Thursday, October 9, 2014

Building Association Culture from the Get Go


The other day while browsing at a bookstore, I purchased a copy of Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano’s book Sidelined. The book focuses on his first year as head coach ... during which he was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia or APL.

Starting with the book’s foreword, I realized the book provided some value lessons for association executives and leaders of any organization.

Tony Dungy, former NFL coach and author, set the stage for the book about Pagano’s fight against APL during his time as head coach. Dungey coached the Colts starting in 2002. In the foreword, he shares his common core with Pagano:
  • “You win by having good people who are united in a common cause. Yes, you have to have talented players, and you have to do things in a fundamentally sound way. And, its takes preparation, hard work and attention to detail to succeed. But, in the end, having a team that functions like a family – a close-knit, loyal group that will not let each other down – those are the teams that win championships. Winning is not the most important job of a coach. The real joy in coaching comes from building relationships. Relationships with players, coaches, staff and families that you can never replace.”

Cory Redding, one of Pagano’s players, summed up his coach:
  • “Chuck is almost like a player in the D (defense) coordinator’s position. The guy has so much fun. He treats you like more than a player. It’s like we’re his sons. He wants us to do well. He keeps it fresh. He knows everybody’s strengths and puts them in a position to make plays.”
Pagano shared with Dungy the challenge of becoming a head coach of “losing teams.” Both recognized that meant creating a culture across the entire organization.

Pagano said:
  • “Anytime you build something new, you have to begin from the ground up. We implemented new systems and strategies. We rearranged the locker room. We focused on trust, loyalty and respect.” We established this culture for everyone in the organization, not just the players.
  • “There was still a clear sense of what matters most. Football is not who we are; it’s what we do. As players and coaches, it doesn’t define us. Family does. Faith does. You’re defined by how you play the game not by the game itself.” 
While associations and nonprofits are not football teams, all of us have a specific culture. And, as CEOs, we have the opportunity to develop organizational culture.

In his e-book, Culture that Works, Jamie Notter notes:
  • “Culture is not about being cool or even about having happy employees. It is about reinforcing what drives the success of the enterprise, and subsequently being able to adapt the culture (sometimes one process at a time) as markets and internal dynamics shift.”
How would you assess the culture of your association? What are you doing to adapt and reinforce a great culture?

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