August 27

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Elevating Culture, One Step at a Time

By David Millay

August 27, 2019


Culture is the self-sustaining pattern of behavior that determines how things get done.

It’s made of instinctive, repetitive habits and emotional responses.

In it’s simplest form, culture =behavior, or “the way things are done around here.”

When we work with different athletic departments to elevate their culture, it’s tempting to try to tackle many things at once.

But as we’ve learned over time, for ESPN, Disney Institute and working with other major brands, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Attempts to replace the existing culture with something entirely new will usually fail.

It’s much better to focus on a couple of key behaviors. 

With Purdue Athletics, we’ve been working all summer to elevate the service culture on gameday, encompassing all full-time employees and third party employees.

We started small, especially with the part-time employees working on gameday employed by other companies.

While we built a larger behavioral framework with informal athletic department leaders over the summer, we trained hundreds of part-timers this past week.

With those part-timers, we really focused on three main behaviors: prioritizing Purpose over Task, showing empathy instead of simply apologizing when a service failure occurs with a fan, and being proactive to greet fans instead of being reactive.

It’s important in any type of culture change initiative not to overwhelm, because when that happens, your team is likely to react in a negative way, if at all.

This post was inspired by an article from PWC’s blog, Strategy + Business. https://www.strategy-business.com/feature/10-Principles-of-Organizational-Culture

David Millay

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