Creating Culture

“Culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. It’s not something you are. It’s something you do.”

—Daniel Coyle, The Culture Code

As I discussed in my article, “Why Sports Culture Doesn’t Need Any More Critics”, being a critic of culture doesn’t change it. Andy Crouch makes this argument in his book, Culture Making: “The only way to change culture is to create more of it. Creativity is the only viable source of change.”

Tony Hseih, the CEO and Founder of Zappos, which has a world-renowned business cultures, describes culture as a greenhouse, not a building. Our jobs as leaders are less like a builder with a blueprint and more like a farmer who cultivates and plants. When farming and cultivating a greenhouse, you need to constantly keep an eye on all your plants, make adjustments, and give special care to struggling areas. It is the same for our culture.

4 Keys to Creating a Plan for Your Culture

  1. Create a Culture Manual, Playbook, or Plan: There is great value in coming up with a written plan. We need to be intentional in our implementation of strategies, systems, and lessons to build leadership and character.
  2. Poke Holes in the Plan: Working with your staff or a mentor, ask these 2 questions:
    1. “Why won’t this strategy or idea work?”
    2. “How can we make this strategy or idea work?”
  3. Execute the Plan: Be confident in the new strategies and ideas you are implementing within your culture plan, just as you need to be confident in a tactical change or when teaching a certain skill.
  4. Reflect and Refine: Your plan will not go according to plan! Acknowledge what is working and what isn’t working. Why aren’t some things working? How can you make them better?

It’s a Journey

In my own experience, and in my experience working with other coaches, our greatest challenges are in #4. When things don’t go according to plan, and when a strategy or approach fails, we often want to substitute a whole new strategy or take a totally different approach. But all we really need to do is just make little tweaks and stay consistent.

Nearly 40 years ago, Anson Dorrance decided to implement the “competitive cauldron” for his program. At first, it was highly ineffective, but he believed in it, so he kept reflecting on it and refining it, and nearly 40 years later, he is still refining this system. Read more about it here.

Recently, I made the decision to be more intentional when building relationships with a team I support in my local area. I committed to bringing lunch to one player a week, hanging out with them, and talking about life. While some players were enthusiastic for the opportunity, some didn’t understand why I would want to spend time learning and connecting with them as people. Instead of abandoning my decision to build stronger interpersonal relationships and my weekly commitment, I decided it needed a small change, so I started to offer to meet in small groups instead.

In my article, “3 Things to Remember About Making Plans”, I addressed how, when things don’t go as well as we envisioned, we tend to think, “Well, that was a bad idea!” However, we must not become discouraged when things don’t go according to plan. It’s as Jeff Olson says in his book, Slight Edge: “You have to start with a plan, but the plan you start with will not be the plan that gets you there.”

-J.P. Nerbun

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1. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

2. 3 Things to Remember About Making Plans

3. 3 Strategies to Move from a Coach Led Team to a Player Led Team

4. 6 Steps to a Transformational Culture

5. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle