“You don’t understand your culture by talking to your management team. You understand your culture by observing how your new employees behave.”
- Ben Horowitz, What You Do Is Who You Are
Your culture is the behavior of your players. It’s not the framed pictures on the wall or the slogan on the back of your shooting shirts. Your culture is the behavior that comes about based on the shared beliefs in your organization. Culture is action, not words.
The above quote from Ben Horowitz resonated with me as the best way to understand your culture. You aren’t going to truly understand your culture by talking to your veteran players. What you believe in, and what you expect from them, are already ingrained in their minds. They have heard you talk about what’s important over and over, and they know what you want them to say. They probably aren’t that comfortable saying, “You know what, coach, we’ve got some issues to fix,” even if they are able to understand that something is wrong. Like you, they might not see it until it becomes a big issue that starts to impact the results.
To truly understand your players, watch how your newcomers behave. They will come into your program trying to figure out the best way to fit and and to be successful. They will seek out the quickest avenue to do that. If there is a shortcut, they will probably find out. If they are allowed to act a certain way they will probably do so. They will follow the lead of the veteran players and their behavior will tell you a lot about your organizational culture.
Don’t ask your players about your culture. Observe what they do, especially your new players. They will tell you what your culture is all about.