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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 and facilitates the creation of a club’s very own culture code, encompassing the combination of your team values and best behaviours. It also enables clubs to engage in “Real Talk” which is what we describe as the skill and ability to give and receive feedback that has a positive impact on performance.


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Defining organisational culture

Culture can be difficult to define as it is not tangible. It is a living, breathing thing made up of the people who make up the organisation—and everything that they do and say. Culture describes the behaviours and attitudes across all aspects of interaction within an organisation such as a sports team or a workplace. 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 collective and can help create a high performing team.

Defining your organisation’s personal 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.

Qualities of a good organisational culture

A high performing organisational culture should possess qualities that are not only beneficial to the team members and organisation as a whole but they should also support the group’s specific goals. Considering each organisation operates within different contexts and has differing objectives, no two organisations will ever possess an identical culture style and culture code. It all comes down to what will help your particular organisation thrive and achieve desirable outcomes.

But before diving into specifics, there are some general qualities that should feature within every culture code that are beneficial to the productivity and longevity of an organisation, regardless of individual goals and operational context. These include:


Team members are given opportunities to develop their skills and feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. An organisational culture should make members feel valued and give them something that they can get behind. 


Leaders should demonstrate integrity and honesty in their communication with team members. 


Leaders should treat employees fairly, regardless of their position or role within the company.

Open communication: 

Team members should be allowed and feel comfortable to express themselves freely without fear of being reprimanded if they disagree with anything that has been said or done within that environment.

Different organisational culture styles

Once an organisation has the basics cemented within its culture code, it can go on to explore different culture styles that coincide with its objectives and operating context. 

There are eight distinctive culture styles that can go on to form the individual culture code of all types of organisations including sporting teams, workplaces and social groups. Each organisation will find that they operate with many additional nuances than what is defined within each style, but these eight categories provide a great culture framework that can be built upon. It is important to note that your organisation may select more than one style to form your holistic culture code. By implementing multiple styles that speak to your team or club, you can achieve a well-rounded and productive way of working and relating to one another.


This style 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-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. 


A culture of learning is defined by exploration and creativity. These environments are filled with open-minded people who welcome new ideas and ways of working. Leaders emphasise innovation, knowledge and adventure and encourage team members to push the boundaries of what they already know. 


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. 


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. 


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


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. This goes beyond physical safety to encompass psychological safety too. Leaders present realistic planning to accommodate this. 


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. 

What factors shape and impact organisational culture?

It’s important for leaders to understand what factors shape organisational culture so that they can help to promote positive behaviours and elements and subsequently discourage negative ones. 

The factors that shape organisational culture are:

  • the size of the organisation or team
  • its geographical location
  • its industry or operating context
  • the skills and capabilities of its members and leaders
  • the commitment demonstrated by leaders
  • team member buy-in
  • communication
  • policies and procedures
  • feedback and positive reinforcement

The way these factors are implemented or considered can have a significant effect on the culture code’s success and consequentially, the organisation or team’s success.

Culture frameworks and how they can help your organisation succeed and 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.

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.