We are Family! Maybe not so much.

We are Family was the Sister Sledge disco hit the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates adopted as their theme song on the way to a World Series title. Since then referring to a team as a family has been the popular thing to do, I'm sure the ideal is The Walton's, or the Cunningham family from Happy Days. If only all families could be like those TV families.  Stark reality tells us it just isn't so.

For example, I have an older brother who abused and perhaps still abuses drugs. He's mean surly and genuinely not a nice person to be around. I love him, but do I want him on my team?  No way!  He's family but he's not getting anywhere near my team.

When we hear the term "family" most of us will think of the fictional families portrayed on television. The warm fuzzy people who love and are loved unconditionally.  The championship teams, the championship cultures I have been a part of are not unconditional.  In fact, the championship teams I have been a part of have been highly conditional cultures.

Every team practices technique, tactics, physical conditioning and to some degree in one fashion or another psychology.  This last term, psychology seems to be a catch-all phrase for many. A big part of it to me is the culture of the team. Culture must be practiced and adhered to just as technical and tactical principles of the game must be practiced and adhered to.

It is important to build a strong team culture and just as important to protect the team culture. Just as we fight battles between good and evil in every aspect of our life on a daily basis, we must fight for and protect our team culture on a daily basis,

Winning is important. Success even more so. We must measure ourselves individually and collectively by our performance. Did we improve today? Am I a better player as I step off the pitch than when I stepped onto the pitch a couple of hours ago?  Did we improve as a team?


Accountability to the process must be a primary focus.  The great players hold themselves accountable to improving on a daily basis. They continuously hone their skill sets - technical, tactical, physical and psychological.  The members of special teams hold one another accountable.

Blame is unacceptable. Instead the great players and great teams look for the origin of the "problem" and then put their problem solving skills to work to make that problem go away.

There is no complaining. Instead ways to improve the situation are actively sought, researched and implemented.

There is no procrastination. There exists an urgency to get things done and get it done correctly as soon as possible

A spirit of determination exists that enables individuals and the team to give more than they are asked to give to the cause.

In conditional cultures the individuals seek as much responsibility as they can handle.  Eleven Captains on the field each leading in his own way. And yet they are smart enough and confident enough to share the load with teammates.

Continuous Improvement is a way of life. In the conditional culture there is a constant striving to improve both the individual and the team.

Trust is the glue of conditional cultures. It is the most essential ingredient in effective communication. Trust is the foundational principle that holds all relationships together. Relationships are what define culture and bind individuals together therefore honesty is the cornerstone relationships are built on.

In someways, and most regretfully so, a strong team culture can transcend a family culture. The truly great teams have this type of culture.  ... so too does a truly great family.

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