Team Culture Starts With Personal Choices

10 takeaways for coaches on creating the culture you want.

Most coaches understand that team culture has a huge influence on team performance. It isn’t the only thing but it affects everything one way or another. A team’s culture either sharpens the execution of its game plans or makes them sloppy. Culture aligns people and processes or isolates and disconnects them. Culture maximizes talent or wastes it.

A team will only execute as well as its culture allows and execution is the key to competitive excellence and winning when it matters most. Getting team culture right creates so many advantages and unlocks so many options. Not getting it right, even accepting an average culture, makes an incredible amount of basic execution frustratingly difficult.

The best way for a coaching staff to understand the role of culture is this:

Strategy determines the plan to win.
Culture determines the preparation and execution of the plan.

That makes culture one of your highest priorities as a coach. Not just among you and your staff, but across your entire team and your athletes. How you align staff members, departments, small units, and individual athletes is arguably the most important thing you do every day. There are responsibilities of equal importance but none of more importance.

I want you to see this quick 3 min 30 sec clip of a post-practice talk I gave to a college football team. Yes, it fires me up and makes me want to run through a wall, but it’s also packed with powerful principles that can transform teams when they implement the right culture systems with discipline.

Here are my top 10 takeaways from that talk for teams, coaches, and athletes:

  1. Individuals make choices, not groups. Even in team culture, it’s an individual choice first and nothing will ever change that. Each teammate, each coach, each staff member has to choose. Teams come together or drift apart as each person makes their choices.
  2. Trying hard isn’t competing. Trying hard is just expending energy. Competitors make different choices, better choices, with higher standards.
  3. It’s never fair. Today is your chance and you have choices to make.
  4. The things that really matter, in sports and in life, will never be given to you. If you want great things you have to earn them. Plenty of people are motivated and good enough to take things from you though if you’re not willing to compete relentlessly to earn and keep them. Choose to compete for the things you value or lose them to someone who will.
  5. You won’t be better tomorrow unless you make the choice today. Tomorrow won’t be better than today. Next year won’t be better than this year. It will just be different. You make tomorrow and next year better through the work you do now.
  6. How many solutions to your problems are right in front of you? How many valuable opportunities and paths are available? How many answers are right in front of you and you’re just not acting on them?
  7. There are so many productive options right in front of you and the reason you’re not making progress is because you’re choosing not to act on them. Or you started to act on them but didn’t finish. You chose but you didn’t continue.
  8. Don’t look outside for the answers. Look inside yourself. The answers aren’t outside the team or outside yourself, they’re the simple ones inside your heart and mind.
  9. When you find the real answers inside yourself, act on them. Once you’re acting on them yourself, grab someone else on the team and take them with you. That’s how you elevate and accelerate a culture. You first. Then one relationship at a time.
  10. Look for opportunities to make the choices of a true teammate and competitor. See and act on the opportunities you have today to elevate the culture.

What are your top 3 takeaways:

  • For you as a coach?
  • For your staff?
  • For your athletes?

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