Is your Culture rooted?

blog Feb 28, 2023

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Peter Drucker

To answer this question, you need to be clear on what culture is.

There are plenty of definitions of culture, so I thought I would start with ChatGPT, the new AI tool taking the world by storm.

“Culture refers to the shared values, beliefs, practices, attitudes, and behaviours that characterise an organisation and guide its interactions with stakeholders, including employees, customers, partners, and the wider community. It encompasses the organisation's vision, mission, and purpose, as well as the norms and customs that shape how work gets done, decisions are made, and conflicts are resolved. A strong business culture can foster employee engagement, innovation, and productivity, while a weak or toxic culture can lead to low morale, high turnover, and reputational damage”

Way too long and complex for me!

I reckon the story of the JackJumper’s provides a great example of how to explain Culture.

I was fortunate in October 2022 to interview the coach of Tasmania’s National Basketball League (NBL) team, the JackJumpers (JJs), at our monthly meet-up of the Grow a Small Business community.

Scott says he has been fortunate to start a team from ground zero, and appreciates the opportunity - as opposed to many businesses who have a legacy to work through as part of changing culture.

Scott has leveraged this opportunity with respect to the purpose and values of the JJ’s, to build an amazing culture which is creating great results on-and-off the court.

Scott’s vision of culture is – “If you want the fruit, you must invest in the root. Culture is the root. Culture creates sustained success.”

Scott invests time and effort in his people and the culture he has created, as do the players and the off court team. 

Every day!

It’s simple in theory, but a challenge in practice, as business leaders and managers do not give this priority.

We can all learn from sport and JJs example.

You can ‘feel’ a great culture in a sports team and a business, just from watching and listening to their people.

I reckon culture is a combination of the following ingredients:

  • Core values that are lived and celebrated every day - yes, every day!
  • Clarity around purpose - your WHY
  • Trust - Without trust, you have fear of conflict, lack of commitment, no accountability and little attention to results - The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
  • Leadership - To bring the above together. 

Which when combined, results in people’s behaviour in a business environment.

Core values must be descriptive of the desired ‘behaviours’ required of everyone in a business.

No more than five…less is more.

And ‘lived’ every day.

They cannot be just words on a page and stuck on a wall.

You must talk about them and tell stories of your people living the values every day.

Behaviours come from the interactions of your people and how they react.

It is ‘the way we do things here’, and must not be compromised.

Clarity around PURPOSE

You have probably heard of Simon Sinek, he created a business and followers on the back of your WHY in life and business.

If you have not watched his TED talk, it is worth spending 18 minutes to do so.

Over 13 years ago, Sinek did this talk which has transformed the way people and business owners look at purpose or their WHY.

All about how great leaders inspire action.

Sinek’s book, Start with WHY, shows that the leaders who have had the greatest influence in the world all think, act and communicate the same way - and it's the opposite of what everyone else does. 

Sinek calls this powerful idea “The Golden Circle”, and it provides a framework upon which businesses can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. 

Every business functions on three levels;

  1. What we do
  2. How we do it
  3. Why we do it

Start with WHY, not WHAT you do, or HOW you do it - like many businesses do.

When all three align, people will know who you are, and what you stand for.

Unfortunately, not many businesses can articulate ‘why’ they do what they do.

It must be about your contribution to make an impact and serve others.

The WHY should inspire.

This is a critical foundational part of success and should provide alignment for strategic decision making.

The fascinating thing is it is all based on biology.

The ‘Limbic’ part of the brain is responsible for all feelings, such as trust and loyalty.

Communicate from the perspective of WHY (inside the golden circle outwards), and you talk directly to the part of the brain that controls emotions, behaviour and decision making.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it”

To help nail your WHY, use the following statements and fill in the blanks

A. We are _______________

B. We achieve this by _______________

C. Our customers are _______________

D. Our financial outcome will be _______________ 

Start with what gets you out of bed in the morning. 

Answer this question as if you were speaking on behalf of all those collectively involved in the business. 

Likewise, determine what you or the business is passionate about, your quest.

It’s inspirational for you and your team….it’s not always possible, but ideally a purpose statement should read like a headline. 

Here are two great examples:

  • “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” - Fedex 
  • “Defend the Island” - JackJumper’s 


Without trust, you have fear of conflict, lack of commitment, no accountability and little attention to results.

Your business is dysfunctional and you cannot have a good culture!

Businesses don’t want a broken team culture right now….or ever.

It’s hard enough to find and keep good team members without dysfunctional team crap sending them out the door.

A recent PwC survey found nearly nine in ten (88%) of executives said their company was experiencing higher turnover than normal. 

You can bet some of this relates to one or more of the five dysfunctions of a team.

Symptoms of a dysfunctional team include backstabbing, second-guessing, disengaging, missing deadlines, suffering increased mental health and wellbeing issues, and, yes, high turnover.

Are any of these familiar in your business?

What are the five dysfunctions of a team?

A dysfunctional team is one that is malfunctioning or not working properly. ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ by Patrick Lencioni is both a business framework and the New York Times bestselling book of that name. 

Patrick Lencioni, says the 5 dysfunctions of a team are:

  • Absence of Trust

It’s vital for teams to have vulnerability based trust at their core. 

This is where people feel safe to say ‘I don’t know the answer to that’, ‘I think I made a mistake’, ‘I’m sorry.’ 

No one is perfect but team members must be vulnerable and the leader has to go first. 

If the leader can’t be vulnerable then the people on the team can’t be expected to be vulnerable either. It is that important.

