A lot of questions swirl around the concept of culture and developing teams. Culture is a word many organizations and teams from the amateur to the professional levels use or toss out there based on performance. For example a team is on a ten game winning streak and it means their culture is great. The New England Patriots win the Super Bowl, which also means their culture is great. Our society tends to view culture as the final product of success. However, like most concepts in sport psychology culture is a process that must be developed on a daily basis. Just because you win doesn’t mean you have a sustainable culture. On the flip side of that just because you don’t win doesn’t mean you don’t have a strong culture.
Culture is developed through basic assumptions. This is the daily process based on the technical, off field and mental endeavors teams hold as their priorities. Basic assumptions can be good or bad in teams going through four stages. These four stages include rebuilding, competing, contending and championship. Of course on a yearly basis there is only one or possibly two championship teams taking up 10% of the league. Following your championship teams you may have 15% that are contending including runner ups, conference finalists and possibly some playoff teams. Competing teams carry 50% of the league and finally 25% of the league is rebuilding. Culture is existent in all of these stages however positive basic assumptions are very evident in championship, contending and competing teams. On the mental side basic assumptions could include self-efficacy, collective efficacy, teams response to stress (resiliency), emotional control and individual focus to name a few. Basic assumptions are the tangible aspects in culture and the three aforementioned stages are building these on a daily basis and developing them. Rebuilding teams are stuck in negative assumptions. For example, pointing fingers when things go astray.
From the sport psychology side of the player/team development spectrum when developing cohesive teams – basic assumptions must be established. On the surface these could include the development of individual mental aspects and team leadership to start. Culture can be a cliche term used in conjunction with the final outcome of winning. But to truly develop it we must look below the surface to see what the assumptions our athletes and staff hold in regard to moving through the four stages.
Scott, D (2014). Contemporary Leadership in Sport Organizations. Champaign, Il: Human Kinetics.
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About Kyle McDonald
Kyle McDonald is owner/operator of Competitive Will, an athlete, coach and business performance development company. Integrating high performance strategies for success.