Creating Team Culture

“Your culture is a combination of what you create and what you allow.” – Craig Groeschel


Every month I hold leadership meetings for my student leaders.  I tend to spend half the meeting reviewing procedures and policies and allowing students to share their successes from the previous month.  The other half of the meeting, I dedicate toward some form of leadership development.  In the first couple weeks of January, I came to the realization that I really didn’t fully understand the different cultures of each of my clubs.  These diverse groups of students with different family backgrounds, different majors, different personalities, and values all coming together under the umbrella culture of their club.  I kept wondering “Do they have a defined culture?” “Have they thought about developing a culture, or changing their current culture?” “Do they feel like the University views them in a certain light?” “If the University views them a certain way, is that truly the culture that exists on their team?”  And finally, “What do I REALLY know about each club’s culture?”

Culture is defined as being the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or another social group. When I look at the student groups I work with, the culture is vastly different for each group.  They have their own logos that define them, and the uniforms they play/practice in separate them from other clubs.  They have guidelines, written or unwritten, surrounding their time on and off the field.  They serve as a social network, a place for students to discover who they are, and a family away from home.

I recently picked up a book by Jeff Janssen M.S “The Team Captain’s Culture Manual” (along with 3 other books on the athlete leadership topic.)  The author talks about a 10 step blueprint to creating your team’s culture and nature, I read the chapter.  The goal of the 10 step blueprint is to create credible leaders, develop a clear and compelling vision, establish core values, discuss standards of behavior, and solidify a committed and unified team.  In order to do this successfully, you need to dive into each of those areas and decide where you are currently and where you want to be.  It is, in a way, goal setting for cultural development within your team.

So now I had this idea.  Get the club leaders to understand that I am trying to help them develop themselves AND their clubs.  But how do I get them actively discussing this?  So, I used the idea behind the 10 step blueprint to creating a worksheet for them to complete.  The goal was for them to work with their other leadership member at the meeting to answer all of the questions, I would then be collecting the worksheets to review answers and see what themes exist amongst the program as a whole so that I can then formulate the next step.  Once I reviewed the responses, they could come collect their worksheets so that they could use them moving forward.

Culture is represented in a different way by every group.  Our office has a different culture than other offices on campus.  My student groups have a different culture than that of other student organizations.  But the thing is, it exists.  Be it positive, negative, a winning culture or a losing one – it is there.  All you need to figure out is how to examine it, and how to change it.

Here is a look at the questions I asked to get the clubs digging deeper into their culture:

  1. What do you want to be known for?
  2. What do you want people in our campus community to say about your program?
  3. How do you want your teammates to treat each other?
  4. What do you want to see happen in your culture? Feel in your culture? Hear in your culture?
  5. What do you like best about your present culture?
  6. What concerns you the most about your present culture?
  7. How much do you emphasize winning?
  8. How much do you emphasize strong relationships?
  9. What things do you need to START/STOP/CONTINUE in order to build a championship culture?
  10. When you think about your values what character traits, investment and dedication, results, and energy do you expect to see/get from your members?
  11. Do you have set standards of behavior?
  12. How do you endorse positive behaviors?  How do you deal with unacceptable behaviors?
  13. Are there any standards you could add?
  14. How do you bring new members up to speed on the cultural expectations of your team?


Team Captains Culture Manual

10 Step Blueprint

By: Caitlin Sommers


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