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One of the great things about sports is that success and failure is so transparent.  In business it is not quite as easy to identify sudden shifts in momentum and culture.  In 2019, the Baltimore Ravens had 12 pro-bowlers, a potential league MVP, their best regular season record ever and a culture that is envied around the league.  

They did this while moving on from 5 pro bowlers from the 2018 team at the key positions of safety, linebacker, two pass-rushers and a super bowl MVP quarterback.

As the sports news media is looking around the league at the less successful teams who blamed and fired head coaches, they are talking about new head coaches who can bring a culture change to the organization.  Dan Snyder, the owner of the Redskins, while introducing new head coach Ron Rivera stated, "What the Redskins have needed is a culture change, someone that can bring a winning culture to our organization, and it starts and ends with our head coach." Similar comments are being made about the culture of the Browns, the Giants and the Jaguars.

When you look at the Ravens you have to wonder does that culture start and end with their head coach?  Is it the ownership? Is it the talent?   Many would argue that Ray Lewis created the culture of the Ravens that led them to two previous Super Bowl wins.  Multiple coaches and players that were great with the Ravens went to other cultures and were not as successful.

So how did this highly successful culture of 2019 take hold and build momentum?  Was it team owner Steve Bisciotti, head coach John Harbaugh, MVP Lamar Jackson, outspoken leader Mark Ingram or a combination?  What can you as company owner, company leader or interested teammate learn and apply to your situation?  One thing is for sure, we all want to be on a winning team and wake up each morning with a sense of purpose.

Lets compare the three major influencers of culture (ownership, coaches, players) of the Ravens and consider the words they speak, at least publicly.  Then compare to the 8 components to culture fromHarvard Business Review, The Leaders Guide to Corporate Culture, to their words, to your organization and then to some of the less successful franchises in the NFL.


PURPOSE - Ownership
CARING - Ownership, Coaching
LEARNING - Coaching, Players
ENJOYMENT - Coaching, Players
RESULTS - Players
AUTHORITY - Coaching
ORDER - Coaching
SAFETY - Ownership

First, let's consider the underperforming franchises of 2019, the Browns, Cowboys, and Redskins.  All three ownership groups have a media reputation for meddling and not truly delegating authority.   Except for the Cowboys, safety is impacted by continuous firings and key personnel changes.    People, players and coaches want to have a vision of better future.  A belief that leadership will get them there.  They want connection and pride.  Any coach hired into these situations will struggle to build authority and order.  Any talented players hired into these situations will struggle to find enjoyment and get the results that build a culture of success.

Second, let's consider the long term, high performing franchises of the Patriots, Steelers and Ravens.  These ownership groups build their teams, let their teams do their job, then create a humble persona of family and care. While it is easy to argue the success of these franchises were built on the talent of Brady, Roethlisberger, and Lewis there are many examples of talented players being set up to fail due to average leadership versus great leadership.

Third, lets take these ideas into business with the question, what comes first, talent or culture?  Culture builds consistent, high performing teams that continue to perform even with turnover.  Culture creates the environment for great talent to rise to the top and become impact players for the entire organization.  

Finally, an organization that is poweredbyCULTURE will have those years where everything comes together perfectly, momentum self perpetuates and success appears faster than anyone could have expected.  So while looking for top talent is always an objective, creating and maintaining a vibrant culture should be an obsession.

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