Values and Behavior Net Great Club Swimming Culture

Written by on November 29, 2022

When people talk about their culture, they are certain they know whether it’s strong or has room for improvement. We can deeply feel when things aren’t working well, when behaviors aren’t the best, and when there is a lot of complaining from both staff and families. We know the culture needs to change. However, that’s kind of where things end. There may be an absolute desire for change, but those who recognize the problem usually don’t have a clear plan of how to shift from talking about it to putting it in motion.

I get it, it’s not easy. Where and how do you start? How do you bring everyone along? Doesn’t culture just naturally happen because good people do good things? Unfortunately, if you want to move out of dysfunction, you have to be purposeful in your approach.

Just like I firmly believe clubs must set their vision for the next three years, I believe they must also be purposeful in developing their values. Every single person has their own set of standards or values they live by, but as an organization, they are rarely well thought out and established. Values are a club’s fundamental beliefs that drive their decisions and are a guideline to how everyone in the organization should be conducting themselves. Keywords: everyone in the organization. A club’s values are for the staff, board, volunteers, swimmers, and parents.

Once established, the values can’t simply stand on their own. Again, clubs must be purposeful or they become pretty words on paper. Working through what behaviors support those values is where organizations start creating or changing their club culture. Thoughtfully purposing what behaviors can be modeled, celebrated, and corrected against is how you take your talk and put it in motion. As an example, for the value Integrity you might have the following behavior statements:

  • Own your actions

  • Honor your commitments

  • Be honest and transparent

These behavior statements can be modeled easily by each person involved in your organization. And when someone is celebrated for behaving in this way, it embeds the value of Integrity. If coaches and team leadership are modeling these behaviors purposely, it embeds the value of Integrity. If someone is corrected for not behaving this way, you reinforce that you value integrity.

The key to success in changing a club’s culture is to stick to the plan. Pushing hard on the values and behaviors for a month and then letting them drop, isn’t going to work. The club leadership must commit to modeling, celebrating, and correcting for however long it takes for their athletes, parents, volunteers, and staff to start repeating the values and behaviors. Clubs should continue to push until the actions of the majority are at a level that a potential new family or staff member, say “I want to swim/work with that club”. And that desire is based on something more than just a few fast swimmers.

Doing this work is important for all clubs, no matter their size or how well they feel they are doing in the pool. For developing clubs, this is a great way to ensure the path is set for their culture. For clubs who have been running for a period of time and feel like things are good due to performance in the pool, I would suggest that doing this work can embolden your culture and make you stronger.

Being purposeful in developing or changing your club culture can be done. You just need a plan on how to get there and commit to it. Establishing values that are supported by behaviors that are modeled, celebrated, and corrected against, is the roadmap.

Link to article on SwimSwam.

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