The Players Who Tried to Oust the Coach
The only way a culture can be successful is through alignment from the top down. It never works from the bottom up.
The star player — one of the highest-paid in the NFL — was complaining about the head coach, demanding a change. So he assembled a few supporters and headed for a meeting with the general manager, once a head coach himself.
The star told the GM that the group wanted him to be their leader and to remove the present coach. The GM urged them to head back down to the locker room and to tell their teammates there would be a meeting on the field in 10 minutes.
On the field, the GM instructed the players to stand as if the national anthem were being played, shoulders back, eyes directed to him. Then, with each member of the team focused on his every word, the GM announced that under no circumstances was the current head coach going to be removed, regardless of who came to complain.
He made it abundantly clear that the head coach was the head coach, he was the GM, and the culture was going to remain intact. Their cultural hierarchy was perfectly aligned.
The players went back to work, the star was put in his place, and the organization became collectively stronger.
“Losers assemble in small groups and complain,” legendary NFL coach Bill Parcells (not the coach referenced above) once said.
Culture is a major part of any organization and can take on multiple meanings. It can represent the beliefs, traditions and values that make a society distinctive or that give a particular society its social character.
It can also mean the set of practices that are the customs, beliefs, habits and activities of a people. In this sense, culture is basically the way of life in which we live.
But the only way a culture can be successful is through alignment from the top down. It never works from the bottom up.
When there is perfect alignment from the ownership group, instead of players assembling into small bands to complain, they do their jobs and find ways to solve problems. Creating the perfect culture is easy when the alignment is perfect and impossible when it's not.
As leaders and culture creators, are we more dedicated to the star player or the larger culture as a whole? Once we answer that question, everything else becomes easy.