Building Team Culture: Where to Start

I'm watching the NFL games yesterday, and I'm reminded of how the Los Angeles Rams have progressed over the last couple of years.  They went from a largely irrelevant franchise based in St. Louis, moved to LA and hired a new 30-year-old coach, and turned into the only undefeated team left in the NFL.  Of course this can't just happen by accident or out of pure luck.  They decided to focus on the little things that make good teams into great teams.

Aside from being a very intelligent football mind, Sean McVay understands that the "old school" way of coaching isn't going to work.  He has built a program that is process-based and present-focused, and where there is mutual respect between all.  How does this happen in such a short period of time?  It happens when there is a true effort to change team culture and when there are discussions that are directly related to how the team works.  Sean McVay says in the Positive U podcast he was featured in (I suggest you give it a listen:, that the first conversation he ever had with his new team was about culture.  There was a decision made about who they wanted to be and how they wanted to play, and those expectations were laid out so everyone could commit to them.

There are two takeaways that I get from the progression of the Rams.  Number one: if you want your team to be successful, you have to take time to shape a culture that is supported by the correct pillars.  Of course you want to win.  Everyone does.  But when a team decides to do the small things and focus on daily progression, high character, and respect for one another, winning will eventually present itself.  Have any of you been on a team that had these values?  How about a team that never discussed any of this?  If you've been on both, you know the difference.  The second takeaway I get is that age doesn't always equal influence.  McVay is only 32 now and he has players that are older than him buying into his philosophy.  If you feel that you are too young to deserve the respect required to generate change, let this be a lesson that you are wrong.  Whether you are a young coach, young player, or young person in any leadership role, you can change culture through your confidence in the actions you take.

The big question here is this: How do I start?  The first step is always to create a clear and compelling vision.  If you're the coach or leader of a team and you haven't taken the time to define your team goals and how you will get there, you should probably do that ASAP.  Think about it this way: If a group of people are hopping into your car, you have no agreement on where you are going to go, and you don't have GPS or a map, you are much less likely to reach the destination you need.  You need an agreed upon destination, and sometimes you may even need turn by turn directions on how to get there.  When creating this vision, everyone needs to be involved and have equal say.  It means a lot more to the team members that way.  The "My Way or the Highway" approach doesn't seem to bring success these days.  This is just step one in the process, and I may be hitting this topic more often in the future, but please contact me if you find this post interesting and want to make positive changes in your team culture. 


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