  • Fear of Conflict

Conflict is a good thing on a team, but not inter-personal conflict. 

It’s ideological conflict - conflict around ideas - conflict around the pursuit of truth. 

When there is trust you can argue without the sting. 

When we don’t have conflict around ideas and issues we get ‘artificial harmony’ which eventually ferments into conflict around people. They start to dislike each other.

If you are having meetings without constructive conflict, you have trust issues which must be fixed.

  • Lack of Commitment

On a leadership team, everyone should weigh in with their ideas and their opinions. 

That doesn’t mean there will always be consensus. 

The importance of weighing in is that the leader can say “Ok, my job is to break the tie, it’s not going to make everyone happy, but I’ve taken into account everything said today.” 

Nobody will commit to a decision if they didn’t passionately weigh into a discussion. 

Everyone needs to be heard.

As former CEO of Intel Andy Grove was fond of saying: “We are going to disagree and commit.”

  • Avoidance of Accountability

The primary source of accountability on a team is not the leader. 

The primary source is peers

The best teams call somebody out in real time. 

The problem is if the leader is not willing to hold people accountable then the others will think ‘well I’m not going to do your dirty work.’

Do not walk past someone whose behaviour is not reflective of your values and your culture.

  • Inattention to Results

Most people on a leadership team are focused on results, but is this at the business level?

It’s very dangerous to have a manager who lobbies for their own former department (marketing, sales, finance etc). 

It can cause in-fighting within the business. 

Everyone should be focused on the collective results of Team #1 – the business.

How do the 5 dysfunctions of a team affect results?

A team not functioning well won’t get consistently good results. 

There are always fires to put out.

The All Blacks rugby team of New Zealand is a great case study. 

James Kerr, author of ‘Legacy’, writes about how the All Blacks culture was once dysfunctional to the point it had ‘begun to rot from the inside’.

“With results declining, key players threatening to leave and cultural dysfunction endemic, the management had to act, and act quickly.” - James Kerr, ‘Legacy’

Changes were made, dysfunctions addressed, and now is a great case study for how this exceptionally successful rugby team developed an amazing culture, supported by values known as their 15 Mantra's.

Poor team cultures with multiple dysfunctions turn your A-People off joining or staying, and that’s an unacceptable risk. 

Why are the 5 dysfunctions of a team important for leaders to know?

A strong culture increases net income 765% over 10 years, according to a Harvard study of more than 200 companies (The Culture Code).

Leaders should want a healthy culture because this is core to their role

World-renowned business researcher Jim Collins talks about leadership as “The art of getting people to want to do what must be done.” 

In a dysfunctional team, people are too busy blaming others, avoiding being held accountable for results, or talking behind people’s backs to ‘want to do what must be done’. 

The leader must take ownership of solving team dysfunction as one of the best-known authors, Jim Collin, says: "One of the things we’ve learned in all our research is that it all begins with people."

What are the 5 dysfunctions of a team pyramid?

The five dysfunctions of a team can’t be approached in random order. 

Each dysfunction must be solved in correct order to enable other dysfunctions to also be solved. 

For this reason, Patrick Lencioni orders the five dysfunctions into a pyramid, with TRUST as the pyramid base.

Once trust is established, teams can feel comfortable engaging in healthy conflict. 

Once they can argue effectively, they can commit to decisions being made. 

Once they’ve committed to decisions, they can be held accountable by their peers. 

Only once they’re held accountable, can attention be paid to results.

Following are some team exercises to help with the five dysfunctions in your team.

1. Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust

Have the team share where each of them grew up, what order in the family they are, and the most difficult challenge in their childhood. 

People will look at each other like they’ve just met. 

It’s a great leveller and makes everyone a little more vulnerable. 

It helps us avoid ‘fundamental attribution error”, when we judge others unfairly because we don’t understand them.

2. Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict

When someone at work engages in healthy conflict for the first time, have the leader say “This is awesome! Do it more often!”

This is real time permission so they don’t feel guilt or angst. 

Teams that don’t have conflict are not great places to work. 

Teams that learn to engage in healthy conflict mean people are always free to say what they think at work.

This is part of creating psychological safety in your business.

3. Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment

Discourage ‘after-meeting meetings’ by strongly encouraging team members to weigh into discussions before you ask them for a commitment. 

Note those who are being quiet and try to draw out their thoughts on the discussion at hand. 

Note those who are dominating the conversation and ask for more opinions from the rest of the team. 

Once you arrive at a decision you are more likely to get their full commitment.

4. Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of accountability 

A team effectiveness exercise is to have everybody write down one positive thing that each person does for the team (by being who they are). 

Then one behaviour of each that hurts the team (ie. what they need to get better at). 

Variation: Ask each team member ‘How comfortable do you feel about making a comment about other people’s work?’

5. Dysfunction #5: Inattention to results

Keep a visible scoreboard.

Franklin Covey’s The 4 Disciplines of Execution tells the importance of keeping a compelling scoreboard to track results. 

People tend to play differently when they are keeping score. 

Imagine for a moment two teams kicking a ball around in the park. 

The minute you mark out goals and announce that you’ll keep score, the individual’s and the team’s motivation soar!


Leader is French for ‘Flag bearer of the army’.

Leadership pulls the values, the purpose and trust together - to drive a powerful and successful culture.

Leaders take people to where they have not been before!

Get the right people in the right seats on ‘your bus’, with a strong culture, and your business can achieve anything.

Make this a priority with FOCUS and you can grow your small business, with ease.

Join our waitlist for our Business Transformation Program, to fast track the growth of your small business, where we focus on people and culture.