Does a Winning Team Create a Great Culture or Does Great Culture Create a Winning Team?

I believe both statements are true. Here’s why…

A winning team will breed great culture. Many sports teams are built on winning, team work and an attitude that goals are achievable and expected. In sports, it’s very common to build teams through hard work, discipline and competition. Major League Baseball’s spring training is a great example of individuals trying out for that dream job – playing the sport America loves.

Athletes show up in top condition, work hard, face competition and execute at their highest level in hopes of filling the few open spots on the roster. Most will be told to go home; some will make the minor league or farm team, few will be offered a contract.
This type of competitive training breeds winners, ambitious athletes looking to play the sport they love. And in turn the chance to be rich and famous; the chance to make their mark in sports history.

Imagine what it would be like to able to afford a backup for every position! In team sports, there are replacements or “back-up” players who can come into the game when an injury occurs or a player’s performance isn’t up to standard. These back-up players are eager to get in the game and prove themselves as starters. Look what happen to Tony Romo, starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. After Romo was sidelined with an injury prior to the start of the season, back-up QB Kellen Moore gets the call to start. Moore too gets injured leaving the Cowboys with their third stringer, the rookie Dak Prescott to start the season.

Dak leads the team to a 13 and 3 record possibly knocking off the veteran Romo from the top tier.

Businesses don’t have the luxury of having a “stand-by” for key positions. They must make the best of the people they’ve hired; and this is where a great culture will build a winning team.

Designing and executing a culture leadership plan will accelerate an organization to the top by rewarding and encouraging the people to perform at their highest level. On my first visit to any business I can feel the atmosphere amongst the team. As a business leader, ask yourself, “What do my customers and/or vendors feel when they walk into my business?” Are your people smiling while at work? Do they greet everyone with an ambitious “Hello” or is the atmosphere somber or subdued?

Let’s look at an example of creating a great culture to build a winning team, Nucor Steel. In 1962 Nuclear acquired Vulcraft Steel, a maker of steel girders and joists. Shortly after this acquisition the business leaders realized the company was in trouble as the behemoth Bethlehem Steel was out positioning them in the marketplace. Nuclear quickly changed the name to Nucor and in 1965 landed a maverick CEO named Ken Iverson.

Ken could feel the tension in the organization. He quickly made hierarchal changes, reducing the number of levels of management from 8 to 4. His philosophy was to reinvigorate the old Vulcraft workers with appreciation… yes appreciation. Ken had realized early in his career that the “We” verses “They” syndrome prevalent in American business was costing companies lost productivity in the billions of dollars.

Systematically Ken reversed the culture at Nucor and created a winning team. This company or “Team” as Ken would say, went on to become one of America’s greatest steel manufacturers. Seven short years after Ken took the reins Nucor went public; by 1980 Nucor became a Fortune 500 company and 20 years after that Nucor beat Bethlehem in gross revenue.

David had beaten Goliath by building a great culture! Ken had stripped away the hierarchy of the old and built a steel manufacturing machine of a company by encouraging and growing the people. A company where employees are appreciated, respected and their personal and professional needs are met.

The process of designing and building a positive, enthusiastic work environment is not hard, not even difficult yet here in America we tend to believe that our companies should be run like sports teams. Businesses can only play the team they’ve hired so let’s create a winning atmosphere by growing our people and make them into productive ambitious winners!

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