While facilitating a workshop recently a member of the leadership team I was working with commented that he is sick of hearing about culture. Exploring his comment further it became clear that what he is really sick of is people talking about culture without acting. We agreed that all too often organisations espouse the importance of their values without taking the steps needed to turn their vision of how people should behave into reality.
In my second book The People Manager’s Toolkit, I dedicate a chapter to managing culture. At the heart of the message I share is the belief that corporate values are meaningless unless they are applied. In other words there is no point promoting core values unless leaders hold themselves and others accountable to behaving in line with them.
“For values and behaviours to have any real impact on the culture of your team you can’t just say they matter; they need to really matter. There must be consequences. Consequences are about rewarding and recognising successful behaviours as much as about taking remedial action when needed. It can be easy to advocate the values and behaviours people should bring to their work, but any real impact you have on culture is driven by the extent to which your actions are aligned with your words.”
Recently I read an article in The Age by Caroline Wilson about the problems at Melbourne Football Club ‘The trouble with Demons’. Inspired by Melbourne’s huge loss to Gold Coast at the MCG, the article ends with the comment that Melbourne is a “cultural basket case”. Pointing the finger of blame squarely at the clubs leadership, Wilson claims Melbourne has failed to “… implement any form of acceptable leadership structure.”
There is no question that leaders play a critical role in driving the culture of any team and organisation. No doubt Coach Mark Neeld and other members of the football operations leadership team have influenced behaviours at Melbourne that are undermining their success. Any real change will take not only a different leadership approach but also greater personal accountability from every member of the team.
The Board, CEO, Coach, Players and support team collectively drive the culture at Melbourne. To create the culture that will better enable them to lift their performance and ultimately succeed everyone at Melbourne needs to behave successfully. To enable alignment and unity across the group, leaders must provide a clear view of the culture the team is working to create. The seven most important things leaders must do to deliberately create team culture are:
- Clearly define the culture you want to create
- Identify the values and behaviours that underpin the culture you want
- Take ownership and lead by example; be a visible champion of culture through mindset and behaviour
- Understand and confront current reality: explore the full truth about how things really are
- Expect everyone on the team to conduct themselves in line with your values and behaviours
- Send clear and consistent messages, through words and actions, about what really matters
- Apply consequences: reward and recognise, or take remedial action