Culture and a Coffee Cup

I love talking to coaches.  It seems that every time I have a conversation with a coach, I learn something new about leadership.  Last week I was talking with Rande Stottlemyer, who heads the nationally ranked wrestling program at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and has won five conference Coach of the Year Awards.  His teams have won three consecutive conference regular season championships and they consistently come home from the National Championship with wrestlers who earn All-American honors.  It’s no surprise that his teams are so successful; Rande was a three time All-American himself when he was in college.  He knows a thing or two about what it takes to win at the national level!

I was asking Coach Stottlemyer about how he has sustained this success with his program.  I was curious to know what he thought were the keys for an organization to achieve so consistently at the highest level?  After he took a sip of his coffee, he said, “It’s about building a culture and this is hard work.  There are no shortcuts.”  He held out his coffee cup toward me and said,  “Culture is not something you can put in a coffee cup and hand over for others to duplicate.”  We went on to talk about this idea of culture and how hard it is to develop a winning culture.  A winning culture is a culture of accountability, of respect, of integrity, of hard work, of teamwork, and of discipline.  Coach reminded me that it took many years and lots of effort to build this culture and that culture is never a finished product.  You have to keep working to develop and then maintain your organization’s culture.

Talking with Coach Stottlemyer reminded me that culture starts at the top.  Whatever it is you want your organization’s culture to be, it starts with the leader behaving in a way that supports that culture.  Organizations will emulate their leaders.  If you want a culture of accountability, be accountable and others will follow.  If you want a culture of teamwork, be a team player and others will follow.  If you want a culture of respect, be respectful and others will follow.  You get the idea.  Your behaviors will set the tone for the culture you want in your organization.  Remember, you can’t get culture in a coffee cup.  It takes hard work.  It takes great effort.  But if you are willing to work hard, and to model the behaviors you expect of your team, you can develop a winning culture.

Thanks for reading,



One thought on “Culture and a Coffee Cup

  1. I agree with Coach Rande Stottlemyer and Jim 100 percent about the importance of culture building while establishing effective leadership. One thing I want to add is about the constant changes that take place while building a culture, which is perhaps the most challenging work for leaders. Leaders must be flexible and be able to recognize constant changes during the culture building. Building an organizational culture is hard work, but the most difficult task for leaders is to be able to recognize the complexity of the job and be able to develop appropriate strategies to achieve the goal. Moreover, successful culture building and effective leadership does not completely rely on skills and techniques; it has to be coming from the heart.

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