In 1974, the Flyers won their first Stanley Cup and the Broad Street Bullies were on the map of NHL History. The quote is of note, “Win Today and We Walk Together Forever.” Their coach Fred Shero had this posted on their chalkboard on the final game day of the cup playoffs. It symbolized not only that as a team they would be playing for a win, but that in history, they would never be separated from each other as the Stanley Cup is a legacy trophy on which their names will forever appear. Winning cultures in sports are historic. You can look to all sports for organizations that have traditions, rituals, personalities, heroes and unique values that separate the champions from the wannabes. At the end of the day, sports teams are businesses that run on the same principles that any company would subscribe to if they wish to have culture that promotes playing not to lose but win in every situation.
A winning culture has distinct hallmarks. There is a soul to the organization. The strongest cultures bind people together – the bond is felt through corridors and over borders, around the world. No matter where the organization may reside, the culture is strong enough to be felt anywhere. The loyalty developed within these cultures makes it feel like family, each one working for the other. No man or woman is left behind.
There are behaviors and habits that are consistent throughout every department. No one is above or below the expectations that are put forth by the leadership and ownership of these organizations.
There are mainly six attributes that are essential to culture that plays to win:
- Passion and Energy – Passionate people make things happen.
- High Aspirations – Good is never good enough. They are always pushing to be better, to go further. These are builders, not short term thinkers.
- External Focus – Service to others, putting aside office politics and focusing on the greater good.
- Thinking like They Own The “Joint” – Seeing the bigger picture, taking pride and accountability for the overall business plans. No territory, no personal agenda. All for one, one for all.
- Bias to Action – Walking the talk – not just giving lip service to action, but putting themselves into action and getting things done.
- Collaboration – Individuals see their roles, understand how they play their part on the team but more importantly, they recognize that the greater success lies in working as one unit. It is understood that if one teammate fails, there is always someone there to back them up.
As leaders, one of the most difficult tasks is transforming a culture to one that is playing to win. Leaders must realize that change of this magnitude comes from the top. Any successful cultural change results from having a clear idea about the type of culture that is to be installed. The purpose of the leader is to manage the drivers that shape and influence the culture, not manage the culture.
It takes a strong leader to make this happen; change is not easy for anyone. Winning cultures are measured in the trenches not just on the paper.