Given the World Cup has just started and there are rugby internationals aplenty, I thought I’d use the essence of team sport to discuss culture. Whether you work in business or sport, a strong culture can reduce the impact of mistakes, it can be a major factor in employee retention but most notably it can be the difference between winning or losing in the long run.

The England rugby team have already lost the series in South Africa and whilst the final game presents an opportunity to immediately put things right, the long-term impact of the latest run of losses will be seen over the coming months. The big guns from the Southern hemisphere arrive at Twickenham in November and Eddie Jones has a massive challenge to make sure that the last 5 or 6 games were just a blip on the road to World Cup success in 2019.

It is now the culture of this team that is being tested the most. Individuals will of course, come out fighting and will do everything they can from a personal point of view but that is often where the problem lies. In times of adversity, and in an environment where players come from different clubs, it becomes more about self-preservation. Players naturally gravitate to those they know on a deeper level and trust can be at a premium. I know from experience that this can happen at the highest level and it is not a great place to be. Eddie has certainly done a great job with this team, but it will be interesting to see how he reacts, and most importantly, how the team react to him going forward.

Switching sports to the England football team, they have certainly made a great start to the World Cup and World Cup fever has definitely hit. Every international tournament always begins with hope and whilst it has ended in despair for the last 50 years, you can’t help but look at this team with a bit more optimism. Yes, they are young and relatively inexperienced, but this youth and enthusiasm may work in their favour. Gareth Southgate has known many of these players for a long time through his work with the junior teams, and he will have built up a great rapport with them. The proof will always be in the pudding and whether this team is successful or not in the short term, he seems to be building a team with positive foundations.

How do you create a strong culture

The big question therefore is, how do you create a strong culture and where does it come from? I believe it begins at the top, I believe it is about having clear values and behaviours and I believe it is built on trust and positivity. It is perhaps less about ability and more about the type of character you have within your team.

How many times do people receive an email from senior management explaining what the values of their organisation are, without any explanation or action? It is crucial for those in senior positions to behave and act in a way that they expect everyone else to. What is key here though is that it must be done all the time with no shortcuts. Let things slip for a moment and everyone else thinks it is ok to do so too. These habits must course through the veins of an organisation and the only way that happens is when the senior leaders set the example in the first place.

There are many things that we can’t control, be it in business or sport. However, we can all control how we behave and when it is done in a positive fashion, the long term effects are much more satisfying.

How important is culture?