Winning Better: Cases of Cultural Transformation in Sport and Coaching (RRU Webinar)

Ultimately, all organizations are socio-technical systems in which the manner of external adaptation and the solution of internal integration problems are interdependent” (2004, 186). According to Schein and others, culture stems from underlying assumptions and beliefs which are represented through the values expressed, communicated, or enacted via any number and type of artifacts including structures, processes, systems, design, texts, and imagery. In our study of high performing sport organizations and teams, a key feature was that the team was led and facilitated by their coach, director, or CEO, but all team members became leaders, reminiscent of New Zealand Rugby 15’s All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw’s quote: “1 Captain, 15 Leaders.” Central to these high performance organizations was a non hierarchical leadership model governed by the underlying assumption that ‘sport is for human and social development’. This assumption drove the system, represented through the expressed and enacted values of integrity (including honesty, equality, equity), effort (and the constant striving or pursuit of excellence), and psychological safety (and the expectation that sport be a safe place to try and fail). These values were expressed through non-hierarchical structures, processes and systems including collaboration, curiosity, clarity, purposeful communication, and community support. These values underpinned non-hierarchical attitudes and behaviours such as perspective, appreciation for diversity, fun and positivity. The resulting environment fostered the development of leadership competencies and abilities such as self efficacy, self awareness, and resilience stemming from tolerance for lack of control (Walinga, 2008). Participants considered their egalitarian culture a key factor in reaching peak performances within and beyond sport including multiple Olympic and world championship gold medals, world records, and repeated and enduring success as a team. Findings may be relevant to multiple sectors.

Research Services gratefully acknowledges the funding support of the Research Support Fund (RSF) in the development of this initiative. The RSF is administered by the Tri-Agency Institutional Programs Secretariat.

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