June 9, 2009 Chris Fuller

Discovering and Defining your Team’s Culture

Why do the dogs run that way? Because that’s the way they run.

Why does your team do that? Or members in your team act that way? Because it’s what they know and believe and are allowed so, right now.

On the surface, many things are the way they are because that’s the way they are, and that’s likely to not change – unless you, as the leader, exert influence to change the process. It goes back to Newton’s Laws of motion.


Whether you start with, immediately, analyzing your team OR creating the cultural vision and then using that as a “checkpoint” to gauge against – you, basically, have 2 parts – the way it is and the way I want it to be. Let’s deal with the way it is….

The first step to discovering and defining your team’s ‘Culture’ is to understand yourself well. Realizing that your own beliefs are driving your behaviors – that YOUR lens is bending the data – is important. How you view your team, how you view conflict within the team, how you view interaction, initiative, delegation, problem resolution, communication… well, you get the point. It affects every area of our leadership because it comes from our core.

There is so much to learn about in this area but I’m more focused on helping leaders than doing a dissertation on behavioral analysis – so let’s cut to the chase and just do a fly-by. Beliefs and behaviors, for our purposes, will fall into a couple of areas.

Healthy / Unhealthy

Behaviors such as addiction, uncontrolled anger, etc. are, usually, easy to spot and easy to tag as unhealthy. But what about the belief that we will post pone preventative maintenance until after this fiscal year – so we can make our numbers? The belief is – the short term win will outweigh the long-term harm (or will deal with that problem when and if it occurs). Where do beliefs like this come from? Are we promoting this intentionally or unintentionally?

Natural / Adaptive

Natural beliefs will spring out of people’s natural gifting or their personality (temperament) – they view things from a particular point of view based on whether they are Introverted or extraverted, analytic or relational. Natural Lenses are helpful in bringing out the various perspectives and rounding out the viewpoints.

Adaptive beliefs are created from learning of some type. From a base view, it goes back to some form of self preservation or self evolving.

Individual / Pack

All beliefs are held and acted on by individuals, but the question is more, ‘Are these beliefs and behaviors that the individual only does when in the pack and/or for social approval/status/acceptance?’

Advancing / Limiting

Many within our team, including ourselves, hold to beliefs that hold us back. It’s the aged but powerful story of the 4 minute mile. Once the 4 minute barrier was broken by Roger Bannister, within three years, by the end of 1957, 16 other runners also cracked the four minute mile. Where are our beliefs limiting us and where are they advancing us?

Again, we could spend a year or more with you or your organization around this topic – but just for now, just for this week…

What do we do? Why do we do it? Is it Healthy or Unhealthy? Natural or Adaptive? Individual or pack? Advancing or Limiting? And lastly, as an organization, intentional or unintentional?

What do we reward? What do we recognize? What is -50 Degrees (cold, hard reality)? Where are we conflicted / inauthentic? What do we believe about our customers? Our people? Our competitors? Ourselves?

My belief? It’s that you can become a great musher with a great team on purpose!

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