By Paul Roos, The Australian

Paul Roos works on the Melbourne culture last year. Picture: Colleen Petch.

One of my main objectives when arriving at the Melbourne Football Club was to transform the culture of the organisation.

The club had just completed a season winning two games and losing 20 and hadn’t seen success for many years.

While the word “culture” is widely used, I often wonder if people really understand what it means. Brett Kirk, my former captain at the Sydney Swans, found a great quote that I believe sums up exactly what culture is.

“How things are done. It is typical of an organisation, the habits, prevailing attitudes, the grown-up pattern of accepted and expected behaviour.”

Think about this in your day-to-day life. Whatever company you are dealing with at any particular time, how often do you talk directly to the managing director, CEO or owner of that company? Depending on the size of the company, generally the answer is never.

Your perception of that organisation will be determined by any of the following:

The person on the end of the phone.

The person at the reception desk.

The serviceman that comes to your house.

The salesperson that drops in to see you.

Every single person in an organisation is responsible for the culture of that organisation.

Having spoken at many conferences I know the majority of companies have a set of behaviours or values that they have agreed upon.

The size of the organisation will determine how these values have been set and how many people were involved in setting them.

I guarantee that many companies spend hours defining those behaviours/values and look for as much input from staff as practically possible. Equally I can tell from experience that once those behaviours/values have been agreed upon often they are rolled up and placed in a desk and the only time they are discussed is at the annual conference.

Dissecting that quote shows how you can’t have a good culture if you never discuss your behaviours and values.

If people don’t fully understand what their role is and what the company expectations are you cannot even start the process of developing a great culture. You need to know:

What is typical of an organisation;

The habits;

The prevailing attitudes;

The pattern of accepted and expected behaviours.

At the Melbourne Football Club just as we did in Sydney, we collectively agreed on a set of behaviours. We endlessly discussed those behaviours and clearly articulated what was expected.

On a weekly basis we looked at the behaviours both on and off the field. The vision of the matches was shown to match up to the behaviours, both positive and negative, in the game.

The players need to be 100 per cent clear what each and every behaviour means and get shown and told over and over again.

One of the keys to success is the habits you have formed. A habit is something that occurs instinctively as it has been practised/reinforced continually over a long period. In a great football club if you have a clear set of behaviours that have been embraced and have become habitual you will have success. Watching a great football team play is a magnificent visual of what culture looks like:

What do you see from that team every week that they play (typical of an organisation)?

Do their behaviours on-field appear consistently, naturally and seemingly without consciously thinking about them (the habits)?

Do you see players constantly talking to each other, either congratulating a teammate on good behaviour or counselling when someone makes a mistake (the pattern of accepted and expected behaviour)?

As important as the process of agreeing on the behaviours is, it is completely pointless if you do not spend time discussing them.

As a chief executive, director or manager, how confident are you that when that person comes in contact with your staff that they will clearly see what your company values are?

Be honest, when was the last time you even discussed them? Was it at the big company conference six months ago?

Paul Roos is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.

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