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Organisational Culture in Sports: Culture Framework

The Culture Code System — Sports Team Edition

Paul Roos needs no introduction for the millions of Australians who follow AFL – a legendary career saw Paul achieve success as both a player and coach. Gerard Murphy has been instrumental in his work in transforming international sporting clubs across many codes to title winning success.


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Improving your sports club’s culture framework

The Culture Code System — Sports Team Edition is an online training program designed by the Performance by Design team to help leaders of sporting clubs set the framework for success on and off the field. The program has taken into consideration many years of experience across a variety of sporting codes. The online program facilitates the creation of a club’s very own culture code (the combination of your team values and best behaviours) and enables clubs to engage in “Real Talk” (the skill and ability to give and receive feedback that has a positive impact on performance).


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What is a culture framework and how can one help your organization grow rapidly?

Culture code outlines the values your club stands for and creates an inclusive and safe environment. It can be especially valuable for those experiencing less interest or underperformance. This can be achieved through a range of strategies, including:

  • Discovering what your community is missing and needs.
  • Developing programmes that encourage participation.
  • Scheduling events and games on days that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
  • Involving juniors in the club to bring in more parents – resulting in a more vibrant community.
  • Getting involved with local schools.

Defining culture

Defining a culture framework can lead to higher performance and more interest in your sporting club. Offering the opportunity for rapid growth, a well-defined culture code will play a big role in all aspects of a club. Providing a solid foundation for all conversations about performance and is the reference point for all decisions and actions moving forward (especially the tough decisions), with the right framework in place your club can achieve more success.

So, how do you actually define culture? 

Culture refers to the tacit social order of an organisation. It defines behaviors and attitudes across all aspects of interaction. Cultural norms shape what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted or rejected within the team. When working with personal values, drives and needs, culture can generate powerful energy towards the goal of the team. 

Eight distinct culture styles

When it comes to the culture code, there are eight styles that apply to both organisational cultures, sporting teams and individual leaders.  

  • Caring 

Focuses primarily on mutual trust and relationship building. These types of environments are collaborative in nature, boasting warm and welcoming spaces to support individuals. Team members are loyal and leaders are sincere, placing a strong emphasis on teamwork.  

  • Purpose

Purpose driven cultures are tolerant and understanding places where members act in the interest of the long-term. Team members and leaders share ideals and contribute to the organisation or team goals through idealism and altruism. 

  • Learning

A culture of learning is defined by exploration and creativity. These environments are filled with open-minded people who are open to new ideas. Leaders emphasise innovation, knowledge and adventure. 

  • Enjoyment

Enjoyment is felt through fun and excitement. Such cultures are light-hearted in nature, with team members acting in accordance with what makes them happy. Individuals enjoy playfulness and stimulation, while leaders respond with spontaneity. 

  • Results

A results orientated culture demonstrates success and achievement. Such settings are characterised by outcome-orientated individuals who aspire to be their best and to achieve top performance. Leaders strive for success and focus on meeting goals. 

  • Authority

Strength, boldness and decisiveness are the characteristics which underpin authority. In competition, teams strive to gain personal advantage over competitors. Individuals are driven by clear control and direction, while leaders imbue confidence and dominance. 

  • Safety 

Safety speaks to planning, caution and being prepared. These environments are predictable in nature, providing comfort to risk-aware people. Individuals are united by a need for protection. Leaders present realistic planning to accommodate this. 

  • Order 

An order culture is focused on ideals of respect, structure and shared norms. As a result, these environments are methodical places where the rules are clear and people want to fit in. Cooperating inspires team members while upholding procedures and time-honoured customers drives leaders. 

Integrated culture: the framework

While each of the above styles have different benefits, teams must choose which values to focus on due to natural constraints and competing demands. Often, a culture can emphasise the importance of being result-orientated and caring, however this can create confusion. Individuals may find it difficult to focus on both of these ideals at the same time. For instance, are players meant to set clear goals and work towards achieving them at all times? Or should they work together and reward collaboration as a whole? The nature of the team can make balancing different ideas difficult. With this in mind, it is important to choose values that are mutually agreeable. A good example of this is a culture that values caring and order, as these ideas encourage an environment of teamwork, trust and respect. 

Integrated culture: leader statements

Leader statements represent important ideas and reflect how the leader of a team views the organisation. These cultural sentiments are expressed in the public domain either intentionally or unintentionally. Interestingly, you’ll be able to find one of the eight distinct culture styles emanating from most leader statements. 

Four levers for evolving a culture

Like most things, culture can evolve over time to meet different opportunities and demands. But to successfully shift a culture of your own accord requires work and careful thought. We’ve identified four practises that help with this process: 

  • Convey the aspiration

It’s important to understand current culture and to analyse every aspect of it. Use this as a framework for discussion amongst leaders within the organisation, and clearly convey where you want to go and how you will get there.

  • Find leaders who align with the target culture

Find leaders who align with the target culture to ensure that you have strong people instilling values within the team. You may need to bring new leaders in or train current members within the organisation.

  • Use organisational conversations about culture to emphasise the importance of change 

Speaking about cultural change and the reason for it is key to a successful outcome. With this in mind, have senior leaders encourage conversation about the cultural shift to emphasise its importance. 

  • Reinforce the desired change through organisational design

Set up structures, systems and processes within the team or organisation to support the cultural change. This can involve introducing new technology and tools, training for individuals, and so on.

Speak to us about your cultural framework  

Want to get the best out of your team? Get in touch with Performance by Design to discuss if this program is right for you. 

Call today or complete an online form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.