When you’re building a championship organization, one of the most important truths gleaned from my observation is that culture matters . In a 35-year baseball career, I either played for, was professionally associated with or had business relationships with 11 ownership groups, 7 team presidents, 10 general managers and an amazing number of 22 field managers. It’s been great to observe and glean leadership truths from some of the wealthiest, smartest, most educated, most experienced, most influential and most make-it-happen people in sports.
In late 2007, team owner Tom Hicks moved Jeff Cogen, then president of the Rangers, to the Dallas Stars, the city’s hockey team and another of the three sports franchises he owned. Tom planned to move forward without a president because he felt comfortable with his executive team. I went to Tom and recommended that he hire Nolan as president instead.
Later, I worked with Tom on ideas to position the club better with the fan base. One aspect of my role included some oversight of the branding element. It was a natural for me to represent this effort, being a long time Ranger and living in Arlington, Texas since 1974. There was a track record in caring for the community, a passion for the organization and baseball, and knowing the heartbeat of the fan base.
For young aspiring leaders in organizations, keep these three key components in mind as you build your culture of success:
Right Person at the Top Matters
In late 2007, I was convinced we needed a strong, high profile leader who could change our culture, energize our fan base and everyone in our organization. Attendance had dwindled from heights of nearly 3 million a year during the late 1990’s division championships to barely more than 2 million in 2007. Nolan is credited with creating a culture that led to a competitive direction on the field, a family-friendly culture in the office and an increased fan base. Nolan had the persona, pedigree, consistent years of integrity, the baseball and business experience, and performance track record to make a difference and Tom agreed. People will follow you if they know you care for them!
Family Friendly Organization / Happy Client Base Culture
Nolan drove the value of family within the front office and personal contact with players and customers. Good cultures create a family-friendly organization and a happy customer base. Southwest Airlines, one of the most successful airlines today for numerous reasons, have proven the value of a great culture. Southwest has one of the best workplace buy-in cultures in business because it has a philosophy of fun at the gates and on the planes. That culture is partly responsible for the company’s strong financial performance every year. Build a culture of high standards that matches your strong values and skill set!
Bad Cultures Obstruct Growth
There are companies where culture is abused and yet profits are still made, but typically, they’re comprised by a stressful workplace with toxic atmospheres leading to employee turnover. Organizations with these environments often experience reduced customer satisfaction with diminished sales. This brings pressure to create new revenue streams and more cost cutting measures so the cycle continues to spin. We learned, starting in 2008, that bad cultures are hard to break unless someone with a positive strong persona steps in to lead. That person could be you!
SPORTS TO LIFE NAVIGATOR
An organization’s culture is established by the persona of the person in charge and trickles down to the entire organization. Be a person of positive change and people will follow you.