I was still at school when I first represented Strathendrick men’s team. At no point was I made to do any awkward initiation. A few years later, joining Watsonians, the initiation was to join the senior members of the team at the back of the bus for some cheese and wine. Granted it was a block of cheddar and a box of wine, but that was the extent of the “initiation”. Unfortunately there are a few that get out of hand. I can’t begin to imagine what the poor lad at Howe of Fife felt like (for more details read http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-41843869).
Any successful team must display a level of trust. This is not easy to achieve. Often it takes time. However knocking down some barriers with some good natured fun and getting people out of their comfort zone can help. I always found that a gruelling fitness session would help because you could look each other in the eye and know that you had gone through that together.
A group of people working together will develop a culture. Basically it is a way of doing things. I think it’s really important for senior members and management to shape this. Sometimes external help is required to set the wheels in motion. I worked with the Sirens on their Values and Mantra this weekend. Now they have to deliver this by living what they talked about.
If new members coming into a team see there are standards, that there are obvious norms they have a framework for their own behaviour. It is important this framework allows individuals to express their own identity.
When things go wrong
Look at England during Stuart Lancaster’s reign as Head Coach. Manu Tuilagi and Dylan Hartley were ostracised as ‘troublemakers’. England fail to qualify from their World Cup Pool. Eddie Jones replaces Lancaster and Hartley is made captain. Tuilagi returns to the squad. I have no doubt they were given a clear picture of what would be acceptable, yet I also think they will have been given freedom to bring their strengths to the team.
Lead by Example
Strong leadership is very important to developing a strong culture. It was Gregor Townsend’s arrival that really added layers to Glasgow Warriors Whatever it Takes mantra. Previously I think we were guilty of defining our culture and thinking that was job done. It needs constant attention and the leader needs to set the example and hold themselves, and everybody else to account.
To instil a positive culture and maintain it a team needs to take responsibility for it. A leader has to set the tone and lead by example, however the team must buy into it and drive it when the leader is not there. In rugby you tend to have a leadership group. They are important to on-field decisions and tactics but they also have an important role in driving off field standards, behaviours and expectations.
There can be some big personalities, some big egos in rugby, similar to most walks of life. A strong culture will get the most out of these people, but it will also keep them in check if required.
Humans are social creatures who like to feel part of something. A team, whether it is sport, business or otherwise, is a great way to do this. However if the culture is not positively addressed it can become a toxic environment, a place of fear, bullying and intimidation. It may not be easy to start with, but work on the culture and the rewards will follow.
For more information, or to speak with Colin about how he can help promote a positive culture for your team please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colin is a performance consultant. He is also rugby analyst for BBC Scotland. Hear him on Radio Scotland for all of Scotland’s upcoming Autumn Internationals (v Samoa on 11th November, 14:30; v New Zealand on 18th November, 17:15; and, v Australia 25th November at 14:30).