Building a winning team doesn’t just apply to the athletes who use your fields – it applies to the sports turf team as well. With that being said, the best way to build a winning team is to start by creating and establish a winning culture.

What does a “winning culture” mean? Simply put, no matter how well thought out an organization’s strategy, if it doesn’t have the culture to support it, it will undoubtedly fail. Creating a culture doesn’t happen by purchasing it off a shelf, hiring a consultant to build it or by dictating a behavior.

One of the best sources to read when it comes to creating winning cultures is Peter Drucker, considered to be the “father of management.” A quick Google search of him is well worth any manager’s time. Among Drucker’s many philosophies is one regarding organizational behavior and norms and how they relate to talent and expertise: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” he says.

No matter how well versed your team is in turf management, success won’t be achieved without a culture that emphasizes and displays attention to detail, compliance with regulations, the strict application of accepted scientific principles and the spirit of teamwork. Consider this: the New York Yankees have “the Yankee Way.” The Green Bay Packers, under the legendary Vince Lombardi, had a commitment to winning: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” The Los Angeles Lakers had “Showtime,” where success was done with style and flair.

A strong culture begins with a leadership that’s trusted, sets clear standards of performance and one that fosters accountability, inclusion and following the rules. There are other factors that play into creating a desirable, positive and winning culture at your operation. Consider these steps, according to a 2014 article from Entrepreneur titled “The 8 Essential Steps to Building a Winning Company Culture“:

  1. Learn from the past. Draw from your experiences. You’ve likely encountered many scenarios in your sports turf career. What worked for you? What didn’t?
  2. Create a culture that aligns with your core values. Do you believe in working hard and playing hard? Foster that attitude within your team. Do you prefer a relaxed atmosphere, but one where everyone is held accountable? Implement those beliefs and values at your facility.
  3. Find great people who complement you. Round out your team by hiring people who offer different experiences and perspectives than your own. As tempting as it may be, avoid hiring a replica of you. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, then fill in the gaps.
  4. Communicate. Clearly set and define expectations for your team members. Present information, instruction and details concisely and accurately. Talk with each other and create a culture where ideas are encouraged without fear of repercussions. Let people share and voice their opinions (in a respectful and constructive manner). Good communication also involves anticipating problems and making sure all the team members know what to do when things go awry. Have a plan. And a backup plan. And a backup plan for the backup plan. You can’t always anticipate when things will go wrong. But having plans in place that account for almost any contingency make unpredictable situations easier to handle.
  5. Have fun. I’ve talked to several head sports turf managers who have great success with something as simple as regular barbecues/cookouts with their team members. Take the time whenever you can to thank the people under your lead. And nobody says the job can’t be fun, even during the most stressful times. A little levity, humor and good-natured ribbing can go a long way during the long days.
  6. Invite people to drink the Kool-Aid. Everyone needs to believe in the organization’s mission and be on the same page. Get everyone on board. Remember that a positive attitude is contagious.
  7. Work as a team. Instead of “employees” or “departments,” think of everyone as part of the same team. Everyone is in it together and everyone is working toward the same goal – safe, playable and aesthetically pleasing fields. Building a sense of community fosters a good culture.
  8. Maintain and carefully evolve your culture. Building the culture you want takes time and is a brick-by-brick process. Nurture it, protect it and feed it. Also, give your culture the freedom to evolve over time.