“Don’t tell them what you’re going to do – that’s vision. Do what you’re going to do – that’s culture. Culture eats vision for lunch”. (John C. Maxwell)
When I first heard this, I wrote it down and thought that it sounded good. However, the more I thought about that statement the more I started to see the truth of it.
We need both a strong culture and a positive vision to reach our fullest potential. If I have to choose, however, I will take a strong culture any day of the week over a clear vision. Even the clearest vision may not be realized if the culture is poor and weighing you down.
Put another way, would you rather have a dysfunctional or poor culture but a good vision; or would you rather have a good culture but lack vision? You certainly want both but it is better to be strong now. I would rather be in good physical shape now with no exercise plan than an obese person with a good exercise plan. We all can agree that having both a strong vision and a positive culture is the ideal, but let’s examine the importance of culture for a moment.
Indiana Wesleyan University and Coach Greg Tonagel just won their 2nd NAIA National Championship in 24 months (editor’s note – originally published on April 24, 2016). Their program is known for its’ extraordinary on-court success. Year in and year out they have a talent-laden roster, including a player that started at a NCAA Division I program before transferring. As good as they are on the court, they are almost as famous for their “I Am Third” philosophy. They emphasize the “Jesus, Others, You” mentality.
The student-athletes that make up the IWU team have a strong sense of humility. They don’t think less of themselves, they just merely think of themselves less. These kinds of “character” stories tend to play out well in newspapers and on Facebook but they can oftentimes be exaggerated or be the product of a coach’s personality for the short-term.
But this is not the case with IWU. Coach Tonagel just finished his 11th year. He changed the culture. The program is not only his, but the players, as well. They have taken ownership. They do what they do. There is no faking it after 11 years. The culture is established. I know this because I witnessed it first hand as outlined in the following story . . .
When I first moved to Marion, Indiana to take a new position as the Director of Athletics at Marion High School, the IWU men’s basketball team helped my family move into our new house. The players arrived at our house before the coaches. As a long-time college coach, this worried me. No coaches to supervise or instructed the players? Oh-no!
My previous college team was fortunate enough to win the 2014 National Champions of Character Award. We did a lot of community service and had a bunch of good kids. However, what I saw on that day was something special.
Most good kids would have hung out quietly and politely waiting for the coaches to arrive with instructions. Not the IWU Wildcats! They introduced themselves to my wife and I and started unloading the truck. They didn’t need the coaches there to instruct them to do the right thing. They knew it because that is the culture that has been established. Remember that these guys didn’t know me at all and that I wasn’t even going to be a new employee at their school. I was a stranger that needed help and they met that need joyfully.
Two other quick things that stand out when I think about IWU men’s basketball. Earlier this fall the team used our turf field for a preseason morning workout. At the end of the workout, every player came up to me, shook my hand and thanked me for allowing them to use the field. They did not need to do this. Recently, they won the National Championship and had a community banner ceremony. The ceremony started and ended with prayer. Both of these things seemed natural for the guys. It wasn’t forced. Culture lends itself toward natural positive actions. A true culture is a way of life, not just some catchphrase, slogan or one-time event.
What is your culture? I often wonder if some companies even watch their own commercials because they don’t match up with the actual culture. As a former college coach, I have seen nearly every team and coach talk about a family atmosphere. I have seen companies put out fancy marketing materials and seen billboards adroitly advertising their businesses. However, talk is cheap.
Click here to read a great article about the “I Am Third” culture that has been created at Indiana Wesleyan University.
In the previous article link, David Dimmich, the father of a former IWU basketball player and current assistant coach, had this to say about the Wildcat culture . . .
“I go back a long ways here, and I was here when things were not good. In the three years my son was here, we won 3, 5 and 8 games. When Greg came, things changed overnight. When I learned how Greg did it, the way he built it, I thought, ‘I want to be part of this.’ “
Can people say this about your team, your business, your organization or even you? Do they want to work for you? Do they love the environment that you’ve created? Do they desire to be a part of what you’ve created?
Culture is intentional. Culture is a choice. What choice are you making about your culture?
Jamy Bechler is a former college basketball coach and championship high school athletic director. He now travels the country as a John Maxwell Certified Leadership Speaker and Coach. Contact him at CoachBechler@CoachBechler.com to find out how you or your team can be more successful.