June 8, 2009 Chris Fuller

Leadership and ‘Sled’ Team Culture

All teams and all sleds have a ‘feel’ both operationally and relationally. Getting the feel of the sled is part of what we started talking about last week when we talked about learning your existing team and trying to stay ‘right-side-up’ as you launch with your new team. Let’s keep on a similar trail this week I want and talk about the feel of your team and tying that to the culture of your Sled (organization).


In order to get the right results from our team, we need the team to ‘Do’ the right things. Not a complete guarantee of success, but it’s the right trail to ‘Nome’. ‘Do’ is action or performance, both of which speak to ‘Behaviors’. From the previous posts, you’ll know that one of my Leadership Mantras is that ‘Beliefs drive behaviors’.

So what our teams are believing is directly affecting how they behave – how they operate both operationally and how they relate to each other, our customers, and our vendors. All of which can directly flow to ‘bottom line’.

If we want the right outcome – we need to be intentional about the right actions. Again, if we want the right actions / performance then we need to be intentional about the beliefs in the team. All of this is wrapped up in the term ‘Culture’.

Several definitions for Culture, the main one that applies here relates to ‘Behaviors and Beliefs’ of a group. In Iditarod Leadership, we talk about the discovery, understanding, changing and development of cultures for the purposes of running a better race.

Much like training dogs to run the race – Business cultures are developed through daily habits and reinforcement of those habits – either through failure to confront bad habits and beliefs or through positive affirmations of the right things. They are engrained in every aspect of our organization’s ‘sleds’ and the teams within each; how they relate to other teams and, ultimately, they harden and form into invisible but very powerful rules of operating and relating.

Have you taken the time to back up and consider these?

A second component of the definition of ‘Culture’ is: development and improvement through education or training.

I love the second component because it implies that you can develop your organization’s ‘Culture’ – that you don’t have to accept that the way it is – is the way it will always be. You have the power to change your sled’s culture – your teams operational and relational practices.

Sled dogs want to run, they love to run, and they want to please their Musher.

I believe the same is true for most employees. They want to do the right things and in their minds they ARE doing the right things. If they knew a better way – then why wouldn’t they do that?

In order for us to ‘Succeed on Purpose’ I want to encourage you to take a good look at this area. We’ll break this into sections and see if we give you some ideas on how you can move your team down the ‘Positive Culture’ trail by week’s end.

Points to consider: What are our unwritten rules? What are the behaviors that are hindering our success? Why does my team believe that? How can I help them ‘see’ at a different level or understanding?

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