What is the Purpose of Culture?

In 2016 Tim Ferriss sent out a simple tweet that got me thinking. The tweet read, “As much as I dislike vague talk of ‘company culture,’ I like this definition: What happens when people are left to their own devices.” Tim Ferriss

A few weeks after Ferriss’ tweet, I was named the new head football coach at Lincoln Christian School, where I had served as an assistant for ten years.

The tweet rang loudly in my head as I began to take my first steps as the new head coach. Our former head coach and I had built a solid culture over the years, but it was time for a serious refresh.

I spent an incredible amount of effort attempting to create a new culture. After my first season as a head coach, I realized I was the Culture Coordinator. I task other coaches to coordinate the offense, defense, or special teams. My task was to coordinate the culture.

As I pondered Ferriss’ tweet, and the ideas I had learned from articles and podcasts on the same topic, my mind grew increasingly confused about how to define culture. Defining culture was too meta, too abstract, and far too intangible.

Enter Brian Kight and Focus 3. I brought Kight in to do a workshop with local coaches and with my football team. There were many pearls of wisdom from that day, but perhaps the biggest pearl was the clarity he brought to the question, “What is culture?” Ironically, he didn’t answer or even attempt to answer that question. He asked a better question: What is the purpose of culture?

As soon as he asked the question, my mind began to realize I had been asking the wrong question. In asking, “What is culture?” I was asking the equivalent of, “What is football?” and hoping for the answer to be “West Coast Offense” or “4-2-5 Defense.”

So, what is the purpose of culture? According to Kight and the Focus 3 team, the purpose of culture is to drive behaviors that win. Kight went on to say, “The purpose of culture is not to make people feel good and comfortable. The singular purpose of culture is to drive the behaviors called for by your strategy.”

Suddenly, the most obvious question was, “How do I define winning, and what are my strategies for creating wins?” Notice the progress of my train of thought. I went from “What is culture?” to “What is winning, and how do we make winning happen?” From the abstract to the concrete.

But what is winning? Our current sports culture is more focused on individual stars than outstanding teams. As a result, people define winning or success in a thousand different ways. A high school athlete might define success as getting a college scholarship, being all-conference, or breaking a school scoring record. This focus on self also manifests in a lack of loyalty to teams. For instance, growing up, there was no doubt I would be a mighty Trojan at Longmont High School. The odds of me becoming a Falcon at cross-town rival Skyline were zero. No chance. I’d rather die than suit up in red and yellow. That type of loyalty to the school in your neighborhood is dying. More and more high school players see themselves as free agents choosing the school that best meets their needs. What does all this have to do with defining winning/success? It means that your team is filled with players who define success differently. Some don’t care if you win or lose on the scoreboard as long as they get their stats. Others define success as being the starter at their favorite position and can’t imagine playing a different position for the sake of the team’s goals.

Here’s my point: If you’re going to create a culture that drives behaviors that win, you first have to define winning and sell your players on that definition. But remember, the #1 mistake I see coaches making is merely modifying behaviors rather than focusing on changing the way their athletes think. Truly great cultures drive behaviors by molding and shaping people and changing what motivates them.

The Culture Coordinator System will transform you into a Culture Coordinator who knows precisely how to design and build a culture that drives success.