When we think about successful businesses we look at their products, services, and people and know that somehow there was alignment, a plan was executed well, and perhaps a little magic happened too. But at the heart of any business is usually something more – a winning culture. Whatever the company’s target, the team wants to win.
Seattle Seahawks left tackle, Russell Okung, spoke at Geekwire Startup Day and talked about the Seahawks’ winning culture. I found it interesting because what he spoke about was absolutely relevant to business – a singular focus on values that creates a winning culture, and that without it, teams don’t come together.
Unless you’re on a team of one and you don’t need to rely on anyone else to make success happen, you’re part of a bigger team. When the team has a focus, which in the Seahawks’ case is – “it’s all about the ball,” and “love your brothers” – it’s easy for everyone to coalesce around the target or goal. The challenge is getting the focus into a message that everyone understands and can execute.
We’ve all heard leaders drone on and on about the direction, goal, and targets that a company has without feeling much inspiration for what was trying to be accomplished. Usually, it’s too many words, too complex, and not something anyone could immediately grasp. When we feel inspired, it is because we get it. The message was clear, the goal was in sight, and we saw a path to get there. If it’s “all about the ball” then everyone knows it’s not about personalities, techniques, or positions. It’s about moving that ball, protecting the ball, and getting it over the goal line. Simple. How do you do it? It takes practice and work, but understanding the goal and getting everyone else to understand it is what creates the winning culture.
The Role of Values
Values in an organization should and will make it easier for employees to understand “who we are and how we operate.” Within that, anything – products, services, and people – can be developed to achieve great things, but it starts with the values. If the values and goals are not connected, you will accomplish little. If for example, half of the players on the team did not believe “it was all about the ball,” they would be at odds with the other half of the team who did believe it, negating any chance of winning, which is the goal.
Take a look at your team. Is everyone clear on the values? Can they answer the question, if asked – what is our company all about? If not, you need to start thinking about how to answer that question for yourself first, then how to communicate it succinctly to the team. And don’t be surprised if some team members don’t agree. They don’t have to, but then they do need to leave. Just as football players leave teams because they are the wrong fit, so will players on your team need to leave if they don’t agree with the winning culture and how you’ve defined it.