. Identities are important, they give you your uniqueness, something that cannot be replicated exactly.

It belongs, no, it exists only in your environment. It is your way of doing things. It is your team culture.

The value in the team culture is the change it has on the people. When people change for the better the attitude and drive changes alike and this is good for productivity and progression.

The key to moving your team from the status quo to an expectation of excellence is your team culture.

When you build a team culture of excellence, you create organisational capacity and a structure that empowers, focuses and engages your athletes.

So, here are four ideas for developing an effective team culture.

* Understand your Current Culture: What works and what doesn't? What direction are you intending on taking as a team? What are your values (if any)? You will need to honestly and accurately assess your current culture.

* Clear Goals and Expectations: Developing and agreeing on clear expectations is one of the most vital ingredients in leading a team. I am a huge fan of player empowerment whereby they become the driving force behind the goals and expectations. All my athletes are the biggest contributors towards the team goals and it is my responsibility to appropriately guide the process. Once all my players know what is expected there is accountability amongst the group and not just from me.

* Use Your Supporting Cast: I personally utilise different members of the team in developing and delivering the team culture. Coaching staff, captains and leaders assist me in driving the culture and displaying it, they carry it visibly on their shoulders, they live it. It is this approach that generates a respect amongst the team that if the leaders are carrying out the very culture the entire squad identified and created, then they follow. However, remember that ultimately you as the coach set the tone with expectations so make sure your entire supporting cast are working towards the same goals!

* Praise Your Culture: Make sure as a coach you focus on praising the right kind of culture. If you value hard work and maximum effort, when you see it praise it. If your team identity is based on working on individual goals, praise goal attainment in a team setting. Focusing on the right kind of team behavior (based on goals and expectations) really sets a tone for what you expect and how the entire team can live out the team culture.

Your team’s culture has a powerful and persistent impact on everything you do in your program. It impacts recruiting, attitude, commitment, competitiveness, chemistry, relationships, sponsorships, web presence and performance . Because of this, you must invest the time to continually mold, monitor, measure, and maintain your culture throughout the course of a season. Never neglect it. Always work at it.

As a coach I personally strive to develop and guide a Championship Culture that places a premium on both results and relationships. From a results standpoint, Championship Cultures have a strong sense of mission and purpose. My teams know exactly what they want to achieve and have a burning desire to achieve it. They are fully designed and aligned to achieve the goals and are focused on them.

Champions focus, not on winning championships and outcomes, but rather on the mental process of building a strong culture that will ultimately create peak performance on a consistent basis.

*Ex-Zimbabwe rugby international Grant Mitchell is High Performance Director at Innovate High Performance Centre in Harare and a top strength and conditioning coach. Twitter: @InnovateHPC, website: www.innovate.co.zw.

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